Community Facilities Rezone

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The Stroum Jewish Community Center (SJCC), the French American School of Puget Sound (FASPS) and Herzl-Ner Tamid (HNT) have applied for a Comprehensive Plan Amendment and rezone that would enable a master planning and redevelopment process for their facilities.

The properties owned by the applicants currently consist of four zones, with some of the properties spanning multiple zones. While the properties can be redeveloped under the current zoning, the complexity of the requirements across the multiple zones makes it more difficult to understand what is allowed and to plan for potential impacts of redevelopment. A new zone can better address the potential impacts and provide more clarity to the community around what to expect from redevelopment. The rezoning process will also allow for more community involvement in planning for the future of SJCC/FASPS/HNT sites.


The Stroum Jewish Community Center (SJCC), the French American School of Puget Sound (FASPS) and Herzl-Ner Tamid (HNT) have applied for a Comprehensive Plan Amendment and rezone that would enable a master planning and redevelopment process for their facilities.

The properties owned by the applicants currently consist of four zones, with some of the properties spanning multiple zones. While the properties can be redeveloped under the current zoning, the complexity of the requirements across the multiple zones makes it more difficult to understand what is allowed and to plan for potential impacts of redevelopment. A new zone can better address the potential impacts and provide more clarity to the community around what to expect from redevelopment. The rezoning process will also allow for more community involvement in planning for the future of SJCC/FASPS/HNT sites.


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    Will the remand of the CFZ by the Growth Management Hearing Board be discussed at the Joint meeting of the CC and PC on the 20th.?

    Matt Goldbach asked 10 months ago

    The Agenda Bill (AB 5594) for August 20 notes that the City did not prevail on one of the Growth Management Hearings Board (GMHB) appeal items related to the Community Facility zone and that further action is required.  Staff does not know if the City Council and Planning Commission will wish to discuss the GMHB decision. The City does not anticipate discussing its legal strategy to complying with the GMHB decision and order at the study session. 


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    Hello, Is the joint meeting between the CC and PC open to the public? Thank you and I hope everyone at the city has a wonderful weekend.

    Ryan asked 10 months ago

    Yes, the joint meeting of the City Council and Planning Commission will be in the format of a Council study session.  The meeting is open to the public and will be recorded/live-streamed via Youtube, like all Council meetings.  Public comments can be made after the start of the regular Council meeting during the "Appearances" item on the agenda.  The joint CC-PC study session will be held from 5:00-7:00 pm on August 20, at Mercer Island City Hall.  The Community Facilities Zone is second on the agenda, after a discussion of regional growth planning and VISION 2050.

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    Suppose a two small sites and one large site each are rezoned CFZ. These sites are near one another as in the properties along EMW. Will these sites be required to coordinate their development? For example: Suppose the SJCC decides to develop in 2023, then the FAS decides to develop in 2025. Does the draft plan require the SJCC to consider future development of the FAS or does the city require the FAS to consider the SJCC development? Or are these two properties subject to the rules separately? Put another way, suppose the 3 properties on EMW do not decide to engage in a landswap and, instead, use the new rules to meet their needs independently. What are the NEW legal "overlaps" of their separate development that did not exist prior to Amendment 8? I ask because the PC stated that more comprehensive development was one of the reasons they passed Amendment 8. However, I don't think the draft requires a lot of coordination and planning between property owners who seek to develop independently. Can you help clarify?

    Ryan asked 12 months ago

    The current, second draft, of the regulations does not require coordination – though there are practical reasons why coordination would make sense.  There are “implicit” incentives to coordination in the second draft – for example, a master site plan that encompasses multiple sites will have more flexibility in complying with the zoning requirements, than an individual site.  At the Planning Commission meeting on June 18, 2019, the Planning Commission directed staff to create explicit measures that would incentivize coordination (phrased as “site aggregation” at the meeting). As we work on the third draft, staff will seek to increase the incentives to coordinate and articulate site aggregation as a desired outcome. ~ Evan Maxim


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    The draft uses the term "public benefit" in many places. How is that defined? Will master planning process distinguish between public benefit to the community (Mercer Island) versus more generally (Puget Sound-region)?

