Zemp property to be rezoned

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

trail access.

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

upset people?

"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,"

he said.

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.

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