Zemp property to be rezoned
October 2, 2008 · Updated 2:19 PM
NORTH BEND _ In a controversial decision to provide
open space for the greater good of the community and county, the
Metropolitan King County Council approved the rezoning of two
parcels of land abutting North Bend to possibly allow future
development of forested land.
Because of a last-minute proposal from Councilman
Kent Pullen, 50 acres at the base of Rattlesnake Mountain, owned
by Richard and Roseanne Zemp, will be rezoned from forestry
designation, where only one home can be built on 80 acres, to RA-10,
which allows one home per 10 acres. Seventeen homes will be
allowed on the property, to be clustered on 3-acre parcels. In addition,
the property a few parcels west of the Zemps', owned by the Yerkes
family, will be rezoned from forestry to rural residential (RA-5), or
one home per five acres.
As part of the agreement, both landowners will donate
property for permanent open space 110 acres from the Zemps and 50
from the Yerkes. The County Council gave preliminary approval to
the zoning change and property donation Feb. 5 by an 8-5 vote,
with final approval coming Monday.
Donating land was not part of the original requests for
the Yerkes' and Zemps' lands to be rezoned, although Zemp said
he was willing to grant an easement on 11 acres of his land for
The rezoning proposals are part of the county's update of
its comprehensive plan, a document outlining future growth,
zoning and other regulations. The entire update was approved on
Monday, after council members voted on more proposals. Prior to Feb.
5, there was talk about the zoning change being denied
outright, and some council members said they needed more of an
incentive meaning more land donated to the public before they
would consider the action.
County Councilman David Irons, who represents much of
the Valley, said he was originally against rezoning because
without land donated as part of the agreement, there would be no
greater good for the public. But when Pullen turned in the new
amendment that included 160 acres of permanent open space, Irons
had a tough decision to make.
"It was the hardest vote I've had," he said "I knew there
would be a very vocal number of people that would be very upset with
this. But when you get ready to take a vote, you stop and ask
yourself, `Is this best for the district?' And I had to weigh that this was
not going to win popularity, and if I voted against it, would I be
voting against it because I was afraid of some bad e-mail and some
"You listen to the facts and you vote with your
conscience, for what is best for the district and region. This is not going to
win any popularity contest, but I thought it was the right vote."
Irons added that at the end of an intense council debate, he
was persuaded that there would be significant, long-term
public benefit in approving the rezoning and land donation.
However, some North Bend city officials, residents and
environmental groups believe the move is a mistake.
"In the big picture, is it worth the county getting land in
exchange for 17 parcels?" asked Mike Sellers, a resident of
Forster Woods, which lies next to the Zemps' land, at a Feb. 6 City
Council meeting. He said the donated land would not be a public
asset, as it is too steep to hike on.
"The public will not benefit. The city will not benefit. Only
one party will benefit, and that's Mr. Zemp and Mr. Zemp alone,"
City officials and North Bend community members alike
worry that developing the forested parcels will contribute to water
runoff, erosion and excess traffic problems that would impact
the city not the county. The Forster Woods and Uplands
developments rim the Zemps' property, and neighborhood residents
there said runoff and erosion is a problem, even asserting that
their homes should have never been built on the hillside.
Irons countered that the public would see a benefit
because the land will be permanently saved from logging, which
could ruin the view of Rattlesnake Mountain and cause erosion.
"So now we can set it aside so it will never be logged again,
and the maximum housing units will be held to latest and greatest
regulations on water runoff," he said, adding that technology
has changed to decrease the likelihood of erosion problems,
such as those that Forster Woods residents have experienced.
The day after the County Council's vote, North Bend
city officials protested the action. On Feb. 6, the City Council passed
a resolution, asking Irons to reconsider his vote, although
it wouldn't be enough to change the outcome.