Treemont decision approaches

FALL CITY — Next week a decision will be made that could

change the look of rural Fall City. The King County Council is scheduled to

vote on the proposed Treemont development on Monday, June 5. The

council has delayed the vote several times, with the last postponement

allowing councilmembers to research the project.

The proposed subdivision of 194 homes on 238 acres is located near

the Tall Chief Golf Course in Fall City and is surrounded by more than 10

years of controversy.

Treemont's neighbors began to protest its existence shortly after

the development's applications were filed by Port Blakely Communities.

More than 20 residents attended last month's county council meeting to voice

their concerns.

The subdivision's density is one point of controversy with area

residents because the subdivision was vested under 1988 zoning, or

one house per one acre. Neighbors would like the project to be scaled down

to 47 homes to be consistent with the area's current zoning of one house

per five acres.

"We thought King County would make them conform to the rural

designation and make them follow the rules that all of us have had to

conform to," said Cindy Parks, a neighbor and founder of Friends

Against Excessive Development.

Residents are also concerned about other aspects of the project,

including a proposed road that could impact Patterson Creek, a drainage pipe

that would siphon runoff to the Snoqualmie River and the 194

septic tanks to be built in an area that is already flood-prone.

In addition, residents worry about the additional traffic the 194

homes would create and the overall impacts the development would have on

the area's rural character.

John Adams of Port Blakely, however, disagrees. He said that his

company has done adequate, if not excessive, research and planning as

required by King County.

He added that Port Blakely has worked hard to refine the

project's design and has already downsized the subdivision from 236 homes to

194. The company also identified sensitive areas on the property that will be

protected with buffers, and state-of-the-art stormwater and water quality

control measures have been added to avoid impacts to Patterson Creek,

the Snoqualmie River and neighboring homes.

"I think there's an assertion that we are not studying this enough, but a

tremendous amount of work has gone into these reports and a

tremendous amount of time has been put into considering the impacts to the

area," Adams said. "We think we are

doing an environmentally sound project."

However, several environmental risks to the area are listed in a

report of recommendations by County Hearing Examiner Stafford Smith. The

report lists the construction of a road from State Route 202 to the

Treemont property as being the most serious impact.

The report reads: "Even with the state of the art erosional control

practices, due to the steepness of the slopes, the huge amount of

excavation required, the highly erosional lucustrine soils, and the site's

proximity to Patterson Creek, erosion and sedimentation impacts from road

construction are inevitable."

It goes on to say that if a huge storm occurs during the road's

construction, "potentially catastrophic impacts to Patterson Creek and

its salmonid resources could occur."

Smith listed in his report that "it is not hard to conclude that this may

not be a risk worth taking," and the proposed road "can only be regarded as

a bad idea whose time has finally come."

King County suggested the road as a way to redirect traffic from

other area roads. Adams said Port Blakely purchased the additional

county-recommended plat of land in order to build the road. The report says

that because the county suggested the road and because Port Blakely has

committed considerable time and resources to make the idea work, it would not

be fair to disapprove the road.

This makes Treemont neighbor Robert Seana furious.

Seana said that the county is ignoring the potential impacts just

because the project was vested and the developer has spent money on

the project.

"Wherever Treemont does not meet exemptions, King County

gives them variances on the exemptions to get around the rules," he said.

"King County gives them variances so they can do just about anything they want."

Cindy Parks, who has taken time off from work to attend several

council meetings on Treemont, added that she and other neighbors should

not have to "police" the county to get

them to follow their own rules.

"This is truly a David and Goliath scenario," she said. "You would

think that King County would be on our side trying to enforce the rules."

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