Guest Column | Top Four Issues Facing North Bend

This guest article is written by City of North Bend Councilmember, David Cook, who says there is a lot of information being shared on social media and the internet concerning local issues these days.  Mr. Cook recognizes some of that information is accurate – and some of it is not.  Read on…

These are the Top Four issues challenging the City of North Bend right now:

Controlling Growth

A portion of our growth is state-mandated, but the rest is entirely optional.  We as a city are required to grow another 649 homes within the Urban Growth Boundary as mandated by the 1990 Washington State Growth Management Act as assigned under the King County Countywide Planning Policies.  Before my time on the council, I believe the state originally wanted North Bend to absorb more than 5,000 new homes!  The city negotiated that down to 1,590 and has always lobbied for less growth.  We as a city cannot ignore or defy the state mandates without getting sued and cut off from state support and funding.

The city council has supported municipal legislation to control, manage and lessen growth since I started on the council. This has included regularly amending our comprehensive plan and zoning; downsizing our residential areas from 6-8 homes per acre to 4 homes per acre; and increasing a wide variety of impact fees.  The city council tightened the city’s design standards last year by approving expanded bulk and dimensional requirements that resulted in again lowering our lot per acre ratio.

The challenge moving forward is making sure that our current zoning accommodates only our minimum required growth targets.  The city council has asked the city administration to perform a housing audit of our current and proposed 2015 zoning map.

We are not going to lose our small town feel and rural character will always be around us.  How we treat each other as neighbors is where our love of a small town comes from.  We live in an incredibly beautiful valley and we are all very lucky to be here and share it together.

Easing Traffic Congestion

The first symptom of new growth is traffic congestion and that is what we are experiencing now.  Our population today is 6,480 and growing.  Our roads and intersections do not change their size or capacity as quickly as growth occurs and we need to implement traffic easing projects as soon as capital funds are available.

The city council maintains the position that “growth needs to pay for the impacts of growth.”  We do this through transportation impact fees (TIF).  These are one-time charges paid by developers to reimburse the city for the capital cost of public facilities that are needed to serve new neighborhoods.  Prior to 2009, the city lacked a TIF altogether, but we were experiencing a building moratorium due to a lack of water rights and no development was permitted.  Between 2009 and 2012, the city charged $700 for each new single family residence as little development occurred during the recession.  Recognizing this amount was inadequate, the city council raised the TIF in 2013 to $4,489.16.

These funds were used to fund, in part, a number of transportation improvement projects including the Cedar Falls roundabout, Downing Street extension, reconstruction of portions to Pickett, Boalch, NE 6th and Ballarat, pedestrian improvements along North Bend Way, new traffic signal at Park & Bendigo and many other small improvement projects.  Many of these projects were funded with grants from King County, state and federal governments and our TIF money provided the matching funds.  The city has done a good job of securing millions of dollars in grant funds to stretch our local dollars.  In 2011, the city council went further and formed the citizen-approved Transportation Benefit District to accelerate funding to improve roads and sidewalks.       

Currently, the city administration has recommended raising the TIF to approximately $10,200.  Our 6-Year Transportation Improvement Program identifies a growing list of growth-easing projects.  If approved, these fees along with grant funds will provide all the money we need to fund the major road improvements people recognize as most important including Exit 34, SE 140th, Tanner Road, Thrasher, North Bend Way at QFC, Ballarat and the downtown plaza project.  As these projects are completed, traffic congestion will be dramatically eased and you will be able to move through the city more freely.

The challenge moving forward will be to ensure that these limited funds are used efficiently to improve the identified areas impacted by development. The city cannot afford to improve the infrastructure of these areas before the development occurs.  We receive TIF funds after the new home is constructed and occupancy has been granted.  It is critical that our projects are planned in advance and that we are prepared to implement construction when funds are available.  This will ensure that the improvements are made quickly and traffic congestion will be eased as soon as possible.

Downtown Revitalization

I believe that a historic downtown is the heart of our small town character.  It also impacts the city financially.  If the city makes it a priority to invest in a strong and vibrant downtown, this will help spread prosperity to the businesses throughout the rest of the city. This in turn increases the tax revenue to our general fund and helps the city provide essential services to our citizens. As businesses account for approximately 69% of our general fund revenue, investing in our downtown helps keep the city portion of our property taxes lower.

The city has implemented many efforts to bring vitality to the area including new business incentives, façade assistance grants, new benches, wayward finding signs, flowers, banners and holiday decorations, facilitation of 4Culture grants, construction of the Visitor Information Center, enforcement of the minimum maintenance ordinance and encouraging private investment.

The city has also promoted new activities and events to encourage people to visit downtown.  These include the block party, Jazz Walk, Blues Walk, Adventure Sport Festival, Holiday Tree Lighting Festival and many others.  These have been fun and successful events all with the goal of helping our businesses and to bring the community together.

In 2014, the city negotiated and funded the destruction of three abandoned houses along Main Street and made that area available for parking and future retail development.  Due to our efforts, the producers of Twin Peaks were able to set-up their entire base camp at this location and keep dozens of studio trucks off the city streets.  They brought with them excitement, energy and future tourist dollars making our city the focal point of their new television show.

