Mill Creek City Manager takes steps to implement the city’s strategic plan

Ken Armstrong, Mill Creek City Manager, has taken steps to implement the City of Mill Creek’s Strategic Plan.
Ken Armstrong, Mill Creek City Manager, has taken steps to implement the City of Mill Creek’s Strategic Plan. Renovating the existing City Hall and creating the Mill Creek Civic Center is one idea he has. Photo credit: City of Mill Creek.

Editor’s Note: This article is being published with the permission of the City of Mill Creek. It was first published in “The City of Mill Creek Current • Summer 2013”.

By Ken Armstrong, Mill Creek City Manager.

In the spring edition of the City of Mill Creek’s newsletter (The City of Mill Creek Current • Spring 2013), I mentioned that I saw exciting opportunities for the community of Mill Creek – opportunities to reinvest in itself and in its future.

In early April, the Mill Creek City Council met with senior City staff in an all-day retreat to talk about some of the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead in the next 20 years. Much of the day’s conversation focused on the pros and cons of annexation as well as long-term economic and community development.

While no action was taken during the retreat, the City Council indicated its desire to initiate ongoing discussions relating to economic development. The Council asked City staff to continue to explore economic development opportunities and to engage Mill Creek businesses and property owners in that process.

What is Economic Development?

Economic development generally refers to concerted efforts by public sector and business leaders to promote a community’s quality of life and economic vitality. Some commonly accepted themes associated with economic development include:

  • Think, plan and act for the long term.
  • Sustained effort, by government, investors and others can create a vibrant community with amenities and services that conform to a community’s values.
  • There is a role for the public sector (e.g. cities, counties, etc.) in creating the environment that can initiate and sustain economic development.

So, what are some of the things that the City can do to be a catalyst for economic development?

As indicated above, successful economic development is best accomplished through a team effort. The City Council and City staff cannot make it happen alone. Businesses and residents need to be an integral part of the process too. That said there are strategies, which the City can undertake, that could stimulate and perpetuate economic development. They include:

  • Providing strong public sector leadership.
  • Creating an enhanced City Center – a sense of place.
  • Engaging in public-private partnerships.
  • Making City improvements that have a significant positive impact.
  • Providing continued support for the arts and community events.
  • Creating and marketing a sustainable community identity.
  • Preserving and enhancing Mill Creek’s unique atmosphere and appearance.
  • Ensuring that economic and community growth is sustainable.
  • Preserving substantial amounts of open space.
  • Generating public enthusiasm for new community investments – public and private.
  • Maintaining high development standards, which result in development that conforms to and enhances Mill Creek’s community values.

Staff presented to Council one idea for how the City might reinvest in the community, create a sense of place and be a catalyst for economic development – all at the same time. The following concept was presented as a starting point for future dialog regarding community and economic development in Mill Creek:

  • City acquisition of property in proximity to the existing City Hall to facilitate construction of a new City Hall as well as new retail/office space.
  • Redevelopment of existing City properties.
  • Renovating the existing City Hall into a Community Center.

Renovating the existing City Hall into a Community Center would consist of the following:

  1. Razing the City Hall Annex and creating an open area that would serve as a public gathering area for daily use as well as for community events (e.g. concerts, farmers markets, festivals, etc.).
  2. A new stand-alone Police Station at the site of the existing Sno-Isle public library.

The City Council was excited about the possibilities that this “City/ Civic Center” concept presented and directed City staff to continue to explore economic development opportunities and to engage local business and property owners in that process.

City staff plan to develop and present to Council a plan to work with Mill Creek property owners, business leaders and residents to obtain their ideas regarding economic development and the “City/Civic Center” concept.



Mill Creek Strategic Plans

It would behove the leaders of this community to focus on taking steps leading to increased tax revenues from new businesses within the city limits before considering spending money on upgrading city hall, the library, and police station.

The citizens of Mill Creek are already paying a high rate of both sales and real estate taxes, and don't need to be burdened with more because city leaders want larger facilities.

We all love new stuff, but we need to get our financial house in order and expand the tax base so we can afford the new and expanded facilities.

Strategic planning looks decades into the future

Good comment MillCreekGal!

Fiscal responsibility is very important. The City certainly needs to recover from the Great Recession and increases in public safety costs and infrastructure maintenance costs before building new facilities.

We’re spending more money this year than we’re taking in. Our 2014 budget plans for the same situation next year.

However, Armstrong was talking about the long term, “the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead in the next 20 years.”

Armstrong doesn’t advocate tearing down our City Hall this year, or next year or even in five years. He’s trying to think 20 years down the road in the same way that the City started laying out plans for the Mill Creek Town Center a decade before construction began.

Short term, Mill Creek is doing a lot to encourage economic development:

  • City staff are working very closely with potential East Gateway Urban Village developers to increase our tax base.
  • The City rezoned large undeveloped property parcels last year to encourage development.
  • The sign code was changed last year to make local businesses more visible to customers.

Also, although Mill Creekers pay proportionally higher sales and property taxes than our neighbors in other municipalities, our overall tax burden is lower because we pay zero utility taxes.

The City should certainly stay within its budget, but we should also be thinking about the future.

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