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Comp. plan update meeting draws large crowd

CARNATION - According to King County Executive Ron Sims

and the county's staff, the ongoing goal of the comprehensive plan is to

target urban communities while slowing growth in rural areas and

preserving rural legacy and character. Periodic adjustments _ as mandated by

state law _ are helping to maintain this trend, while allowing for public

comment on the process.

Monday night, Nov. 8, Sims and members of the Department of

Development and Environmental Services (DDES) met with a large crowd at

Tolt Middle School to discuss the current adjustment, known as the 2000

Update.

The county maintains that growth management is working, noting

that from 1994 to 1997, 91 percent of all new household growth

countywide occurred within the designated Urban Growth Areas (UGA). According

to statistics provided by the county in its draft update, growth in rural

King County actually declined from 15 percent of overall development in the

late 1980s to just 9 percent in 1997.

However, the majority of the speakers in the crowd of over

60 sounded like they weren't convinced, stating they see continuing

urban sprawl and an ongoing threat to the county's rural way of life.

Sims and the staff members heard a full gamut of concerns about

development, some limited to specific comments about the proposed update

and others from people just expressing their concerns, frustrations and

even fears.

Beth Stroh-Stern, a member of the Tolt Community Club, which

formed in 1990 as a stewardship organization, read a lengthy introduction to a

letter addressing the update process.

"We feel a responsibility not to allow forests and farms to be

paved over because the cities agreed to absorb growth in order to have

permanent rural lands," she said.

"Unfortunately, King County has not been able to accomplish this. We see whole

cities incorporating in the rural area _ sometimes with the stated purpose

to slow down growth that King County has allowed!"

"We hear a lot about preserving rural legacy," echoed John

Cameron of the Friends of Cherry Valley, "Yet we find so many things going on,

we find it alarming."

Some speakers expressed appreciation to Sims and supported the

update process, while others called for more stringent wording and

restrictions. One speaker called for restrictions on sewer construction,

quipping, "Build them, and they (developers) will come."

Other comments covered a wide range of frustration and concerns

over the destruction of wetlands, skyrocketing costs of living or buying a

home in the Valley, the impact of gravel mining on aquifers, traffic and other

problems.

"Many people who live in this Valley are being squeezed out of the

Valley because they can't afford to live here anymore," said another

speaker. "Their property values are soaring."

Another attendee raised the specter of the oft-rumored I-605,

which could take the form of an extension of S.R. 18/Snoqualmie Parkway north

to U.S. 2 in Snohomish County.

"If that happens, you can expect it will divide King County into

two parts," he announced, "and

everything west of that freeway will be developed." Sims nodded in

agreement, stating he didn't feel such a freeway was likely to occur but anything

was possible.

After the meeting concluded, Sims reiterated his desire for public

comment on the county's plans and operations.

"It was great meeting, and it really helps us when people come

out and tell us what needs to be changed," he commented. "By and large, when

I come out to the Valley, people are very polite, even when there are

strong emotions."

Still, for residents of the Valley _ and particularly Snoqualmie _ the

ultimate question may come down to what "minor boundary

adjustments" to the Urban Growth Boundaries (UGB) will appear in the final draft

of the update document. Sims announced at the end of the meeting that he

would not allow or support a modification to Snoqualmie's UGB to enable

development of Snoqualmie Ridge Phase II.

According to Karen Wolf, Senior Policy analyst with the Office of

Regional Policy and Planning (ORPP), the boundary adjustments won't

be finalized until the end of the year, but she did say none of them were

in Snoqualmie.

"They're things like Jacobs Creek Park in Maple Valley, and a

similar situation in the city of Enumclaw,"

she commented Monday. "There might be some zoning changes that might

take place at the end of the year."

The King County Executive and DDES will accept public response

to the Comprehensive Plan update document through January 21, 2000.

Sims is scheduled to deliver the completed update to the King County Council

in March.

Editor's Note: The King County ORPP developed the Public

Review Draft 2000 Update, and not _ as reported last week - the Department

of Development and Environmental Services. The DDES provides

evaluation and technical support to the ORPP.

The county spokesman who advised that Urban Growth

Boundaries were subject to "minor boundary adjustments" was misidentified as

Betty Renkor. The person who made the comment and gave the initial

presentation on the update plan was Karen Wolf of ORPP.

The Valley Record regrets the errors.

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