City aims for more transparency with development process

By Brandon Gustafson | Jan 03, 2018

When a city notice was emailed out regarding a project, someone quickly posted it to the social media site NextDoor.

Karl Almgren, an associate planner for the city of Mukilteo, saw the post along with comments that there was work the city needed to do to keep citizens updated.

“It was a picture of the notice that we had emailed out to a resident, and they posted that it would have been nice if the city had posted it to NextDoor,” Almgren said. “Some of the comments come in afterwards, ‘Well if it was they’d have to be transparent and honest.’

“And I will say, we are honest here at the city. There's a reason we work for the city; we do believe in public service.”

Almgren said posts and comments like this are common on social media, and he wanted to help make sure citizens could stay involved in application processes and projects in regards to development in the city.

“The easiest way to stay involved with applications for development is by simply emailing the city a request to be on the ‘parties of interest’ for all land use action notices,” Almgren said. “And that simple request will put you on a list, and so anytime we have a notice of application or project decision or anything coming through the permit process, you’ll receive an email about it letting you know what's happening with that project. That's by far the easiest way to stay involved.”

For those who would like more immediate or detailed explanations regarding a project or application, Almgren says to come to City Hall.

“The city, we are very approachable. Just yesterday, we had a resident come in and talk to us about an application,” Almgren said. “And we sat down to show them the application, and discussed it with them. We are more than willing to chat about the different applications either at the front counter informally or have a formal meeting to talk about it.”

Almgren said city employees are more than willing to answer questions about these projects, but more citizens need to come to them with questions.

“We need to have the questions sometimes come to us to help gauge what type of information we need to better present to the public,” he said.

In addition to email lists, there are also public postings at the post office and Rosehill among other designated posting locations.

“Some of the public participation requirements are state law,” Almgren said. “But our goal is to make sure that we are being transparent to the city and providing opportunities for people to provide comment as well as just to learn more about what's happening in the community.”

When it comes to utilizing social media for updates regarding applications and processes, it gets tricky.

“We use Facebook and Twitter, and I think we have a city Instagram account, but we use those more for a public information standpoint, not for noticing on development applications, so things like an open house related to a park master plan is what we use social media for. But when it comes to development applications that have regulations related to the noticing, we keep it fairly tight to what the regulations are,” Almgren said. “When it comes to notifying related to development applications, because there are processes that are designated by the municipal code and state law, many cities have struggled with the use of NextDoor primarily related to privacy policies and things like that.”

Despite the challenges of using social media for development applications, you can easily get access to this information.

“It's a challenge but, no matter what, they will be posted on the website,” Almgren said. “In just simply calling the city and saying, ‘Hey, I saw a giant orange sign, what's going on?’ We're happy to chat about that and discuss with them what the project is and what's happening with it.”

Almgren also said there are public hearings people should attend to ask questions or voice concerns, but when in doubt, just send a quick email to him or another city employee and ask to be added to their email list.

“The best one to have right now is probably going to be my email (, and then I'm happy to forward emails based on the project, as well as adding you to the party's of interest list.

“We just want to make sure it's clear that we are here to be transparent and that we are approachable.”



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