    Erik asked 12 months ago

    The term “public benefit” is not defined directly.  There are several concepts that the Planning Commission is considering when it uses the term public benefit: A) providing predictability (e.g. in the rules, design after a master plan is approved, a schedule for work); B) establishing regulations that are intended to minimize impacts to property owners near a community facility; C) supporting community organizations on Mercer Island; and D) encouraging superior site design by providing site specific flexibility and requiring significant community engagement in the master planning process.  ~ Evan Maxim

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    Hello, Can you please confirm the dates of each of the subcommittes meetings? The mercergov.org website says March 21st and April 17th. Were those the only two subcommittee dates? Thank you for your time and consideration on this.

    Ryan asked about 1 year ago

    The Planning Commission subcommittee met on March 7th, March 21st, April 17th, and April 23rd.   ~ Evan Maxim


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    Would the city be willing to make some maps to improve public engagement? For each set include: setback, height, lot coverage, and GFA. Set #1: Prior to rezone. Set #2: Original draft from the city. Set #3: Latest draft minimum. Set #4: Latest draft maximum. Having these maps in our hands for the June 5th meeting will be incredibly helpful. Thank you!

    Ryan asked about 1 year ago

    The City will make maps and other materials available to aid in public review; however based on the Planning Commission’s review on June 4th and 18th, we expect further significant revisions in the forthcoming third draft.  The Planning Commission has also directed staff to omit specific numbers from the third draft, to allow for a fresh review of all the dimensional standards; consequently the maps and other materials will lag somewhat after the release of the third draft.  ~ Evan Maxim

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    How is this NOT a description of a spot zone? "The Stroum Jewish Community Center (SJCC), the French American School of Puget Sound (FASPS) and Herzl-Ner Tamid (HNT) have applied for a Comprehensive Plan Amendment and rezone that would enable a master planning and redevelopment process for their facilities. The properties owned by the applicants currently consist of four zones, with some of the properties spanning multiple zones. While the properties can be redeveloped under the current zoning, the complexity of the requirements across the multiple zones makes it more difficult to understand what is allowed and to plan for potential impacts of redevelopment. A new zone can better address the potential impacts and provide more clarity to the community around what to expect from redevelopment. The rezoning process will also allow for more community involvement in planning for the future of SJCC/FASPS/HNT sites." It' clear that a rezone could be very beneficial to the applicants, but also clear to a casual observer that it is "Specific for the applicant" and no mention of the community impact. It is also clear that the applicant's ability to expand under the current zoning is UNTRUE or at minimum misleading.

    Matt Goldbach asked about 1 year ago

    This is more of a statement than a question.  If you'd like to make a comment, please do so in the Post a Comment section

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    Why are you not including all planning commision date in your "Key Dates" . Is it an oversight or are you discouraging public participation? Your answer to Ryan question is clearly incorrect and misleading!!

    Matt Goldbach asked about 1 year ago

    We have not posted subcommittee meetings on the Let's Talk site because while they are open to the public, they are not an opportunity for public input or participation.  We will be updating the Key Dates as soon as the next full planning commission meeting on this topic is scheduled.

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    Hello, Could the city please update the "Key Dates" on Let's Talk. I don't recall the new, updated schedule. Is it true that the next time the public/commission/city will meet on this is May when it is finally adopted? Thank you!

    Ryan asked over 1 year ago

    Key dates are still in flux at this time. There will be at least one more public meeting, likely in April, and a public hearing, likely in May. Dates will be updated once they are set.

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    What are the lumen and kelvin ratings of the lights at the Island Crest Park? Does the code include any limit on the total amount of lights that the applicants can use or are the just limits on each individual light? Thank you!

