By Jack Mayne

The SeaTac City Council held a public hearing Tuesday night (Dec. 10) regarding the $11 million sale of 4.3 acres at SeaTac Center by the Inland Group of Spokane, represented by Kieth James and Scott Moore. The city was represented at the hearing by Community and Economic Development Director Steve Pilcher.

The Council in its last meeting of the year was also urged by a new councilmember to include more diversity on the Council and its committees.

Gobena opposes SeaTac Center
The purchase and development agreements both passed on a voice vote, with Councilmember Takele Gobena (pictured above) voting against each of the agreements.

The sale agreement has specified approximately 220 market rate units, about 365 affordable and about 30,000 square feet of commercial space. Earlier interim agreement had 280 market rate units, so that has decreased in the current proposal because the Inland Group said it “revised final layout due to site constraints.”

The housing portion of the development will be eligible for a property tax exemption to keep rental costs down. The commercial portion of the development will be on the tax rolls, Pilcher said.

Pilcher said there were a number of financial benefits to the city, including various fees and taxes that could total upwards of $3.7 million. There would be, in addition, the $106 million cost of the project leading to upwards of 400 construction related jobs and 1,000 additional residents “with disposable income,” as well as sales tax revenue related to the project.

Affordable residences
Public benefits will provide the creation of “at least 585 long-term affordable and market rate housing units.”

The Council authorized the city manager to complete the sales agreement to execute an amendment to CAP Acquisitions for the sale of the SeaTac Center property, and authorizes the city manager to complete the sale of the property, “including a revised parking easement with the neighboring Pancake Chef property.”

Sales price questioned
At the outset of the public hearing on the development agreement with CAP Acquisitions, new Councilmember Takele Gobena questioned the sales price of the property going down over the past few years and wanted to know more about the sales agreement, adding he questioned why the number of residential units has been lowered from 385 units to 356 units.

Gobena also wanted more opportunity for SeaTac residents to make comment on the proposal “because this is going to be a feature of SeaTac, the face of this city….”

Joel Wachtel said he was “really excited about this going forward” adding that “our new councilmember is not familiar with a lot of the issues that have occurred at the property to cause the price drop.

“There is a major change in the property that caused the difference from 683 units to the new number,” Wachtel said. “That had to do with the value of the property and no developer could get around it.” Also he said there was a problem with contamination on the property and the property was not well maintained.

“That is the reason this is a fair price,” he said.

Another problem is the stock of available housing in the city is not keeping up with demand and creating need for additional housing in South King County and SeaTac.

Councilmember Pam Fernald said it was a quality development and she was going to support it.

Won’t solve housing need
Gobena said the 356 “affordable” units in the new were not going to solve the housing needs in SeaTac.” He added the city should be concerned about the needs of the residents and not the commercial business needs.

Councilmember Rick Forschler said it must be confusing for Gobena to come in at the end of the long discussions and negotiations on this retail and residential development.

“At this point, this is the best we are going to get,” Forschler said.

Gobena wants diversity
Newest Councilmember Takele Gobena told the members and audience that SeaTac is one of the most diverse communities in the state with people with different walks of life, and different backgrounds.

His idea for a diverse committee was referred to a current committee for study.

He sought to introduce an ordinance to “pledge a new equity, diversity and inclusion in committees….”

He noted that people get involved in city matters to give feedback and input and wisdom to create a welcoming state including the safety of city hall and around the city to make sure that people come in and give their input.” He said he was making a motion that a city committee be formed to consider “different backgrounds to give advice on issues we work on in the city.”

He got a second from Councilmember Peter Kwon so the issue could be elaborated on by Gobena. Then Councilmember Forschler said such a committee had, at one time, been formed and was called a “diversity committee” and Council has addressed the needs.

Not proper way
Councilmember Joel Wachtel said “I am a little confused because I would think that the proper way would to submit a Council Information Request it get the history. When you had the history you’d know some of the things that occurred.”

Wachtel said this is not a new idea and many people “don’t know what the city offers, don’t know what the city provides, don’t know what the city can do for them and don’t know we are public servants to serve them.” He suggested that the city has listened and continues to listen to the citizens. He also noted the city has not raised property taxes and “that can only be done if revenue is generated and development of the SeaTac Center will do that.”

He asked Gobena what his plan is to communicate with the 85 languages spoken in the city, adding the cost of interpreters “is absolutely astronomical.” He said he wanted the city to come together for this committee proposal “does not give us any answers.”

Needs Deep Discussion
Deputy Mayor Clyde Hill said the ordinance proposal is “without any deep discussion … forming committees is much bugger than just grabbing people together,” he said.

Gobena said the Council has “about 10 committees” and maybe the answer to get more citizen involvement is to reach out and explain what the committees do and how they can be of help to people. “We can change that by working together – it’s all about bringing people together.”

Kwon said he tries not to surprise fellow Councilmembers and this proposal from Gobena “came out of the blue” and said he would not try to get member to vote on something without prior exposure to the ideas.

Council voted in favor of Kwon’s motion to refer the new committee idea to a Council Information Request process and then referred to a committee.

Small wireless extension
At the request of Planning Manager Jennifer Kester (pictured above), the Council approved a six-month extension of interim land use regulations for small wireless facilities and wireless communication eligible facilities.

This was done because of technical advances and changes that make concealing of the new equipment more difficult, said Kester. The city agenda said “interim regulations will be in effect for an additional six-months through June 30, 2020, during which time the Planning Commission will develop permanent regulations.”

Forschler, Tombs get keys
Mayor Erin Sitterley presented keys to the city to outgoing Councilmember Rick Forschler and former Councilmember Stanley Tombs.

City Manager Carl Cole introduced new city employees, Public Works Maintenance and Operations Manager Bryan Chappell and Maintenance Operations Worker Dave Telgenhoff.