By Ken Armstrong, Mill Creek City Manager.
Editor's note - This article is being published with the permission of the City of Mill Creek at no cost as a service to the community.
The most recent edition of the Mill Creek View (Volume XVI, Issue 19) contained an article entitled “Plan for a new $20 million civic campus for Mill Creek,” which purports to describe the City’s intentions regarding new public facilities and economic development. I appreciate the View helping to start the conversation about economic development and long-term planning in Mill Creek.
Unfortunately, the article has significantly misled Mill Creek residents and the tenant businesses located in Maple Leaf Square. I take this opportunity to address the facts associated with this subject.
The View article states: “Earlier this year, Mill Creek City Manager, Ken Armstrong, hired Makers Architectural and Urban Design of Seattle to draw up a conceptual plan for a new Mill Creek city hall/civic center.”
The facts: There is no plan to build a new civic campus or to buy property to accommodate such a campus. The concept that was presented to the City Council in April at its annual retreat was just that – a conceptual idea intended to start a community conversation about long-term economic development here in Mill Creek. All that was asked of Makers, and contracted with them for, was a conceptual drawing of a possible combined-use property, which would include a new multi-story City Hall (with retail/office space) and a privately-developed multi-story retail/office building. The concept also included 200 public parking spaces that could be used for public events and overflow parking. The concept was never intended to be, nor has it been discussed with Council as, a firm plan. In the end, whatever proposal, if any, put forward to Council for their consideration will be one that relies heavily on input from residents, business owners and commercial property owners. It is very likely that a final proposal will look very different from the concept we floated to Council in April.
The View article states: “He (Armstrong) reported to council that he believes the owner of Maple Leaf Square Shopping Center, 15704 Mill Creek Blvd. wants to sell her property.”
The facts: We were very careful in our conversations with property owners to make clear that we were brainstorming ideas to meet three goals (i.e. stimulating economic development within Mill Creek, creating a city center and addressing the City’s long-term public facility needs). There was absolutely no discussion about buying property. At no time did we ask property owners if they wanted to sell their property to the City. What I advised Council was that we did meet and talk with property owners about this idea. I have since gone back and listened to the audio recordings of the April 6, 2012, Council Retreat and subsequent Council meetings, and at no time did I or any other City staff advise Council that the owner of the Maple Leaf Square property wants to sell. Nothing of this nature was ever communicated to Council in writing either.
The View article states: “At the retreat, the council was presented with costs for non-voter approved bonds and revenue projections for a new utility tax.”
The facts: Included in retreat packets given to Council was a spreadsheet that contained three ways that a project of this magnitude could be funded if the Council and City residents favored such a project. The cost numbers used were ballpark numbers only. They did not account for many of the factors we would consider if there were actually a plan to move forward. For instance, some costs could be offset by leasing the retail/office space depicted in the concept. The spreadsheet provided to Council included voter-approved bond, non-voted bond and utility tax. However, this table was provided as reference material and the Council did not engage in any discussion about the three options. Staff made no recommendation to Council either because there was/is no project to fund. Also, there is no new utility tax proposed nor has there been any conversation at any Council meeting to implement one.
The View article states: “Businesses to be displaced:” (followed by a listing of the businesses currently located in Maple Leaf Square).
The facts: No businesses will be displaced. Even if the City were to acquire property for a city center at some point in the future, the City would honor any tenant’s existing lease and make accommodating their desire to stay within the City its utmost priority. Moreover, the concept presented to the City Council included new office and retail space.
Please feel free to contact me or drop by – I welcome your feedback!
You can contact Ken at 425-921-5724 or at email@example.com.