A kirkland city councilman resigned yesterday after the council rejected a controversial retail and condominium project in the heart of...

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A Kirkland city councilman resigned yesterday after the council rejected a controversial retail and condominium project in the heart of downtown.

Tom Dillon, who has been on the council for five years, said his objection made it impossible for him to continue to serve. He said he felt the council’s vote was unfair to the developer and the city staff members.

“I think this was one of the biggest decisions in the city of Kirkland in a long, long time, and they made it poorly,” Dillon said.

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“It will put a chill on other opportunities for other cities. From now on, any city that wants to do this kind of a project will have to write all the checks.”

The council voted 5-2 Tuesday night to turn down the redevelopment plans of city-owned land by Seattle-based Milliken Martin.

Dillon and Councilman Dave Russell cast the two votes in favor of the development.

The proposed four-story complex at Lake Street and Central Way had been debated at several council meetings since late last year. The plans called for underground parking, ground-floor retail and three stories of condos.

Opponents objected to the size of the development and worried about its effect on the downtown’s character and parking. Proponents said it was a much-needed opportunity to bring in new businesses and residents.

Larry Martin, chief operating officer for Milliken Martin, didn’t return phone calls yesterday.

Jeff Leach, whose group, Citizens for a Vibrant Kirkland, opposed the development, said the council’s decision was right, if painful.

“I think the community was really split on this, but the residents at large were not supportive. … I think the most important thing is that we move forward in a positive fashion,” Leach said.

Members of business groups Kirkland Downtown on the Lake and the Greater Kirkland Chamber of Commerce said they had hoped the council would at least have kept the debate alive to arrive at a workable compromise.

“There has been a lot of energy around this,” said Dick Beazell, executive director of Kirkland Downtown on the Lake.

“We’d like to see the same level of energy continue from the different groups, to work together on what they would like to see in the downtown core.”

City Manager Dave Ramsay agreed, saying that now that this project is dead, the city will have to re-evaluate what to do with the land.

Meantime, Mayor Mary-Alyce Burleigh said Dillon had played a key role in representing the city in regional transportation policy and had brought business and land-use expertise to the council.

“Tom is a person of strong principle, and when he believes in something strongly he will act on it. It’s one of his virtues,” Burleigh said.

“We can only thank Tom for his years of service. We will look hard to find someone to replace him, and we will do it as quickly as we can.”

Dillon’s resignation creates the second recent midterm vacancy.

In January, Councilman Russell was appointed to replace Larry Springer, who was elected in November as a state representative for District 45.

Rachel Tuinstra: 206-515-5637 or rtuinstra@seattletimes.com