    Ryan asked over 1 year ago

    At Island Crest Park, each fixture is 121,000 lumens, and the kelvin rating of each fixture is 5700. Current code limits the wattage of each individual light, not the total of all lights. The brightness of lights is measured by either wattage or lumens. Current code does not regulate the kelvin rating.

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    Could the city please rework the maps of Attachment C to reflect the fact that the FAS could choose to be a "small site"? Can we see that map? Thank you!

    Ryan asked over 1 year ago

    The updated small site maps have now been posted here.  The document includes corrected maps for the Herzl property as well as new maps for the parcels owned by FASPS.

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    Since one of the applicants is religious institution will the entire "Community Facility" be subject to RLUIPA? Seems like that would be opening a real can of worms!! Density is a significant issue and has been the issue for decades!! Look forward to your response...

    Matt Goldbach asked over 1 year ago

    The Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) essentially has two main provisions:

    1. The “Equal Terms” provision says religious assembly or institutions cannot be treated on less than equal terms than a non-religious assembly; and
    2. The “Substantial Burden” provision states that jurisdictions, including Mercer Island, cannot impose a “substantial burden” on the use, building, or conversion of property for the purpose of religious exercise. 

    Please note: RLUIPA is not the equivalent of a “get out of jail free card”; rather, it is intended to ensure a balance between protecting religious uses and other community interests.  Religious uses are required to comply with local zoning regulations, including limits on density and intensity.

    No party within the SJCC / FASPS / Herzl-Ner Tamid properties has asserted a violation of RLUIPA to date, nor is there a known violation elsewhere on Mercer Island.  RLUIPA claims typically result from violations of either of the two main provisions, regardless of the zoning designation. 

    With regard to the “Equal Terms” provision, the Community Facilities zone does not establish a different set of design requirements for religious assembly versus non-religious assembly.  Consequently, it is unlikely there would be a successful challenge with regard to equal terms.  With regard to the “Substantial Burden” provision, this type of claim occurs typically where the City is failing to address a compelling governmental interest in regulating a religious use (e.g., repeated denial of a Muslim masjid despite efforts by the masjid to address the basis for denial through design changes).  In the case of the Community Facilities zone, the City has a legislative history that clearly identifies the compelling community and governmental interest in regulating a set of community uses – for example, neighborhood compatibility, transportation impacts, pedestrian / vehicle / non-motorized safety, etc.  Further, the Community Facilities zone design standards are not intended to burden the free exercise of a religion; rather, the regulations are intended to ensure that the exercise of a religion is done in a manner that also complies with local zoning regulations.

    Finally, please note that RLUIPA is a protection afforded to the exercise of a religion in the context of land use regulations.  It is not a protection offered to other uses, even though those uses may share a similar geographic location. 

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    Hello, I'm curious if MI clubs have a "capacity" or "membership" limit? AND, I'm also curious if the new regulations are considering some kind of "capacity" or "membership" limit. I ask this question because the actual building size of the new zone might obscure the intensity of use of the buildings. I hope this makes sense, but suppose the regulations on the new zone's buildings were similar to what they are now. Suppose the applicants were allow to only create building size in their current footprint, but their new underground parking would allow for greater membership and use of those buildings. For the neighbors, the building size wouldn't matter as much as the number of members/congregants/worshipers/student going in an out of those buildings. Does the regulations/Can the regulations only address the physical structure, or are there some rules that attempt to regulate the "people" that can use those facilities at one time? Thank you for your time and attention to this. Much appreciated...Happy New Year!

    Ryan asked over 1 year ago

    The MI clubs do not currently have a limit on membership imposed by the City.  Generally, the City is focusing on other means of regulating the new site for two reasons: A) limiting membership is generally impractical and in certain instances is not legally feasible; and B) limitation on membership does not directly affect the impacts or compatibility. 

    Membership does not normally equate to building use at any given time.  A physical fitness facility (e.g. Golds Gym) might have a membership of a few thousand people, but at any point in time is only occupied by a hundred people.  Said another way, a building could have a fire occupancy limit of eighty people, and still be used by several hundred people over the course of a week.  Finally, the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), together with Washington State law, provides special protections for religious uses, which limit the legal feasibility of this type of approach for religious uses. 

