Council takes on county
October 2, 2008 · Updated 2:13 PM
NORTH BEND - In a 4-1 vote, the North Bend City Council last week authorized spending up to $30,000 to appeal King County's recent decision to rezone a section of forest land outside city limits to residential use.
The zoning change occurred in the form of an amendment to the recently updated county comprehensive plan, which regulates land use in unincorporated areas. The land that was rezoned is comprised of 50 acres owned by longtime Valley resident Richard Zemp, which sits next to the Forster Woods development, and 80 acres owned by the Yerkes family a few miles west of the Zemp property along Interstate 90.
Included in the amendment is the transfer of other land from both property owners to the county for use as permanent public open space.
North Bend opposes the zoning change because, officials say, future housing development on those parcels could potentially cause erosion, flooding and traffic impacts to the city and its residents.
Mark Sollitto, North Bend city councilman, said if those lands are developed, they would impact the city in terms of flooding and extra traffic at Exit 31.
"This is a huge issue," he said. "This issue of the conversion of rural resource lands to sprawling rural lots does nothing for the benefit for the small-town scale of rural character that we are so valiantly trying to preserve in North Bend."
The city will take its protest to the Puget Sound Growth Management Hearing Board, which has the power to remand the county's rezoning decision so it can be reworked.
In addition to the potential impacts, there are other reasons City Council members are protesting the decision. They say there was a lack of public hearings on the amendment in North Bend, and lack of resident or city notification before the zoning change occurred.
They also say one of the Growth Management Act's goals is to prevent urban sprawl or high-density development in rural areas, and city officials see the amendment approved by the Metropolitan King County Council as contradicting that goal.
"We want to send a clear message that if [the county] is going to do this, then we are going to make trouble," Councilman Ed Carlson said in a later interview.
North Bend officials took a stance against the zoning change from the start, sending letters and crafting resolutions that openly opposed the action. But city officials said the County Council ignored their protests.
Councilman Jim Gildersleeve - who voted against the resolution - said trying to appeal the decision is a waste of taxpayer money, since the city essentially has no control over what the county does with its land. He believes an appeal would be fruitless.
"I just really think that just because the city got a decision it didn't like, it got a belly ache and [officials are] sore over it and they want to waste some money," he said.
"This whole action, I think, is just based on a mindset, an ideology that we don't want any more growth, we don't want any more problems in our vicinity that are going to further complicate some of the complex problems we are trying to deal with as a city," he added. "But I don't think you can stop these things, and especially when they're not in your jurisdiction." He said he'd rather see the $30,000 go to complete the interior of the Meadowbrook Interpretive Center, which he sees as a better expenditure of funds.
Carlson said the appeal was approved, in part, to support the more than 100 residents in the Forster Woods and Uplands developments who don't want their properties impacted by future building, and it's not just the case of the city not liking the county's decision.
Councilman Fred Rappin equated it to a David-vs.-Goliath situation, where hopefully the small city can get the attention of the county and let it know that the city cares what happens to its neighboring land.
To get the most out of the $30,000 allocated for the appeal, the city will use volunteer residents to help review the county comprehensive plan and study the issue.
Other decisions made by the City Council at its April 17 meeting include: