By Mitchell Roland

During Tuesday’s (March 16, 2021) Kent City Council meeting, the council removed a land use designation from the agenda, while they also learned how much money the city would receive from the recent federal COVID-19 relief package.

Land use designation removed from agenda.
While one of the first actions taken during the meeting was to remove the item from the agenda, a proposal to amend a land use designation still largely dominated discussion.

The proposal, which would change 13.2 acres of land on Lea Hill in the comprehensive plan land use map designation from urban separator to low-density multifamily homes, was originally slated to be the ninth item on the agenda during the meeting. This was the consensus the council came to during their March 2 meeting.

However, at the start of the meeting, Councilmember Bill Boyce made a motion to remove the item and said he did not have enough information to decide how to vote.

“We can talk about this sometime in the future, but I just need a little more time to get my arms around this,” Boyce said.

The motion passed with a vote of 4–3. Councilmembers Boyce, Brenda Fincher, Toni Troutner and Zandria Michaud voted to remove the item, while Councilmembers Les Thomas, Satwinder Kaur and Marli Larimer voted against it.

“I think we’ve had a long enough time to explore all of the questions that we might have,” Thomas said.
Following the vote, Mayor Dana Ralph said there is no firm date for the topic to come back to the council, though there are ongoing conversations with councilmembers and developer Oakpointe. Ralph said Oakpointe has not decided whether they wish to request that a vote on the proposal takes place this cycle.

After the item was removed from the agenda, Ralph said people signed up to discuss the item during public comment could leave the meeting. Those individuals that left will be notified in advance if the item is added to the council’s agenda in the future. However, around 20 people stuck around to say why they either supported or opposed the project.

Among their concerns is an increase in traffic, potential damage to a nearby wetland and concerns that business development on the land was originally promised to neighbors.

Police chief updates council on homicide investigations
While a large portion of the meeting was dedicated to public comment on the proposed development, there were other topics discussed. During the meeting, Police Chief Rafael Padilla provided the council with an update on the homicide clearing rate in Kent.

In 2020, there were eight murders in Kent, and Padilla said suspects have been identified in each case. Padilla said of those eight cases, seven of them have a suspect in custody with charges filed, while in the other case charges are pending with the suspect identified.

“Looking at our homicides, and again very tragic to have eight, from the detective’s work and dedication, I am proud to report that all eight of those cases have been cleared, meaning that they have been solved,” Padilla said.

Padilla said that the 100% case clearance rate for homicides of the course of the year was “very impressive” and an indication of “how hard the detectives work to get the evidence they need.”

Kent will receive federal aid
Derek Matheson, Kent’s chief administrative officer, said by the city’s “best estimates” they will receive about $28 million through the American rescue plan act of 2021. The act has a total of $65 billion in “Coronavirus local fiscal recover funds for local governments.”

Matheson said the staff’s recommendation is for the council to form an ad hoc committee that would work together “for about a month” before recommending a framework to spend the money. Matheson said he would put that on their March 23 Committee of the Whole agenda.