Fall City to gain a big neighbor

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

Fall City.

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."

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