North Bend mayor calls water settlement ‘major victory
March 26, 2008
By Ed Farrell
The North Bend City Council adopted a new master plan for the downtown area, heard Mayor Ken Hearing give a “State of the City” presentation and received a resignation from one of its own last week.
Hearing started the meeting with the announcement that a settlement had been reached with Ewing Stringfellow, a local rancher and tree farmer, who had appealed a city water rights deal with Seattle that will provide North Bend with 1.1 million gallons of water a day.
Hearing called the settlement – in which the city agreed to pay Stringfellow $40,000 – the best news he had received since he became mayor and a major victory in an effort to ultimately repeal a nine-year building and development moratorium.
Hearing said establishing a timeline for lifting the moratorium is now the city’s top priority, and pledged to keep the public informed.
Getting the infrastructure in place to deliver water is the next goal, he said, a job that will be less expensive to the city, thanks to state Sen. Cheryl Pflug, who was able to secure the city an easement to run mitigation water pipe below the John Wayne Trail, saving the city an estimated $300,000.
The long hold on development has led to areas of neglect in the city, among which are outdated land-use codes, that are currently being overhauled and updated, including a new fire impact fee and a new fee structure for development applications.
The city’s ability to now move forward holds great promise for the future.
“With water availability, renovations and new development in downtown can occur,” he said, “and I promise you that I will insist that the revitalization of dilapidated downtown buildings be given the highest priority.”
Hearing’s assertion that “we are all tired of having to defend the visual blight that exists at our busiest and most visible intersection,” was an apt segue to the council’s adoption of the Downtown Master Plan.
The plan, the result of a $35,000 study, advocates a number of updates to the downtown area, including enhanced gateways, targets of opportunity and the establishment of a downtown business district.
Councilman Chris Garcia, whose second elected term was slated to end in December 2009, resigned his council seat Tuesday, saying “There’s just not enough hours in the day.”
The owner of four Frankie’s Pizza restaurants said several months ago he was going to resign, but remained on the council until the water rights issue was resolved.
In his brief announcement, Garcia left open the door to eventually return to city politics by saying, “It’s something I’d like to come back to.”
“I feel I’ve done the city right,” Garcia said in a telephone interview. “I wish I had more time to finish my term out, but I just don’t.”
Hearing said the city will soon run advertisements seeking volunteers to fill the remainder of Garcia’s term.
“We’ll probably run them for three or four weeks,” Hearing said. “Then, we will conduct interviews in a public hearing.”
After that, the council will adjourn to closed session to select the replacement, in accordance with state law, Hearing said.
Efforts to build an outdoor climbing wall in Torguson Park took a step forward as well, when the council approved an operating agreement with a nonprofit group called Access Fund, which can assist the city in seeking and receiving grants for the project.
The city is in the process of establishing it’s own nonprofit corporation, known as the North Bend Parks Foundation, but City Administrator Duncan Wilson told the council establishing the foundation’s tax-exempt status could take time.
Partnering with Access Fund, Wilson said, will cost the city 5 percent of grant revenues generated for the project.