Black Diamond citizens challenge Councilmembers at Council meeting
Meeting after meeting Black Diamond citizens have come before their Councilmember to encourage, to question, and to hold Councilmembers accountable by voicing their opinions of what they want to see their city leaders do for their citizens and Thursday, March 16, was no different.
During public comment at the beginning of the meeting, Black Diamond resident Bob Edelman wanted to know why the candidate for Planning Commission was taken off the Majority Councilmembers Amended Agenda. Rather than just removing the only candidate who had applied for the position, Edelman stated, “Let’s have a little debate on these issues.”
For her time at the podium, Chair of Black Diamond Planning Commission Pam McCain stated that there was unanimous support from the Commission to send a letter to the Council. As she read the letter into the record, she spoke regarding the City’s Comprehensive Plan and what has been done as well as what work remains.
The letter also pointed out problems such as consultants being concerned about being paid for future work thereby causing further delays and costs to the City. McCain brought out that the State of Washington is now putting pressure on the City to complete the required work on the transportation element of the Comp Plan.
“The Planning Commission is ready and willing to do the work,” said McCain, “but is unable to do so without renewed contracts with consultants and funding for said contracts.” She went on to ask why the City has failed to approve funding to complete the work so that the City’s Comp Plan, which is approximately 90 percent finished and way past due, can be completed.
Mayor Carol Benson pointed out that she has presented the transportation element to the Council three times over the past year, however, Majority Councilmembers Erika Morgan, Brian Weber, and Pat Pepper continued voting them down. When the Mayor asked whether he would vote for a contract with the consultant if brought before him, Weber stated he would not vote for it until he saw the contract. Pepper wanted to see work product.
Jennifer Leatham questioned Weber, Morgan, and Pepper as to whether they had secured the $150,000 they were required to put up for their lawsuit regarding 135 violations of the Open Public Meetings Act brought by CCD Black Diamond Partners LLC, of which Oakpointe Communities is a member. Pepper stated she was working on it, Weber stated that it was still in works, and Morgan stated that it was a matter under litigation and that she would not comment. Deady stated that the money ($150,000) was taxpayer money. Should the Majority Councilmembers lose their case, funds would come out of the posted bond.
Ben Stouffer came forward making his comments regarding the Roberts Drive improvements project. He wanted to see the $1.2 million grant funding being offered to the City go for improvements towards the safety of kids walking in the Morganville area of the City.
Leslie Cooley encouraged Councilmembers to create a hometown feeling in the City and to quit pointing fingers while referring to us vs. them. She also encouraged Councilmembers in regards to the Roberts Dr. improvements project letting them know that Black Diamond was one community. Cooley went on to state that everyone needed to come together by getting out to upcoming events over the next several months and talking to one another.
Raising questions about the Council’s committee structure, Johna Thomson told of looking for a committee meeting, but could not find it.
In her beginning remarks, Robbin Taylor talked about the Town Hall meeting she attended on Thursday, March 9. During that meeting, she asked Pepper what work her committee had done on the (Transportation Improvement Plan) TIP in the last nine months. According to Taylor, Pepper responded that the item had not been discussed. A few days later on March 13th, Taylor was attempting to find a Growth Committee meeting to find out what changes were being done to the TIP, but was unable to locate it. Come to find out, the meeting had been held a couple of days earlier on March 11th.
When addressing the TIP, Taylor pointed out that Pepper sent in an amended version of the document the night before the Council meeting on March 16th at 5:51 p.m. after City offices closed at 5 p.m. She noted that the staff nor City Attorney had a chance to see the amendments until the morning of the Council meeting.
In her closing remarks, Taylor spoke about the Rock Creek Bridge in the Roberts Dr. project and the Majority Councilmembers demand to replace the bridge instead of repair it. As it stands in the staff’s TIP, the Roberts Dr. project would provide sidewalks, lighting, and a smooth roadway and bring with it a $1.2 million grant. But according to Taylor, the Majority Councilmembers want to bank the “entire $1.2 million-dollar grant on replacement of that bridge.” She reminded them that staff stated they were not authorized by the Transportation Improvement Board to replace the Rock Creek Bridge with the grant.
Living in Bellevue, but growing up in Black Diamond, Kristen Bryant wanted committee meetings posted on the web as a public friendly thing to do. She also wanted SEPA determination comments to be emailed in to the City rather than just being given to the City in writing or by mail. She raised the point that in past, SEPA comments could be emailed in.
Former Black Diamond Councilmember Kristine Hanson wanted Weber, Morgan and Pepper to put their opinions aside regarding growth and development in order to pass the grant for Roberts Dr. with sidewalks projects. “Think about the safety of the citizens,” said Hanson. “…This is about doing what’s best for the citizen’s in the City of Black Diamond.”
Moving on to the business at hand for the March 16th Council meeting, Pepper raised issue with an agenda item regarding the reappointment of Harvey Senecal to the Planning Commission. In her Amended version of the Agenda, Pepper had taken the item out of the City’s already posted Agenda. Following a discussion on the matter, a vote was being taken in which Pepper refused to vote yes or no because she wanted to make more comment. Her non-response landed her a yes vote. In such cases where a Councilmember does not make a voice vote during a voting moment, but remains quiet, the vote is registered as a yes vote. When told the outcome of the vote was 3-2 in favor of bringing Senecal back on the Planning Commission, Pepper became upset and wanted her vote back. However, it was ruled that the item had been passed and that Senecal was officially appointed on the Planning Commission.
Moving on to the next agenda item, while there were good aspects to an amended 2017-2022 TIP document brought out by Pepper, it was noted that the new amended version, sent to the City the morning of the March16th City Council meeting by Pepper, was still incomplete. According to staff, there was not enough time to go through the amended version and consider it thoroughly. A couple of the items that jumped out as incomplete was that there were no monetary figures to support the new additions to the document or the length of the improvement from beginning to end of the projects where needed.
Majority Councilmembers were also informed that there was no stopping a waterline project currently under development for the Master Planned Development even if Councilmembers attempted to stop the Roberts Dr. project. According to staff, if the 6-year 2017-22 TIP were changed to the amended version, the $1.2 million grant funding for the Roberts Dr. project would go away. The reason it would go away is that there would be additional project costs of $500-600,000. Included in the cost readjustments would be redesigning the project thereby causing delay as well as additional permitting requirements to name just a couple of areas.
Staff pointed out that delay or cancelling of the project would affect the Morganville families of the City. It was also pointed out that the project was good from a safety point of view.
When the vote was finally taken, after a lengthy discussion, to pass staff’s version of the TIP at the March 16th meeting, Weber, Pepper and Morgan voted not to pass the original staff version. Their negative vote sent the audience into angry outbursts.
Shortly thereafter, Majority Councilmembers voted to bring the TIP back once again at the 6th City Council meeting with Edelman, Deady voting no. According to staff, if the 2017-2022 TIP does not pass at the April 6th meeting, there were no promises that the City will be able to keep the $1.2 grant any longer for the Roberts Dr. project that included improvements to Rock Creek Bridge and sidewalks.