The Federal Way City Council passed another six-month moratorium on the development of multi-family housing on Tuesday.
But the 5-2 vote wasn’t taken lightly.
“I will support it, but I’ll tell you I had some problems with this,” Councilwoman Dini Duclos said during the Tuesday council meeting. “I voted against it to begin with because I didn’t think it was really made clear, and I don’t want this going on forever because I think it was tied in behind people coming here speaking against multi-family housing, blaming it all for the crime that was going on and I didn’t like the association, and I still think some of that is out there and that’s the wrong association.”
The City Council initially voted on the first moratorium in June, citing the need to “maintain the status quo” as city staff researched zoning standards to determine what multi-family housing should look like in the city. However, the timing and urgency of the moratorium caused some council members to grow suspicious of the reason for the temporary freeze.
“A lot of people can’t afford to buy a house and they have to live in an apartment and I think we owe citizens the right to have their choice and I think some prefer to live in an apartment and don’t want to manage a house all by themselves,” Duclos continued. “So, I hope you don’t have to come back again in six months because I’m getting tired of this.”
Although the matter went before the Planning Commission in October, and they recommended about 17 zoning amendments, the City Council had several questions and needed more information on “unintended consequences” of enacting those amendments.
At Tuesday’s meeting, Community Development Director Brian Davis told the council city staff simply needed more time.
“The reality of what’s going on is when the council issued the moratorium in June, shortly there after the planning manager, who played a key role in the development of the design standards that we’re talking about, left for another job,” Davis said. “The director of the department of that position was vacant and, so for some time, the team responsible for developing these design standards has been… two of the most important figures in that development, have been vacant.”
Duclos did end up voting on the moratorium extension, as did council members Kelly Maloney, Mark Koppang, Susan Honda and Deputy Mayor Jeanne Burbidge,
Maloney said, during her last council meeting, that she thinks the city should take a “citywide” look at not just multifamily housing but on other types of development.
“An example might be warehouses or something like that,” she said. “From a city perspective, where are the areas that are zoned for additional warehouses and where are we for warehouses that are already built and considering where IRG (Industrial Realty Group) is and would we be over capacity?”
Honda said she was in support of the extension because of increased apartment units’ impact on schools. She said the school district is “in a real crunch” because facilities have limited space. Davis agreed to engage with the school district on what their needs are as research continues.
While Burbidge did not make her decision lightly, she, too, supported the extension so that planning is done “very thoroughly and very completely” so that it is most effective.
But members Martin Moore and Lydia Assefa-Dawson weren’t quite as supportive.
Moore said he’s concerned the moratorium on development of new multi-family housing hurts low income families who might be struggling to find housing.
Assefa-Dawson said because she wasn’t willing to extend the moratorium when she first voted for it, she could not support an additional extension.
Because the moratorium was set to expire the following day, the City Council waived its first reading of the moratorium and fast-tracked it to first and second reading for passage.
But not before Tim Burns, who is the 30th District Democrats chair, had something to say about that.
“I think the only justification that I can see in granting a waiver tonight is No. 1 that you’re intentionally circumventing the process to prevent somebody from doing something that you don’t want them to do or 2. that there’s gross negligence or incompetence in not properly planning to put the issue on the agenda for one meeting and voting on it at the next,” Burns said. “I don’t see [that] there would be a problem if the moratorium expires tomorrow.”
The current moratorium will expire on June 6, 2017.