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North Bend angry over rezoning efforts
NORTH BEND _ North Bend officials have rallied against a
King County councilman's plan to change the zoning of 130 acres of
unincorporated county land near the city to allow higher density housing.
Under King County Comprehensive Plan amendments sponsored
by Councilman Chris Vance, who represents the Kent and Auburn district,
the land would be rezoned from Forest Production and RA-10
classifications to RA-5, meaning one house could
be built on every five acres of land.
"The amendment would add a very small number of houses to
the very edge of North Bend," Vance said.
The change in zoning would occur on two parcels. One is
approximately 80 acres along the south side of Interstate 90, which is
currently zoned RA-10, or one house per 10 acres. The other 50 acres lie nearby
in an area zoned Forest Production District (FPD), uphill from the
Forster Woods development. The properties belong to the Yerkes and Zemp
The Metropolitan King County Council has been working on
amendments to its comprehensive plan, a document that guides all land use
and development for unincorporated King County. Every four years, starting
this year, the plan is reviewed and changes are added, as necessary. Council
members sponsor amendments to the plan.
It is still up in the air whether the amendments featuring the two
rural Valley parcels will be formally introduced at next week's public
hearing on the comprehensive plan.
Even with that uncertainty, North Bend officials have taken measures
to voice their collective opinion on the matter.
"These are properties that will dramatically increase traffic,
stormwater and flooding impacts on North Bend due to the existing road system
and the topography of the land," said North Bend Councilman Mark Sollitto.
The North Bend City Council passed a resolution in September
stating its opposition to the rezoning, which was sent to the County
North Bend's document states that both properties, if developed,
would present erosion, landslide and flooding risks, as well as cause traffic
impacts at I-90's Exit 31, the intersection that potential residents would
use. It reports that city officials would end up dealing with the impacts from
a county decision that was beyond their control.
Another point of contention for city officials is that one of the
properties is classified as "forest
production" a permanent classification
and the other is next to a forest-production area.
"I am against changing the decisions on the urban-growth
boundary that we made six years ago," North Bend Mayor Joan Simpson
said. "Those properties have steep slopes and erosion hazards. It would be
a classic example of urban sprawl."
"We all agreed and [Chris Vance] agreed that [these properties]
should not be in our urban-growth boundary," she said. "It's completely against
the spirit and the intent of the Growth Management Act."
"The No. 1 priority in North Bend is to retain the rural character. This
is an example that flies in the face of that," Sollito added.
The Washington State Growth Management Act (GMA) governs
the amount and location of growth, especially in rural areas. Simpson
explained that the area in which the properties are located has not been
slated for growth, and is, in fact, protected by the forest-production
designation to prevent sprawl.
According to County Councilman Larry Phillips, a
forest-production designation can only be changed
with sub-zoning, a lengthy public process that he says rarely achieves
desired results for property owners.
In addition, the state's Growth Management Act limits the amount
of growth that can take place in forested areas and reports that a conflict
arises when development is constructed too close to the production areas.
According to the county's Web site, many areas could have zoning
reduced to protect rural surroundings.
"One home per 10 or 20 acre zoning is proposed to protect natural
resource lands and activities, such as farming and forestry. Residential
development at the eastern edge of the rural area brings more people
annoyed by the sights, smells, noise and truck traffic associated with farming
and forestry activities," the Web site reports.
"This development drives up the value of natural resource lands,
motivating owners to sell their land for residential uses instead of
maintaining natural resource uses. The goal is to keep rural lands near natural
resource lands in very low densities to prevent these conflicts."
Simpson said the city's move against the proposed change in
zoning for the two parcels is not directed toward the property owners,
adding that city officials had to make some difficult decisions based on what
is best for the entire community.
Forster Woods homeowners recently held a meeting to discuss
the proposed rezoning. One parcel sits directly uphill from their housing
development and is considered steep and prone to flooding. Mudslides, the
loss of wildlife habitat and traffic impacts are on the list of their worries.
Larry Stockton, community services director for the city of
North Bend, said that when a hill is cut into and trees are taken out for
development, flooding and erosion could result. He added that he, too, is
against the rezoning.
"Up-zoning property in an area that is prone to flooding is
contradictory," he said. "Why up-zone a
piece of land when facilitating rural growth would make the [flooding] a
However, Vance sponsored the amendments because the
property owners came to him with the idea.
"This is not something that the Zemps are trying to sneak
through," he said. "What the Zemp family
representative (lobbyist Martin Durkan Jr.) proposed to me is the sort of
deal the county does all of the time to develop one parcel of land in
exchange for open space." According to the
proposed amendment, in exchange for the change in zoning, the Zemp
family would possibly provide access through the land to the
Rattlesnake Mountain Natural Conservancy Area.
The Zemp family was unavailable for comment.
"We don't need to consult with the city with what happens in
unincorporated King County," Vance added. "The right thing to do is talk with
the city, which we are right now."
However, Vance believes his amendments do not have enough
support to pass at this time, and he might not introduce them at the
County Council's Nov. 13 meeting concerning the comprehensive plan.
Councilman David Irons Jr. said any council member could
introduce an amendment up until the end of the hearing.
Larry Phillips, county councilman and chair of the Natural
Resources Committee, also opposes the proposed zoning changes.
"Our existing comprehensive plan lays out specifically what can
happen with forest-production areas," he
said. "This [amendment] is what's called `spot zoning' and is completely
contrary to our existing comp plan."
Phillips helped write the original Growth Management Act and
believes the document has a purpose of keeping development in check and
preventing rural sprawl.
"Our zoning should be consistent with our policy," he said.
County Councilmen Rob McKenna and Kent Pullen were
also involved in the proposals, co-sponsoring the amendments with Vance.
Irons, who represents the Valley, does not support the effort to
rezone and wasn't aware of the amendments until North Bend residents began
to contact him on the matter.
"I haven't heard anything [with the two amendments that] I would
support at this time," he said, adding that
it would have been courteous for the other council members to run the
proposed amendments by him, since they affect his district.
King County Executive Ron Sims's staff has also been