This is one of those familiar citizens vs. city hall stories, where a plan to update and expand something the community depends on is causing

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When in Doubt, Hire a Consultant

Council opts for "independent" voice to solve Fire Station 20 debate.

This is one of those familiar citizens vs. city hall stories, where a plan to update and expand something the community depends on is causing a whole lotta heartburn because it would mean changes to a close-knit neighborhood (and bulldozing a couple of houses).

But even by Seattle standards, the debate over what to do (or not to do) with Queen Anne’s Fire Station 20 has drug on… and on. The latest plan? Hire someone else to come up with a solution.

After more than a year of hearings and discussion, and a city council vote in August that rejected the mayor’s plan to tear down and rebuild the 57-year-old firehouse, council members Monday (with the mayor’s blessing) approved hiring a consultant to take a fresh look at the issue.

Council member Richard Conlin, who sponsored the proposal, suggested a few weeks back that the council isn’t being as creative as it ought to be. He told members about recent trip to Washington D.C. where he saw an urban fire station that included a mix of uses.

“We should open our minds to the idea that a fire station can be integrated into the community and really work,” he said.

Conlin told me he thinks the neighbors have moved beyond seeing this as simply a “NIMBY” issue and are now open to thinking about it in terms of public policy— a development he’s encouraged by.

Council member Richard McIver, who supported the mayor’s plan to rebuild the station on its current site, says the council simply has to stop trying to please everyone.

“You never make 100 percent of everybody happy. The council’s listening to a minority who isn’t happy a lot more closely than they’re looking at people that are supporting it,” he says.

Valerie Paganelli, who represents Concerned Neighbors of Fire Station 20, says she thinks a fresh take will yield “numerous” other replacement sites that don’t mean tearing down the houses around the current station.

The operative word here is independent, she says. “Where we really are focused is in making sure it’s an independent process that has a lot of visibility into all the pieces along the way.”

Whatever your perspective, we’re still talking about a study that won’t likely be done before the end of the year, will consider the current site as a possible option ...and a consultant that’s going to cost the city $50,000 big ones.

 
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