About 30 Madison Park residents, business owners and building owners attended an exploratory meeting at the Madison Park Bathhouse on March 21 proposing a community effort to create a comprehensive growth plan for the Madison Park community.
Sponsored by Historic Madison Park, the primary speakers included Seattle City Councilmember Sally Clark, Seattle City Lights' Ray Ramos and John Nierenberger and H. Isaac Molitch, landscape and gardening chair for Historic Madison Park.
"We want to be able to control what happens in our community," explained Sean Smith, business-district chairperson for Historic Madison Park, who welcomed attendees.
He explained that no community plan exists now for Madison Park, but having a community-adopted plan will give area residents and business people an opportunity to guide new development. A plan would provide a way to affect incompatible development, such as high-rise buildings, that might significantly change the flavor of Madison Park.
CONTROLLING THE CHANGES
Clark, who was a planner with the city's Department of Neighborhoods before her appointment to the City Council, leads the council's Economic Development and Neighborhoods committee. She addressed the planning process.
Clark explained that the city retains the responsibility for transportation and land-use planning, but each area creating a community plan makes its own specific plans within the city's plans.
Phase one of the local process, according to Clark, is to determine "Who are you now?" That requires identifying and making a community inventory of business districts, housing, historic properties and the like.
Phase two of the process is hiring a planning consultant to work with the community, determine how the area residents and businesses wish to grow and decide, with as much community participation as possible, how to accommodate the commu-nity's wishes.
The city has been working with neighborhoods for the last 10 years, creating plans under the broad guidelines of the state's comprehensive planning law. Many neighborhoods are now supplementing their aging plans, and many small neighborhoods, such as Madison Park, have not created individual plans.
Given that change in any community is inevitable, "you should control the changes yourself as much as you possibly can," Clark said.
According to Clark, Madison Park is looking at a year of work. A good starting place, she said, would be with city planning staff and rounding up as many business people and residents as possible to meet and talk about what direction to take. The group that is formed should then look at funding sources to pay for developing the plan.
"I don't think you've missed the boat on all the grants," Clark said.
John Nierenberger, City Light's acting director of energy-delivery engineering, addressed underground-ing utilities, especially electrical lines.
"Those who benefit pay," he said. City Light has mechanisms for organizing groups that want undergrounding and payment plans, but it is ultimately the property owners who benefit who will pay.
"It's expensive," Nierenberger warned. "It's really expensive. It is more expensive than you imagine."
Undergrounding is no longer done by simply burying an electrical cable, he explained. Directly buried cable was found to be vulnerable to wet ground conditions and difficult to repair.
Underground electrical systems in Seattle now use concrete conduit that requires large, concrete vaults, large enough for workers to climb into and work, at every line junction. The most expensive part of the project is restoring the street to its previous condition.
Nierenberger said that other utilities - telephone and television and data cables - would go underground at the same time so only one trench would need to be dug.
Molitch told the group that landscaping the Madison Park downtown business district was, fortunately, only an area of about three blocks, as opposed to several hundred blocks of housing in the neighborhood, so it would not be terribly expensive.
No plan has been created yet, he emphasized: Any plan will depend primarily on the wishes of the local merchants and business owners.
"We want it to be a little less like a parking lot and a little more like a village," Molitch said. He said options include, but are not limited to, different styles of tree surrounds, paving, street lighting, vegetation and planting-strip sizes.
He added that a planter in the center of Madison Street at the entrance of Madison Park has been endorsed by the city transportation department. The planter would not only be aesthetic, but would help slow traffic entering the main business area.
The planter would need community approval before any work would begin.
"Things are going really well," said Lisa Taylor-Molitch, director and founding member of Historic Madison Park, a week after the meeting.
She thought the turnout for the meeting was very encouraging because it showed a high level of interest. She said if three times as many people had attended it would have indicated that a lot of people are upset. "We would like to have had double that number there."
Taylor-Molitch said that the group is getting a positive response from the community and that discussions are beginning around the neighborhood.
She added that Historic Madison Park wants to keep the discussion positive, with the understanding that a community plan will be created by the community for the community.