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Council divided on issue of property acquisitions

  • Written by Briana Gerdeman

The City Council debated the importance of allowing development, protecting the environment and preserving public safety during a discussion of possible property acquisitions at last week’s meeting.

Councilmember Susan Boundy-Sanders suggested adding six properties, four of which the council approved, to the Capital Facilities Plan. The city isn’t obligated to buy properties in the CFP, but projects in the CFP should be high priorities, city attorney Greg Rubstello said.

Motions to add Wood Trails, a culvert removal site near Mac Towing, the Tanglin 2 (Halsey) property and the Draughn property to the CFP focused on protecting the environment and protecting citizens from hazards such as landslides.

"There [are] about two dozen policies, goals, vision statements, summaries of community values, all of which defend the preservation of this land, and the best way to preserve it is to buy it," Boundy-Sanders said, adding that buying Wood Trails would preserve aquatic and wildlife habitat, protect stream corridors, mitigate environmental degradation, preserve urban forest and maintain the city’s Northwest woodland character.

Mayor Bernie Talmas, Councilmember Paula Waters and Councilmember Scott Hageman also advocated buying Wood Trails, but Deputy Mayor Liz Aspen and Councilmember Les Rubstello said that would be an attempt to stop development.

"We went to the state Supreme Court, spent hundreds of thousands of dollars, to be able to choose our zoning here, and we did maintain R-1, and now that’s not good enough to fight that, so now we’re just going to buy it to stop development," Aspen said.

Boundy-Sanders argued that developing the Wood Trails, Halsey and Draughn properties would be a threat to public safety — "literally matters of life and death for the neighbors who live below these parcels."

"The Wood Trails property, I would guess, just by a visual estimate, is about 70 percent landslide hazard area. The Halsey property is 100 percent landslide hazard area and the Draughn property area is 70 percent landslide hazard area," she said. "If we were able to develop these properties in such a way that if the landslides did go, they only destroyed the homes and property and lives of unbelievers, that would be fine, but unfortunately the nature of landslides is that they follow gravity, and so they’re going  into our industrial district ... they’re going to go downhill, basically, to whatever lies in their path."

Rubstello said council members and developers had been having "unseemly" back-room discussions about acquiring property, and Councilmember Bauman accused Boundy-Sanders of a conflict of interest.

"There’s a public document request I made that Councilmember Boundy-Sanders has been speaking directly with the realtor and the property owner as well," Bauman said. She added, "I believe that this agenda item is being hijacked based on some really important property acquisitions that are important to the city, and are moving toward more of a personal agenda to benefit certain council members."

Boundy-Sanders, who disclosed at the meeting that she lives adjacent to the Draughn property and is the departing president of the Woodinville Conservancy, said she’s talked with a real estate agent and the owner of the Halsey property, but there’s no conflict of interest. She added that Bauman has had similar conversations with a Sammamish River Valley developer.

Two other motions dealt with road improvements. Boundy-Sanders suggested the city purchase land to build a roundabout at the corner of NE 171st Street and 140th Avenue NE and to build an on-ramp and an off-ramp for State Route 522 at NE 195th Street.

Boundy-Sanders said the parcel for the roundabout was so small it would be hard to develop otherwise and therefore advantageous for the city, but Public Works Director Tom Hansen said it was too small to fit a two-lane roundabout. The city would also have to purchase land from KFC, the Woodinville Community United Methodist Church or Evergreen Urgent Care.

The ramps on SR 522 would be helpful because "We know that there is congestion there, and we know that because those on and off ramps don’t exist, we have more traffic on our surface streets getting to the places where there are on-ramps to get onto 522," Boundy-Sanders said. "I think it’s the right thing to do for our citizens, for our industry, for our businesses, for our industrial landowners, but I don’t want to create any illusions that we have total control over this project" because it’s a state highway, she added.

Aspen, Hageman, Talmas and Rubstello said they didn’t want to purchase the land without any concrete plans for it when it is the state’s responsibility to maintain that highway.

"These requests, strange as they were to start out with, are getting even stranger now," Rubstello said.

The council added the Wood Trails property, the culvert removal parcel, the roundabout parcel and the Draughn property to the CFP. It voted not to add the land for ramps on SR 522 or the Halsey property.

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