North Bend council candidates Heather Koellen, Olivia Moe talk affordable housing, building moratoriums, property owner rights

Two registered nurses – Heather Koellen and Olivia Moe – are vying for North Bend City Council Position 3 in the November 5th General Election. We posed three questions to the candidates and thank them for providing the below answers.

King County Elections mailed out ballots on October 16th. Ballots must be returned by mail or deposited in drop boxes located in front of the North Bend library by election day. See drop box locations HERE.

[Candidate answers below begin alphabetically and then alternate.]

Some residents have been calling on the City of North Bend to issue a building moratorium, citing water as an issue. Do you believe such a moratorium is needed? Why or why not.

Heather Koellen: The City of North Bend has two separate water providers: Centennial Well which is public, and Sallal which is private. It would require a costly study to find out how much water is in Sallal’s well, but it is known that Sallal does not currently have enough water for future home hookups. In speaking with city administrators, it was made apparent that the City of North Bend does in fact have enough water for the developments that are currently slated to be built. According to multiple sources, there is a sufficient supply of water to move forward on the developments that are currently planned. There is also sewer capacity to handle these developments. It is important to note that there are contracts in place that the city could be in breach of, if it were to issue a building moratorium. If the city were to breach these contracts, they could face costly lawsuits. With all of this in mind, I do not believe a building moratorium is in the best interest of North Bend.

Olivia Moe: I do not believe that the city of North Bend should be giving out any more residential building permits until we have a completed working and updated sewer and a second viable plan in place for water mitigation. The term ‘building moratorium’ has recently been weaponized in an attempt to stop growth and this has made people moving to our community, into both new and existing housing, feel unwanted and un-welcomed. This is not the true face of our town. Think of all the times in our town’s history that people in our community have come together to support each other. How many times have we helped each other fill sandbags to prepare for the threat of flooding during a rainy season? How many people took time out of their day during last winters snow fall to help shovel neighbor’s driveways and many who had plows cleared the streets of neighborhoods they didn’t live in. We brought food and water to those who couldn’t leave their homes, we took care of each other and it didn’t matter how long you’ve called North Bend home. I am not against growth so long as our city’s infrastructure is there to support it. I am not against growth that is done in line with our town’s character and vision. I am not against growth that is done slowly and is responsibly managed so that our river is not damaged, and our green spaces are not lost. If elected to City Council I will be here to help serve the needs of our town and everyone who calls North Bend home.

As the city tries to balance the pace of grow, what do you feel is the right way to go about that while respecting the rights of property owners?

Olivia Moe: Moving forward we must make new growth pay for itself and pay for the infrastructure needed to sustain it. If we can pause our current rate of growth to catch up our infrastructure, once we have, our future growth must not again exceed what our infrastructure can handle. If we can do this, we should have a natural balance and slowing of growth. As a property owner you have a right to do, within the confines of the law, whatever you would like with your property. The city cannot tell you who you can and cannot sell to, nor should that precedent ever be set. I respect all property owners and their right to do what they have planned with their land regardless of my personal feelings towards their decision. There are no easy answers and balancing the rights of property owners with the needs of our city may be one of the most difficult challenges I will have if I am elected.

Heather Koellen: We must respect the rights of property owners. I would be open to exploring the possibility of the city being given the opportunity to buy large tracts of land and converting them to parks and/or open spaces when private owners are looking to sell. I would also be in favor of looking at options for zoning, while ultimately private landowners have the right to sell their property to whomever they wish. The city has the right to determine zoning regulations.

The City of North Bend is currently exploring options to bring an affordable housing project to the downtown area using city-owned property. To achieve affordable housing, a zoning change would likely be needed, including raising the building height limit. Do you support city zoning changes to bring affordable/workforce housing units to North Bend?

Heather Koellen: I support zoning changes under certain conditions. One of the city-owned spots being considered  for affordable housing apartments is the Park & Ride across from the Pourhouse on North Bend Way. This property could handle a higher than three story building for multiple reasons. It would not block anyone’s view of Mt Si and the plot is already lower than street level (thus making a higher building height not appear so high). They could fashion the design of these apartments with a lodge-like appearance, which would be a better fit for our mountain town. I am not in favor of having future apartments appear like the rectangular blocks that we have seen going up in Issaquah, which would be greatly out of character for our town. I am also concerned about buildings greater than three stories going up in the middle of town. I worry that they would block views and take away from our town’s character.  There are also several other zoning options to be considered regarding affordable housing. We could zone for multi-housing (e.g., duplexes, triplexes, and the like); or zone for homes to be built on a smaller footprint with smaller square footage. I realize our town is under tremendous stress with all the growth and plan to keep this under consideration and to be very respectful of that. 

Olivia Moe: North Bend needs affordable housing and we need it now. We need different types of affordable housing, apartment complex, duplexes, town homes, condos, and even small bungalows. We need affordable housing that will meet the unique needs of the people in this city. Changing our zoning codes to increase the building height limit does nothing to ensure that affordable housing will be included in any of these new
taller buildings. Moreover as City Council we are the voice of the people living in this community and during my campaign I have knocked on almost 2000 doors in neighborhoods across our town and you have told me time and time again that you do not want to raise the height of our buildings. You have said that you do not want 4 and 5 story buildings to line our downtown and you do not want to block the view of the mountain ranges surrounding us, and I stand with you. We will bring affordable and
workforce housing to North Bend and we will do it within the confines of our current height codes. If you search for affordable housing on the HUD website you will find 23apartment complexes in Bellevue alone that have subsidized units, only about four of those complexes are greater than 3 stories tall. This is just one of many examples where affordable housing was done using our current height max. We don’t have to write the book on how to bring affordable and workforce housing to our town and we don’t have
to let it change the vision and character of North Bend. If I am elected to City Council, I will ensure that every avenue is explored and every resource is utilized, we will bring affordable and workforce housing to North Bend.

Heather Koellen (left) and Olivia Moe (right)

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