Fall City to gain a big neighbor
October 2, 2008 · Updated 3:00 PM
FALL CITY _ In a decision last Wednesday which surprised and
dismayed opponents, Deputy King County Hearing Examiner Stafford
L. Smith recommended approval for the Treemont development north of
A final go or no-go decision for the proposal, which calls for 194
new homes and associated roads and septic systems on a hill overlooking
State Route 202 two and one-half miles north of the community, now falls
on the King County Council.
"If I make a recommendation and nobody appeals it, the council
will normally handle it as a consent item," Smith said. "If someone appeals
then they'll hear arguments, but they won't accept any new evidence." The
council will start deliberations on the project and review Smith's
recommendations following an appeal period, which expires Wednesday, Feb. 16.
Plans for the 239-acre property _ located along the north side of
S.R. 202 and roughly bounded by Southeast 16th Street, Southeast 24th
Street, 292nd Avenue Southeast and 304th Avenue Southeast _ have been a
bone of contention for several years, dating to Port Blakely Communities'
initial submission for 236 lots on Dec. 30, 1988. At that time the site was
zoned "G" or General, which allowed residential development with a
minimum size of 35,000 square feet per lot.
The land was subsequently rezoned rural (AR-5-P), allowing
only one dwelling per five acres. After the release of the Draft
Environmental Impact Statement in August 1994,
Port Blakely modified its proposal to 194 lots of single-family detached
housing and agreed to a series of groundwater mitigation procedures,
including a stormwater bypass line to the Snoqualmie River.
The modifications to the development proposal _ which also
included acquisition of adjacent property for road access purposes _ were one
major source of contention during the hearing process. According to
one group that opposed Treemont, the modifications should have forced
the submission of a new application by Port Blakely. Such an
application would have fallen under the revised rezoning for the property and newer
water, septic and environmental protection regulations.
Smith disagreed, stating "although over the past 11 years the plat
application has been substantially reconfigured, these changes do
not constitute a revised application requiring a new vesting date." Therefore
the property can proceed to council review under the laws and regulations in
effect in December 1988.
"All of the changes in the codes that have happened in the last 10
years were done to stop development like this property," said Robert Seana,
who owns property below the proposed development. "Yet, because they
are `vested' _ they being the developers _ none of this matters. The
developer said in their proposal, either approve 194 lots or nothing. The council
says its hands are tied."
Smith set a number of specific requirements, including:
Development will be limited to 71 lots until funding for the
planned Sunset Interchange on I-90 is confirmed. The examiner noted that in
the wake of Initiative 695 state highway planning and construction funds
are severely constrained and there are no guarantees the interchange will
be completed in a timely fashion.
Port Blakely has agreed to pay the Washington State Department
of Transportation (WSDOT) $1,152 per lot towards the construction of
the Sunset Interchange and lane widening along S.R. 202. In addition, the
developer will be required to reach an agreement with the WSDOT leading to
the installation of a traffic signal at the intersection of S.R. 202 and
292nd Avenue Southeast.
At least 60 of the 194 lots may lack the minimum soil depths
required for septic tanks. Smith stated if the
lots cannot be approved for septic systems by the King County Health
Department, they may need to be consolidated or eliminated. He added it is
not possible to determine septic feasibility until plat road cuts have been
made and major site grading has occurred.
Responding Monday, Seana said "King County abdicated their duty
to protect the people and the environment because of the dogged
determination of the developer."
Seana added the loosely knit organization of home and property
owners which has opposed Treemont is considering additional steps to
fight the project. In the near term, the group is considering hiring an attorney
and filing an appeal before the county council. Seana said he and other
members of the group have also talked about forming a statewide
coalition that would join organizations and people opposed to excessive
As a first step, the group has scheduled meeting at Jubilee Farms
between Fall City and Carnation for Sunday, Feb. 20, at 4 p.m. For more
information on the gathering call (425) 222-4558.
In the meantime, Port Blakely is looking forward to a favorable
review by the King County Council and a chance to finally get started.
"Overall we're pleased with his recommendation of approval,"
said John Adams, spokesman for Port Blakely communities. "If adopted
by the council, we would proceed with plans to start construction of the
first 20 homes, the access road and other infrastructure elements this year.
"All of the conditions were identified either by staff or during the
hearing process, but the linking of the 71 houses to the Sunset
Interchange hadn't come up before. But, we're actively involved in funding for
that interchange through our Issaquah Highlands Project and are pretty
focused on it."