Foreseeing the need to initiate “early and continuous citizen involvement” for the Comprehensive Plan, the City focused its expanded model for public participation on development of the Central Business District (CBD) Vision -- the place where nearly all of Mercer Island’s Growth Management issues are focused. In August, 1992, the City launched the Town Center “visioning” process that relied upon the broadest range of community “stakeholders”. Over 80 active participants worked between October, 1992 and June, 1993 to develop the document entitled “Your Mercer Island Citizen Designed Downtown”. A newsletter mailing list of over 150 persons was built to maintain continual communication to interested individuals.
August 1993 marked another major step in the Council’s commitment to the role of public participation in the implementation of the Town Center vision and preparation of the Comprehensive Plan. The City Council created the GMA Commission to serve as the primary citizen body to oversee the drafting of the draft plan.
Consistent with the adopted public involvement strategy, the GMA Commission consisted of citizen “stakeholders”, representing standing City boards and commissions, citizens, downtown property owners, and business community groups. The GMA Commission oversaw and coordinated the preparation of all comprehensive plan elements, ultimately passing them on the City Planning Commission for formal review and public hearings.
Prior to making formal recommendations to the City Council, the Planning Commission will conduct meeting, hearings and/or workshops to obtain further public input. Providing another avenue for public input, environmental review of the draft plan’s impacts is integrated into the Planning Commission’s hearing and review process.
The Land Use Element of the Comprehensive Plan was adopted by the City Council in December, 1993 after GMA Commission review and discussion, Planning Commission review and approval, SEPA review and City Council workshops and public hearings. Adoption of the remaining four planning elements occurred in October, 1994.
Between 1994 and 2016, the 2005 update was the only substantial update. The City continues to be committed to public participation in its 2016 Comprehensive Plan Update. The City held several meetings and an open house to discuss proposed amendments to the Comprehensive Plan prior to City Council public meetings.
Concurrent with the Comprehensive Plan update, the City conducted a Town Center Visioning process to assess growth in the Town Center and prepare new design standards. Public involvement throughout the Town Center Visioning process has incorporated the efforts of two citizen stakeholder groups, a liaison group of Councilmembers, Planning Commissioners and Design Commissioners. The Stakeholder Group’s recommendations were reviewed by the Planning and Design Commissions meeting jointly, followed by consideration by the City Council. In 2015 and 2016, the City held 69 meetings, including 9 public input meetings or public hearings, public meetings and received over 350 comments from approximately 225 people.