City council seeks counsel

  • Written by Don Mann
At its Tuesday meeting the Woodinville City Council voted 5-1 to authorize staff to retain special legal counsel and land use consultants at a cost “not to exceed” $15,000 to review the proposed Snohomish County sports complex where the Wellington golf course now stands.

Councilmember Les Rubstello was the lone naysayer. Councilmember Art Pregler was absent.

Earlier this year Snohomish County bought the 100-acre site from the University of Washington with $9 million of the $70 million in Brightwater mitigation funds agreed to by King and Snohomish counties in 2005.

The land, by law, must be used for parks. Snohomish County is proposing to build a regional soccer complex with as many as eight fields, two of them lighted.

Moreover, it proposes a major parking lot to accommodate them.

The specter of increased traffic, noise, night lighting and trash – as well as the elimination of wildlife –has neighborhood groups up in arms.

To that end, the city responded. What the $15,000 review will reveal, and what the city can do about it, time will tell.

Rubstello opposed the item from the start: “People that don’t even live in the city have complained about a project that’s not in the city. We have this council which is sometimes so worried about getting ahead of itself, going out and hiring a lawyer to fight a project (against) a neighboring agency rather than go talk to that agency and open a dialogue. I’m not even sure this council has written a letter stating our desires.”

(The council had not.)

Said Councilmember Susan Boundy-Sanders, who wanted to be “very clear:” “Mr. Tiegen (SnoHo parks director) spent an hour and a half here,  telling us the deal closed in March and he wanted to break ground in August, so the rush is not ours. We are trying to respond to a rush being imposed upon us by another agency in violation of the agreement that was the source of its funds, without the public outreach that one would expect from a public agency to do before undertaking such a project.”

Councilmembers Paulette Bauman and Liz Aspen then asked City Manager Richard Leahy for clarification, regarding the expenditure.

Said Leahy: “From the staff standpoint we don’t have adequate resources or skills, on this specific item. It requires us to investigate the comprehensive  plan for Snohomish County, all their development regulations, their approval processes and then try to identify where their  decision points are made regarding the project.”

The city manager went on to say this: “Once the SEPA is conducted we’ll have the opportunity to comment and we’ll probably need additional support to properly evaluate those impacts.”

Bauman reminded her colleagues that the city staff was without a planning director, and thus the $15,000 was non-significant, or non-exorbitant – in the grand scheme of things.

Five of six city council members agreed.

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