Two local political newcomers are ready to fill Position 3 on the Lake Forest Park City Council, left vacant when incumbent Council member Mary Jane Goss chose not to run.
Voters will decide whether Sandy Koppenol or Chuck Paulsen will take the job in the Nov. 8 General Election.
Koppenol, who works at a biotechnology company in Bothell, is an eight-year resident who decided to run after joining the King County Citizens Advisory Group, which is assessing the redevelopment of the Burke Gilman Trail.
Also a member of the Lake Forest Park Planning Commission, Koppenol says she is disappointed in the slow pace of the Council and that many members were not supportive of proposed changes to the trail.
“I would make a good Council member primarily because of my scientific training,” Koppenol said. “I can objectively deal with data, facts and information and would be a good judge of what information we need to make a decision.”
Redevelopment of the trail is a divisive issue, Koppenol said, due to the competing interests of homeowners along the trail and users. The city needs to work with the county regarding redevelopment, she said. She is hopeful they can reach a consensus.
“We do need to work with the county to redevelop the trail in Lake forest Park,” Koppenol said. “It is the oldest part of the trail.”
Studies indicate the trail is getting more use than originally planned, she said, and needs to be improved for increases in usage. There are also safety issues, she said, and task force members suggested safety can be increased by improving sight lines.
“It can be as easy as removing foliage, changing fencing, things the homeowners would be in support of as well,” Koppenol said. “I think there are improvements that can be made where there isn’t too much controversy.”
Koppenol advocates for controlled growth and development in the city. Housing to meet the requirements of the state Growth Management Act could afford the opportunity to build mixed-use as well as business space at a redeveloped Towne Centre, she said. With a growing number of senior citizens in large houses but now on fixed incomes, Koppenol said affordable housing also needs to be provided.
She would also like to provide a more friendly environment for businesses, as citizens are concerned with vacancies at Towne Centre. Through modification of some ordinances, the city could be more business friendly, Koppenol said, and draw people from outside the city.
“I would like to see some more boutique shops,” Koppenol said. “I think an important thing would be to create a more business-friendly environment.”
The city has an important role in the redevelopment of Towne Centre, she said, as they can protect certain environmental aspects of redevelopment, such as green space and the stream that runs through the site.
To improve the accessibility of Towne Centre, Koppenol said it is important to encourage people to walk and bike to the site, which is currently a challenge. She would also like to see a park and ride at the site.
Regarding the pace of the Council, Koppenol said there are several issues the Council is still discussing, with no resolution in sight. Council members allow too much opinion to be introduced, she said, instead of hard facts and data. The Council also underutilizes volunteer commissions, she said, which could be used for information and recommendations.
The city budget is in fairly good shape, Koppenol said, although she acknowledged that as the city grows, it will require more resources to support people and provide services.
A 12-year resident, Paulsen is senior director of a large retail pharmacy chain in the area. A former Eastern Washington resident, he was elected to the hospital board of commissioners at Pullman Memorial Hospital, where he served on the finance committee.
Paulsen became interested in running after becoming concerned with the redevelopment of the Burke Gilman Trail and frustrated with the pace of the Council.
“The existing City Council seems to be fractured and takes things too personally,” Paulsen said. “They don’t listen to others’ opinions.”
Development of the section of Burke Gilman Trail that runs through Lake Forest Park is necessary, Paulsen said, because of recreational and environmental needs. He said the trail is a hazard because there are cracks where people can fall and unsafe areas where vehicles cross the trail.
“Redevelopment needs to logically plan for all those parameters and take the people’s needs and wants into account,” Paulsen said.
Paulsen favors growth and development in the city, saying there are two ways to think of growth: sprawled and fixed concentration. A natural concentration point is at Towne Centre, he said, which is vastly underutilized.
“It is limited as far as the scope of what is there,” Paulsen said. “So we do need to adjust and customize ordinances to be more business friendly.”
Affordable homes are also needed in the city, Paulsen said, and the Council will need to figure out a plan to provide affordable housing to seniors.
The Council should be involved in the redevelopment of Towne Centre, Paulsen said, as it has the potential to become a regional hub. All parties need to be involved in order to have a plan and to implement it successfully, he said.
Paulsen said Towne Centre is not easily accessible for many people, such as bikers, and it will be important to provide a combination of overpasses and underpasses from the trail when the site is redeveloped.
“We can’t have a flourishing hub if people can’t bike, walk and roller blade to the place,” Paulsen said.
To improve the pace of the Council, Paulsen said he would strive for clear steps and timelines to move issues along. He also said there is fragmentation on the Council, due to members taking issues too personally.
“If you go in with your own agenda and ignore parts of the population that elected you, I think you are set up for failure,” Paulsen said. “There is a lot of frustration on the Council.”
The city’s reserves are in good shape, Paulsen said, although this could change with outside interests, such as a possible gas tax repeal.
“The amount of money we are talking about as far as traffic improvements and attracting individuals into this hub, all these things will affect our budget in some way,” Paulsen said. “We need to be fairly cautious and need to act smartly.”