North Bend settles water moratorium, gains trail easement rights

The city of North Bend overcame two major hurdles last week in its quest to end the water moratorium that has stifled its growth for nearly a decade.

The city settled an appeal against the end of the moratorium with Ewing Stringfellow, and also learned that it will not have pay $300,000 to lay a mitigation pipeline along the John Wayne Trail.

The developments pave the way for the city to change codes against building, a process that should take two to three months.

"Once we have code provisions changed, we can start accepting applications for the development of land, so that when water is available we can move forward," City Administrator Duncan Wilson told the Valley Record.

"It's a whole brand-new era for the city. It's very exciting," he said.

Appeal settlement

The city agreed to pay Ewing and Jo Ann Stringfellow $40,000 to settle their appeal against the end of the moratorium.

The Stringfellows claimed that the city's plans would harm water levels on their property, a cattle ranch and Christmas tree farm outside North Bend.

Wilson said the North Bend City Council wasn't excited to pay out the settlement money, but determined that settling would be less costly than fighting the appeal in court.

The city had previously approved the spending of up to $105,000 to battle the appeal.

"Settling was the cheapest way to get to the ultimate goal of ending the moratorium," Wilson said.

The settlement also removed the risk of the city losing the case, Wilson said.

$300,000 savings

A special proviso in the state capital budget will allow the city to use a State Parks and Recreation Commission easement along the John Wayne Trail at no charge. Originally, the easement was to have cost the city $300,000.

"I am ecstatic," said North Bend Mayor Ken Hearing. "This will save the citizens of North Bend hundreds of thousands of dollars, which would have literally gone into the ground. We simply had not planned on that extra expense. This is a lifesaver for us."

"Economic development grants would have been eaten up paying for it," said Wilson.

Because of a water use agreement with the city of Seattle, the city of North Bend must lay a mitigation pipeline along 4,000 feet of the John Wayne Trail.

Sen. Cheryl Pflug, R-Maple Valley, secured the budget proviso, which allows North Bend to lay the pipeline at no charge for use of the easement as long as the city pays for the work and restores the trail to original condition or better.

"Now the pipeline will be built all the way to Boxley Creek, the John Wayne Trail will remain in pristine condition, and the city of North Bend will save itself an enormous unexpected cost," Pflug announced in a press release.

Ending the moratorium was a hard-fought process for the city and Public Works Director Ron Garrow.

"Ron has worked tirelessly on this over the last number of years," Wilson said. "He was the architect of what's happening here. He will get it running now."

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