    The public comment has largely focused on the impacts associated with the use of the facility.  Managing impacts related to a land use, to improve compatibility (e.g. bulk, screening, vehicle access, pedestrian circulation, etc.) is best handled through well-developed land use regulations.   For example, 100 people actively using a building 10 feet from a single family home is much more impactful than 100 people using a building several hundred feet from the same house – the difference in impact in this example is related to proximity, not number of people.  To address impacts, the City is evaluating regulations that require increased distance between residential uses and community facilities, limits on gross floor area, limits on lot coverage, requirements to screen, retain vegetation, limit lighting, and so on. 

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    I have asked on numerous occasions for the City to define what they mean by "Community" when discussing "Community Facilities". Is the City required to limit the there scope to "The Mercer Island Community" when considering if a development is beneficial to the "Community" ? The narrative seems to be new zoning will be used to mitigate problems that will be caused by the new zoning. What will the Mercer Island Community GAIN from the JCC/FASPS proposal ? I guess that's two questions. Please don't tell me the applicants applied as a community service!!

    Matt Goldbach asked over 1 year ago

    The definition of “Community Facility” will be developed with Planning Commission and public input during the code amendment process. The code language that is drafted and refined in the coming weeks and months will establish the parameters for a community facility and will provide a definition for what a community facility is. The first draft of the code amendment will be available for review and comment on January 23, 2019.

    City regulations do not limit consideration of the benefits (or impacts) of development proposals to any specific "community" (e.g. adjacent neighbors, Mercer Island residents, business owners, members of an organization or institution, etc).  That said, the Mercer Island community is always a priority when considering potential code amendments, including rezones and development regulations.

    For your question about community benefit of the current proposal, please see the response to LMS’s question (asked on 12/14/18), below.  In short, the new Community Facilities Zone is intended to address and mitigate impacts to surrounding neighborhoods that may not have been addressed under the previous zoning, while also allowing for remodeling or redevelopment of existing facilities.


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    As the council evaluates the JCC/FAS proposal, what are the benefits that the island can expect to see from this Community Facilities Zone? Specifically, how do we anticipate this expansion advancing the public's interest (separate from the value these institutions deliver their members)?

    LMS asked over 1 year ago

    The primary benefit to the public in considering new zoning regulations is that the new regulations would specifically address the concerns expressed by the public around things like: traffic, parking, pedestrian safety, neighborhood compatibility, etc.  This is in contrast to relying on incomplete standards that are phrased qualitatively and do not appear to fully address all neighborhood concerns.  The new regulations will also promote the use of master planning, which increases the predictability of how a site will be used and developed over time.

    For example, the current code requires that the City determines a project is qualitatively acceptable in terms of traffic capacities of adjacent streets.  A neighborhood concern is that traffic to and from the facility should be directed to an arterial street.  In the specific example of the SJCC / FAS proposal, the local street (SE 40th) may have sufficient capacity to handle the traffic.  Consequently, under the current code, traffic may use SE 40th Street instead of the preferred location – East Mercer Way.

    The city has found the current regulations for community facility uses allowed in single-family residential zones do not adequately mitigate some of the impacts non-residential uses have on surrounding neighborhoods, as illustrated by the current discussion around the JCC / FAS proposal.  The current regulations may be found in two sections of code – here: https://mercerisland.municipal.codes/MICC/19.02.010  https://mercerisland.municipal.codes/MICC/19.12

    The City recognizes that many of the community facilities currently located in Mercer Island have aging buildings and that over time needs and uses for these facilities have evolved.  These facilities will need to remodel, rebuild or redevelop over time to remain viable.  The proposed code amendment will provide standards by which facilities can develop their properties.  Redevelopment can largely occur under the current standards.  The new regulations will still allow redevelopment and will also establish reasonable bounds on redevelopment intended to protect and mitigate impacts to surrounding residential neighborhoods.


