Midtown task force nominees approved by council
SNOHOMISH — Members of the Midtown Planning District Task Force were confirmed by the City Council in a block of all 13 of Mayor John Kartak’s choices.
The council approved Kartak’s appointees unanimously in a near-empty room at the March 17 City Council meeting. The public was discouraged from attending in-person due to social distancing protocols to protect people from COVID-19. “We did not use an audio recording and did not use the microphones to avoid exposure,” said city administrator Steve Schuller.
Council President Jason Sanders said he was happy with the way the selection process worked out, as council considered the 13 candidates’ applications prior to approval. Past discussion circled around how much oversight the council should have.
“City Council praised the process,” Kartak said of the March 17 decision. It included input from Kartak’s staff before selections were made and offered to the council.
Kartak confirmed that no interviews were conducted as part of the process. The 13 will be shouldered with decisions around the Midtown Planning District, located on Avenue D from Sixth Street north to state Route 9 that includes a 9-acre “keystone” property once home to the county’s Public Works operations.
Devising the Task Force recommendations is intended as a 2020 process, penciled onto calendars with a timeline that includes ample public involvement, and a hope to finalize a council decision that could impact the character of the city for years to come.
Sanders said the pool of candidates was impressive, with many high quality options for Kartak to consider. The 39 applicants included former council member and mayor Karen Guzak, who ran against Kartak for his current seat. Also among the applicants were multiple longtime community members such as Keith Stocker and Jan Lengenfelder.
The first Midtown Planning District Task Force meeting on March 31 was canceled, due to the current health crisis playing out worldwide.
“It’s too early to make decisions on timeline,” Sanders said, mentioning the possibility that coronavirus prevention could elevate to “shelter in place” protocols, further limiting the city’s ability to hold in-person public meetings. “If we need to make adjustments for the safety of the community, that is what we’ll do.”
When the 9-acre Public Works site sells or leases, the city anticipates development will begin. It is held up by a clean-up project that was already stalled prior to the announcement of a pandemic. The pace of that clean-up is not related to social distancing, said Randy Blair, Special Project Manager for Snohomish County Public Works.
“It is just taking longer than anybody anticipated,” Blair said.
The county is removing a dry-cleaning solvent at the Public Works site, Blair said. Initially that solvent was not properly disposed of, and it traveled across Avenue D, triggering the need for a clean-up, he said. Preparation is still in-the-works for the site. Blair said the county has two consultants working on marketing and business aspects, to prepare for either sale or long-term ground lease of the site.
The council planned ahead to have representation from city commissions, filling posts in planning and economic development, the city agenda says. Representation from the Design Review Board was desired, by staff and council.
Of Guzak, council member Linda Redmon said, “She has a tremendous amount of background and would have been great.”
When asked prior to the confirmation process what she thought of being passed over, Guzak said, “I’m okay with it” and said she was glad there were so many applicants to choose from.
Kartak did not wish to comment on why Guzak was not selected.
The applicants chosen by Kartak were Gordon Cole, Mitch Cornelison, Van Tormohlen, Raymond Cook, Paula Denney, Karl Houtman, Rio Ingram, Kyle Stevens, Thomas Kreinbring, Katherine Thompson, Jeanette Pop and Alice Armstrong. One youth representative chosen in the process was Ethan Martez.
Redmon said prior discussion on council involvement circled around adding transparency, and the council will have a liaison present in committee selections for other committees, she said. No council liaison sat in on this process.
Additional information on the task force is available on the city’s website, www.snohomishwa.gov
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