by Jeff Switzer
The proposed Blakely Ridge urban planned development moved to the next plateau as attorneys argued over pieces of the Hearing Examiner's recommendation before the King County Council Dec. 4.
Acting on a request for reconsideration from the Friends of the Law, the Central Puget Sound Growth Management Hearings Board handed down a decision Dec.2 instructing the county to delete the Bear Creek urban growth "island," make it a fully contained community as defined by state law or justify why it should remain intact.
With the Dec. 4 appeals hearing on the Blakely Ridge UPD following on the heels of the board's ruling,the Metro-King County Council voted to postpone final decision until Dec. 19, and will in the meantime evaluate the county's options on the issues.
The council chambers were packed for the appeals hearing, with both proponents and opponents.
Members of the Coalition for Public Trust, UPD opponents, wore red clothing and large buttons with a diagonal line drawn through the word "UPD," and members of the Lake of the Woods Homeowners Association wore "Save Our Lake" tags.
Proponents were less distinguishable.
Hearing Examiner Stafford Smith presented his report and several pages of amendments to the council.
During his presentation, Smith outlined his recommendations for approval of the applications, including his suggested mid-point review.
Representing Port Blakely Communities and Quadrant, which has the Northridge UPD in the works just south of Novelty Hill Road, attorneys and Port Blakely Communities Vice-President John Adams argued that the mid-point review took away the business certainty necessary for a project like this.
"The four primary goals in the Bear Creek Community Plan are being accomplished," Adams said. "There's extra environmental protection, an end to sprawl, we're providing affordable housing and the roads and public facilities are in place."
The Coalition for Public Trust, which grew out of the fight against the UPD and includes groups such as Friends of the Law, Bear Creek Citizens for Growth Management and Citizens Against Urban Sprawl, had hired land use attorney Carl Smelser, who attempted to submit 33 pages of legal briefs regarding CPT's arguments. Following a long discussion, the council voted 8-2-3 to not allow them into the record.
Smelser argued that the final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) did not offer a range of alternatives for the proposed land-use.
"A reasonable alternative must accomplish the objective at a lower environmental cost or degradation, not more," Smelser said. "This EIS is trying to strong-arm the county into making a decision."
Smelser also argued that the County Council deprived citizens of their constitutional right to a fair, impartial, and unbiased hearing by not revealing the content of the ex parte communications.
"You have insulted the integrity of the whole council," responded Councilmember Cynthia Sullivan. "That is not a very intelligent political strategy."
Smelser argued further that the proposed zone change is erroneous because it is not in the public interest.
Acting for the Lake of the Woods Homeowners Association was Jeffrey Eustis, who argued the inadequacy of the environmental impact statement regarding Welcome Lake and potential traffic through the development.
"It's not simply a question of lifestyle," Eustis said. "It's a question of pedestrian and school safety."
In light of the Growth Management Hearing Board's decision, Eustis argued that the project cannot be decided without first addressing the comprehensive plan.
Eustis also said that the additional phosphorus loading to Welcome Lake will be like "doubling the load on a camel's back."
"No terrible surprises," said FOTL president Joseph Elfelt after the hearing. "Everybody played their assigned roles. What we did do was give the council another opportunity to come clean on their ex parte communications. We have a right to rebut what was said during those conversations."
The council will revisit the issue Dec. 19 at 1 p.m. in the council chambers.