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    In a response to a question about lighting you stated that the JCC and FASPS were not subject to the current lighting code as they were in existence prior to the code adoption in 2004. Both organizations have requested and been granted various permits since 2004. What amount of modification to to a site triggers the end of being "Godfathered"? In the specific cut down and/or trimmed many trees causing lighting difficulties to for there neighbors. Could a permit to remove large trees be conditional on adhering to the then current code?

    Matt Goldbach asked over 1 year ago

    The triggers that could lead to a nonconforming site being brought into current conformance of code are found in MICC 19.01.050. General provisions are found in 19.01.050(A). Specific provisions for nonconforming sites are found in MICC 19.01.050(F)(1), (2)(c), and (3)(a).  Lighting is not listed as an item that must be brought into compliance when alterations to the site occur. 

    Tree permits are not development permits. Their issuance does not mandate sites to be brought into compliance with development regulations. Development permits such as conditional use permits that allow a new use or the expansion of a use, or building permits for the expansion of or major alteration of a building may trigger the threshold for a site to be brought into compliance with current regulations.


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    Hello Is the JCC considered a commercial/or non commercial entity when considered under MICC 19.02.010(C)(4) allows noncommercial recreational areas, subject to the conditions in MICC 19.02.010(A)(6) ?

    Matt Goldbach asked over 1 year ago

    The JCC is considered to be a noncommercial recreational area. Redevelopment of the JCC’s facility would be subject to the provisions of MICC 19.02.010(C)(4)  and MICC 19.02.010(A)(6).  

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    Hi, Hope everyone had a relaxing break. Curious: How granular are the rules about lighting around the island? Many of my neighbors (an others around the island) have mentioned issues with LED lighting being intensively bright. - Are there any rules at all regarding lighting brightness? - Are there any current rules regarding light direction? - Are there any current rules regarding light duration? - Is there a different between lighting for security purposes and lighting for activity purposes? You can just hyperlink the rules and I can read it myself, don't feel the need to analyze parts of it. I'm asking because one of the expressed reasons that the PC and the city had for passing Amendment 8 was to resolve current issues that neighbors had with uses on these properties. I'm trying to understand if current rules are present and not being enforced, or if rules on lighting on simply non-existent. I'm also asking for an Island friend who has warned me about lighting. She is currently troubled by lighting at the P&R and I'm trying to understand how the rules exist there and whether, Island-wide, there can be better resolution to light brightness that seems excessive when balancing it to the security needs of properties. Returning back to the Amendment 8 properties. If security fencing will be applied to these properties, I would think that bight security lighting would not be necessary. I would want to understand why the property owners would consider both to be imperative to their security concerns. Thank you!! I know that was a lot.

    Ryan asked over 1 year ago

    The lighting code for all zones outside of Town Center can be found at this link: https://mercerisland.municipal.codes/MICC/19.12.070  The code does not apply to single family residential properties. It applies to other uses in single family residential zones, as well as all other zones of the city outside of the Town Center. That said, the lighting code does not currently apply to the JCC, the French American School, or Herzl-Ner Tamid because they were in existence prior to the adoption of the code in 2004 (they are "grandfathered in"). If they redeveloped, they would be subject to the code.

    The lighting code does address brightness and shielding (MICC 19.12.070(B)(4)). There are no regulations pertaining to lighting duration. The code does not address the difference between lighting for security purposes and lighting for activity purposes.


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    Suppose for a moment that the SJCC was not there and there only existed private residences. Currently, is there any way to redirect access from the FAS properties along 40th to the north to link up with 38th? I guess I'm trying to understand...Is there any legal way, even after the passage of Amendment 8, to access the FAS's properties WITHOUT an agreement of access by the SJCC OR accessing off 40th? Or do one of those two things need to occur? THANK YOU!