Over the past several years, the city has been planning, with significant public input, the downtown plaza project.  This project would enhance the street façade, improve traffic flow and parking, create pedestrian-friendly plazas and provide a gathering place for community events.  This project is now shovel-ready and the city is applying for grant funding to make this project possible. We are on the cusp of the biggest revitalization effort in the city’s 106-year history and it is a huge opportunity for North Bend’s future.

Roads and Infrastructure

Before I was elected, it had been 20 years or more since the last pavement overlay had been applied.  Since then, the city council has funded a minimum investment of $100,000 within the budget each year towards pavement overlay totaling now to more than $1.4 million into your roadways.  $100,000 each year adds up and it has had a positive affect to help keep some of our major roads from degrading

As our city is more than one hundred years old, much of our infrastructure is aging and requires upgrading.  The city council has funded such investments as the failing one-mile waterline replacement project on 415th Street; replacement of our 55-year old well pumps; culvert replacements and storm drain improvements at Ballarat and Nintendo; installation of a park & ride facility; upgrades to our waste water treatment plant and numerous other projects totaling millions of dollars. Again, much of this has been done with significant grant funding.

The city is working hard every day to meet these challenges and make North Bend the place you want to stay and call home.

Photo by Danny Raphael

Photo by Danny Raphael

Comments

  1. Hugh johnson says

    Excellent, thank you David, for taking the time to share the accomplishments, goals and direction of our local government. Social media is flooded with naysayers and drama seekers who love to post anti-growth sentiment. They have little interest in facts when it comes to forming their opinions, so it is really important that they are hand fed the details. Growth is inevitable, and can be a very good thing. I’m glad to know that people like you are taking the time to maximize the benefits of each dollar, regardless of whether it comes from taxes or grants.

  2. Nice guest column. Question is – and where were you Mr Cook for all these important conversations? Having served for years on the Planning Commission and working closely with Council members who showed up to our meetings and to their committee meetings, prepared and engaged, I don’t recall you ever showing either. Governing is more than showing up for the photo op and running for election is more than trying to take credit for the work of others.

    • We’ve all now heard your demagoguery along with the outlandish claims made by Brenden Elwood. It’s nothing more than a smear campaign with nothing positive to offer. Elwood claims that the city is not following open meeting rules, but cannot explain how. He says people in North Bend are angry, but cannot tell us why. And finally, Mr Elwood cannot tell us how he will remedy these problems he identifies. You and Elwood seek to divide this town that we love, rather than offer leadership. We don’t want that, and we don’t want leaders who think that is an option.

    • Dee Williamson says

      Rob, as a sitting councilmember I will gladly answer your question as I have never attended one of your meetings either, and I am not actively campaigning for re-election because of the obvious move to ruin our city in my opinion. Why should we attend your meetings when we get verbatim reports on every single comment made? Seems like redundant use of our time. And I might ask you why don’t you listen to the citizens when they speak? It seems obvious that you have agendas already made and opinions that you think you know best for the city, and are very upset that we don’t swallow every one of your recommendations.

    • Great points

  3. Matthew Cleverley says

    It’s obvious that David Cook is an idealogue who has drunk the NO GROWTH koolaid. Instead of letting the free market dictate where and how (read: peoples choice) growth occurs, he would prefer central planning by the politboro. According to Cook, people are simply too stupid to make their own choices and government needs to do it for them. And to bend over and pay for the privilege. But don’t worry, he’s here to save you from your own thinking.

    • Dee Williamson says

      Matthew, I believe you are the one that has swallowed the growth koolaid. Where were you when the people of this city have consistently spoke out against uncontrolled growth? I suggest that if you want that ideology, you move to Issaquah and don’t ruin our town. I moved here because it was a small town, and do not want to become an Issaquah or Snoqualmie ridge, as did every one of my neighbors. If you didn’t like North Bend the way it was, why did you move here? I believe in the people’s voice, and not home builders and investors who are only out to make money
      .

  4. Sean Sundwall says

    Pretty surprising that crime wasn’t in the top 4 list. As a snoqualmie resident my perception of crime in north bend is that it continues to get worse and worse…far worse than in the neighboring town. Maybe I am wrong.

  5. I am anxious to have the candidate running against Dave Cook share the same space and introduction as this was produced.

  6. Hi Dee, In my 10+ years in service to our community I along with fellow commissioners heard and responded to 100s of hours of citizen input and testimony together with getting guidance from our professional staff. It was and is the backbone of the recommendations we made in our fiduciary duty to Council. My ‘agenda’ has always been open, honest representation of all citizens of our community and strict avoidance of even the appearance of conflicts of interests. I’m very confident my record reflects that.

  7. peter kartak says

    I can understand the shopkeepers penchant for growth, growth, and more growth. As a resident, however, my wish is for none. We moved here because of the small town feel. We see no appeal in traffic congestion, longer lines in stores and restaurants, crowding in our schools, over use in our parks, increased water demand, nor the plethora of other demands a larger populace will force upon us.
    I am also guilty of drinking the no growth kool-aid and I’m pretty sure I am not alone.

  8. Chris Scoones says

    “The city is working hard every day to meet these challenges and make North Bend the place you want to stay and call home.”

    Work harder. In the last few years the growth is looking more and more like how Issaquah began it’s slide.

    “We as a city cannot ignore or defy the state mandates without getting sued and cut off from state support and funding.”

    Speak for yourself. Perhaps the state needs a bit of pushback.

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