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Treemont project faces more delays
FALL CITY Because of a decision recently handed down by
the King County Council, the proposed 194-lot Treemont development
might not be built until next year, and its size could be pared down to 47 homes.
Neighbors are happy with the decision because the subdivision's
planner, Port Blakely Communities, was ordered to conduct additional
environmental impact studies before the project can move forward.
"We were able to show enough issues in question that they listened,
and along with carefully reading the hearing examiner's original report,
they had many concerns," said Cindy Parks, who lives near the
proposed subdivision. Parks has formed a group called "Friends Against
Excessive Development" to fight the
subdivision, to be located near the Tall Chief
Golf Course in Fall City.
Many residents have said the project and its construction
could flood or otherwise damage their neighboring properties and negatively
impact Patterson Creek. They also feel the subdivision's density would
jeopardize the area's "rural character"
of quiet homes on five to ten acres.
Parks said keeping track of Port Blakely's proposal has left her
exhausted. But this recent turn of events has given her hope that the
development will not be approved as originally planned, and most importantly,
not impact her neighborhood.
Parks' neighbor, Janice Cannon-Kyte, agrees.
"The (decision) gives us hope that the county will do the right thing;
that they'll look at the issues in a broader scope," she said.
During a July King County Council meeting, Councilmember
Louise Miller initiated a motion to remand the decision back to the hearing
examiner so more studies could be done. The move should give the hearing
examiner more information on which to base his recommendation for
the development's size and mitigation requirements.
Councilmember David Irons, who represents the Valley, agreed with
"I voted to put it back to the hearing examiner because I was not
convinced that there was adequate protection for Patterson Creek while
they were building," Irons said.
Later in July, a meeting was held to explain the remand decision
and outline the areas needing additional study. The main areas to be
reconsidered are traffic impacts, construction of an access road, stormwater
drainage and impacts to Patterson Creek.
"We're in a different world today, and one of the things we have to do
is address the streams," Miller said.
Many of the plans currently under fire were measures taken by
Port Blakely with Department of Development and Environmental
Services support to create as little impact
as possible to neighboring property, Patterson Creek and residential
Developers planned to build a new access road to Treemont, and
they have already bought the additional land to support the road. A
quarter-mile-long drainage pipe was created as a solution to protect
Patterson Creek. But now the County Council has decided both the road and
pipe need further study.
Councilmembers have asked for studies that would eliminate the
road and drainage pipe, which could ultimately result in paring down the
number of homes built.
"We have to look for better ways to accommodate the growth and
development, and in this case, to eliminate the new road and modify
the drainage system," Miller said.
She added she has had experience with erosion problems along
nearby Sahalee Way and doesn't want to see those experiences repeated.
"We've lost great chunks of (land). It's very steep and slide-prone, and
on more than one occasion they had to close and repair the road," Miller
said. "There's no way you can fix it once you've done the damage, and
it's highly likely (the Treemont proposal) would damage the creek, and
same with the drainage," she said.
John Adams of Port Blakely said his company has already spent
more than a decade of time, work and money in complying with the county.
"What we hope (additional studies) show is that our original
proposal is the best proposal," Adams said. "Bottom line is we believe we have
a project that does mitigate impacts."
Port Blakely submitted development applications for Treemont
in 1988, when zoning was one house per acre. Legally, the zoning is vested
and cannot be changed.
"Our approach is that we are vested to the one-acre zoning, and
as long as we mitigate the impacts, we don't see any basis for the county
to deny it, " Adams said.
Another issue confronting Treemont is water. The
development's water-availability certification was also acquired under a vesting
policy in 1988. But last month, the Department of Ecology released findings
that suggest the aquifer that supplies the Sammamish Plateau Water and
Sewer District which provides the Treemont water guarantee was
severely compromised from overdevelopment and may not be a
sufficient water source.
Irons explained that King County could be open to a lawsuit if the
council were to try and enforce current zoning.
"The (county's) prosecuting attorney, despite all of the
objections brought up, said (the project) is
legally vested. "But we have the right to require that they meet certain
standards," Irons said. "I would rather hold
the builder to the highest environmental standards that we can" than
spend taxpayer's money on lawsuits.
Adams said he and other Port Blakely officials will be
open-minded when considering the new studies' findings, and will seek an
environmentally sound solution.
"It's premature to say if those (new studies) would improve the project
or make it worse," Adams said.
He estimates it could take another four to six months before the
proposal is up for another public hearing, because time is needed to complete
the additional studies and have them reviewed by county staff.
Rich Hudson, the Treemont project's manager at DDES, said
the hearing examiner, Stafford Smith, could recommend one of four
options for the applicant. One might be Port Blakely's option of 194 homes.
Two other alternatives would downsize the development to 83 or even 47 lots,
the latter being consistent with current five-acre zoning policies.
The fourth option could be to deny Port Blakely's application
altogether. But even those who have raised questions about the development
aren't rooting for the fourth alternative.
"The thing that people need to understand is that we're not
saying they shouldn't develop (the property), it's just that they should develop it
with regard to rural character and the environment _ what the land will
tolerate," Cannon-Kyte said.
Hudson said amid the delays, the Treemont approval process has
been hard on everyone.
"I'm sure the public's been frustrated because (the property) has
been sitting there so long. The applicant is frustrated because (it is) trying to
accommodate the impacts, and the hearing examiner is wrestling with
the impacts and listening to public testimony, and he has to bring all of
that information into his decision to the County Council," he said.