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Stockton resigns North Bend post

After 10 years at North Bend City Hall, Larry Stockton, North Bend city services director, is resigning, effective June 2.

"I'm going on a long vacation," he said.

When he accepted the position, Stockton considered North Bend an interesting challenge. Today, he still considers the day-to-day interworkings of North Bend city government an interesting challenge.

Previously from Lake Chelan, Stockton said he was attracted to North Bend because it was a beautiful community and it was facing a lot of growth.

"The city leaders had progressive ideas," Stockton said.

At that time, the new mayor had just won a heated election and three new faces were placed on the City Council.

According to Stockton, the city was in the midst of a politically tumultuous time. The city management team experienced a complete turnover in personnel.

"This was a major disruption in the city business," Stockton said. "When I arrived here in April 1996, Mayor Joan Simpson was hiring up and re-staffing a whole new administrative team."

Stockton's area of responsibility was land-use reviews. The disruption in staffing stopped the work of the city's government and all building projects in North Bend were at a stand still.

Upon arrival, Stockton discovered the review and permit process had stopped and he had a long list of projects waiting for city attention. Furthermore, the city was in high demand for land-use planning and review at all phases.

"People were clamoring. There were several major projects going on at that time like Mountain Valley Shopping Center, the Shell station, Arby's restaurant and multifamily developments," Stockton said.

The first 12 months of his job was "a period of high-degree discovery," he said. Most of his time was devoted to catching up on the permitting process, so building could resume again.

During that time frame, other major city policies and critical utility work reached a crisis. Stockton said the crisis seemed to continue to the present.

"The moratoriums tell the story about the history of government in this town," Stockton said.

Three moratoriums were established during Stockton's tenure here.

He listed a few of the pressing details that brought on the moratorium crisis, which included a growth management plan that was one-year overdue, no city development regulations had been written, plus the sewer collections system was under a Department of Ecology (DOE) consent order, which meant the DOE could fine North Bend up to $10,000 a day and take over sewer collections if the city didn't correct the old system by making updates.

In response, the city issued a sewer moratorium.

If that wasn't enough, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Army Corps of Engineers came to town and informed the city that its flood levies were decertified. The city was forced to issue a moratorium on new building permits until a new flood map was drawn up and the city could tell where it was safe to build.

In the process of updating the water plan in 1999, an error was discovered in the city's water rights documentation, which forced the city into its third moratorium, a water moratorium.

In terms of getting the city organized, Stockton said he thinks the management team has made huge strides.

"We basically got the city's house in order and consistent with current law," Stockton said.

Regrets, Stockton said he has a few.

According to Stockton, the city grew 85 percent during the 1990s. Had the water rights been addressed, the growth North Bend is experiencing now would have been paid for. He also would like to see the city implement a traffic impact fee, a facility connection charge and a fire impact fee on to all future plat applications.

"Building the city without water was an expensive mistake," Stockton said.

North Bend is the fourth city Stockton has worked for.

A 1978 graduate of Eastern Washington University, Stockton plans to stay in North Bend and watch the policies he has worked toward during the last decade.

"What attracted me to this city was a leader [former North Bend Mayor Joan Simpson] who wanted to fix things. When you work with people like that, it's really a great experience," Stockton said.

North Bend City Administrator George Martinez said the city benefited from Stockton's efforts.

"He did an excellent job serving North Bend. He is one of the most knowledgeable community directors I have ever known. What ever community he goes to from here will benefit greatly," Martinez said.

Present North Bend Mayor Ken Hearing said the city has benefited from Stockton's contributions. "He is very professional and I appreciated that he worked very hard for the city," Hearing said.

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