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Vested doesn't overshadow common sense
This term "vested" is beginning to sound like an old record. Developers are touting that their projects are vested. Great,
so their projects are vested. Let's say 10 years pass and they
finally decide to move forward, or they used the time to meet certain
governmental standards or criteria. Now things have changed, and in the case
of Treemont, zoning has changed, surface water management concerns
have become a bigger concern and the water source from which the new
homes would be served is drastically overused.
So what do we do? Allow a development to be built that would be
illegal by today's standards? I don't think so, and in the Treemont example, I
think a likely scenario is to drastically limit the number of homes, terminate
the water rights agreement with the Sammamish Plateau Water and Sewer
District, which will be facing legal challenges of its own, and force the
developer to apply for a permit to tap a well on the property. Knowing that
the Department of Ecology and the Health Department are not processing
any well permits at this time signals the same fate for the Treemont project
and any other developments planned in rural areas: being placed on hold.
The water issue alone for Treemont should put the project on hold, but
it also highlights a bigger issue: water. Development has been rampant in
east King County for 10-plus years. Hey, I can understand why, it's a great
place to live. But each development appears to be evaluated on its individual
impacts to water, traffic and the environment, without taking a look at the
bigger picture. And in the case of water, I think the tip of the iceberg has
just been touched with regards to overused water rights. The drastic
drawdown of aquifers on the Eastside is going to dramatically affect development.
What area is at risk? Well, the Upper Valley may be sitting on one of
the state's largest aquifers, and it is likely that this aquifer will be viewed as
a regional resource. Does this mean we should, as a county, re-evaluate
activities over the aquifer that may contaminate its contents?
Tough questions and even tougher solutions lie ahead.