By Jack Mayne

The regular Tuesday night (Nov. 12) session of the SeaTac City Council saw approval of a grant to construct access to the two major Sound Transit stations in the city, and formed a “Residential Targeted Area” to allow some residential properties being eligible for multi-family tax exemptions.

Council also approved a new union agreement with city staff.

City gets transit grant
Senior Management Analyst Anita Woodmass told Council about a Sound Transit grant that is intended to improve access to transit facilities, and SeaTac was awarded $500,000 for construction of access facilities at the SeaTac Sound Transit station. She requested the Council approve acceptance of the grant which it did on the consent agenda.

Major improvements are needed for 175th Street leading to the station, and Woodmass told the Council there was insufficient lighting on the street, with only one overhead street light. The street is along what has become know as the “Kiss and Ride” area.

Originally the city had submitted grants for $1.5 million for each of the city’s three Sound Transit stations. But there was only $10 million available, and 13 applications totaling $20 million so SeaTac renegotiated just the improvements needed around 176th, Woodmass said, with the involvement of Sound Transit board member Dave Upthegrove who recommended the project and it granted the city $500,000.

Public Works Director Will Appleton said the strategy is to combine this money with other projects to get more accomplished. Councilmember Joel Wachtel said he lives on 175th, “better known as SeaTac raceway” and was glad the city was considering a project to help pedestrians in the area.

Residential Target Area
The Council held a public hearing on and then unanimously passed an ordinance that designates what is defined as an Urban Center as a “Residential Targeted Area” which makes resident’s properties being eligible for multi-family tax exemptions for a five year period.

SeaTac Economic Development Director Steve Pilcher said the proposed enlargement of the area would include the area around the east side of the airport along International Boulevard and between the city’s two transit stops and a but south of the Angle Lake station.

“We are aware of two development proposals currently underway in the South 154th Street station area that are looking forward to using this which they can’t do under our current code,” Pilcher said. “We are aware of a couple other potential developments down near Angle Lake station which would possibly be interested in using this tax exemption.”

Ends in 2024
The new ordinance would extend the time for proposing to use the tax exemption to “just prior to applying for building permits” from its earlier deadline now, said Pilcher. The ordinance specifies the application time for this exemption is at the end of 2024.

Councilmember Joel Wachtel said it has been proved that existing residents would not “pay the freight” because if the money lost by the tax exemptions. “The residents are protected as far as I am concerned,” Wachtel said. “Let’s see if it really does something.”

Deputy Mayor Clyde Hill said this does not remove property from the property tax rolls after the development exemption.

Councilmember Pam Fernald said she remained skeptical of the need for a tax exemption and spur development, but said she would not oppose it on that basis.

Collective Bargaining Agreement
The Council approved a new labor agreement on a voice vote.

Human Resources Director Vanessa Audett told Council about the new collective bargaining agreement with its employee union, AFSCME. The new agreement will be four years in length, increasing the length from the current three years. She said the pact maintains a status quo on healthcare and “ancillary” benefits, while clarifying and simplifying some agreement language.

Effective Jan. 1, a cost of living adjustment (COLA) that is equivalent to ninety-five percent of the consumer price index for ”shall be applied to all bargaining unit salary ranges.” The cost of living agreement “shall have a minimum of 2 percent and a maximum of 5 percent. The agreement also specifies employees found to be “below market” will have their salary ranges adjusted. Employees will get 10 paid holidays and two floating holidays.

New employees
City Manager Carl Cole introduced new city employees, one of which was returning after several years, Deputy City Manager Gwen Voelpel, and new employee permit coordinator Candice Staples. Voelpel started her second tour as Deputy City Manager on Nov. 1, said Cole.