    Ryan asked over 1 year ago

    The properties owned by FASPS along 97th Ave SE,  not currently developed as school facilities, only have access to SE 40th Street. The school would be dependent on a neighboring property to provide an easement to have access to a street other than SE 40th Street. As a result of the master planning that would be implemented pursuant to Comprehensive Plan Amendment 8, the school would have authority to cross the JCC’s property. Without Amendment 8, FASPS would have the option to request an easement from the JCC for access across their property, but would not be required to do so.


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    Hello, I'm trying to understand what development on the properties would look like under the current rules. I've done some back-of-the napkin calculations. Can you help me with them? FASPS current lot sq ft = 123,744 FASPS current sites building GFA = 31,815 Properties lot sq ft owned by FASPS = 108,896 (27,224+27224+38144+8604+7700) FASPS potentially NEW building GFA under the current rules = _____________? Pardon my ignorance on this: - 10,890 sq ft for a .25 play field - 10,000 sq ft for 75 parking spots (conservative) I can say roughly 90,000 sq ft for development. If the current rules state that buildings in residential properties must have MGFA of 40%, then a school on that site, according to my calculations, must be about 35,000 GFA...or slightly larger than their current school. I realize that the city cannot confirm a hypothetical and that there are a lot moving parts on such a calculations. All things being equal, does it seem as though, under the current rules, that a school about 10% larger than the current FASPS can fit on the properties owned by FASPS? Thank you!

    Ryan asked over 1 year ago

    The current school is developed in accordance with the R-8.4 zone, which is the same zoning as the properties owned by FASPS for possible future development. The same metrics that control development would be applicable to both sites. The size of development is mostly controlled by lot coverage, gross floor area, and setbacks. A table for these primary metrics is provided below.

    Since the properties owned by FASPS are smaller than what they are currently leasing from SJCC, and since lot coverage and gross floor area are based on the size of the property, under the current zoning a future potential building on the properties owned by FASPS would be smaller than that allowed at their current site.

       R 8.4________________  

    Lot coverage  40% 

    Gross floor area  40% 

    Setbacks   Specifically for schools: 

     35-feet from any abutting property 

     45-feet from public right of way 


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    Hi, Under what circumstances or criteria can a conditional use permit application be rejected by the city? Thank you!

    Ryan asked over 1 year ago

    The zoning code specifies conditions that must be met for the approval of a conditional use permit. If an applicant cannot demonstrate compliance with the applicable conditions, a conditional use permit will be denied.

    The following are examples of the conditions for two different types of conditional uses, private schools and noncommercial recreational areas.

    1.  MICC 19.02.010(C)(2) allows private schools, subject to conditions set out in MICC 19.02.010(A)(4), including the following:

    a)  All structures shall be located at least 35 feet from any abutting property and at least 45 feet from any public right-of-way.

    b)  Off street parking shall be established and maintained at a minimum ratio of one parking space per classroom with high schools providing an additional one parking space per 10 students.

    c)  A one-fourth acre or larger playfield shall be provided in one usable unit abutting or adjacent to the site.

    2)  MICC 19.02.010(C)(4) allows noncommercial recreational areas, subject to the conditions in MICC 19.02.010(A)(6), including the following:

    a)  Access to local and/or arterial thoroughfares shall be reasonably provided.

    b)  Outdoor lighting shall be located to minimize glare upon abutting property and streets.

    c)  Major structures, ballfields and sport courts shall be located at least 20 feet from any abutting property.

    d)  If a permit is required for a proposed improvement, a plot, landscape and building plan showing compliance with these conditions shall be filed with the city development services group (DSG) for its approval.

    For example, if an applicant proposed a recreational facility with ballfields that were 10 feet from an abutting property, the conditions in MICC 19.02.010(A)(6) would not be met and the conditional use permit would be denied.  The entirety of MICC 19.02.010 is available here.


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    Are there any other community meetings planned?

    Marie asked over 1 year ago

    Two additional community meetings are now planned for December 13 and January 24.  Additional details about these meetings will be posted in the Community Meetings tab.