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King County Council approves Blakely Ridge

Miller, Derdowski vote against UPD

Blakely Ridge by Jeff Switzer
After seven years of drama and controversy, Blakely Ridge, the project that would put a 2,250-unit senior community and an 18-hole golf course on 1,050 acres north of Novelty Hill Road in East King County, has received the blessings of the Metro-King County Council, just in time for the holidays.
   Acting in its quasi-judicial capacity, the Metropolitan King County Council approved four ordinances at its meeting Dec. 18, giving the go-ahead to the Blakely Ridge urban planned development (UPD).
   The actions included: amending Bear Creek area zoning; approving the UPD permit itself and the preliminary plat; and allowing the partial vacation of Bowman Road.
    But the issue is far from over. Both the opponents of the urban planned developments and the county are considering their legal options, which include appealing to the Superior Court.
   "We are very disappointed in the council's action today," said Steve O'Donnell, president of the Coalition for Public Trust (CPT). O'Donnell cited the recent Growth Management Hearings Board (GMHB) decision which remanded to the county the proposed "urban island" zoning of the two urban planned developments–Blakely Ridge and its sister project, Northridge.
   The board directed the county to act by Mar. 15, 1996 to delete the urban island, provide justification for it, or bring it into compliance with the Growth Management Act, by making the UPDs "fully contained communities."
   The prosecuting attorney's office gave legal advice to the council regarding its options in light of the GMHB decision, stating that the council had the authority to approve Blakely Ridge in spite of the decision.
   According to legal staff for the council, the Growth Management Board decision did not invalidate the "urban island" designation in the county's comp plan.
    "The board, in effect, said, 'We need more information,'" said Councilmember Chris Vance. "But the board is not the final word--we don't have to comply with the board's decision," Vance said.
   The county, as well as the UPD opponents, still has the option to appeal the GMHB decision to the Superior Court.

Miller gives thumbs down
   The council's action reflected the hearing examiner's September recommendation to approve the project. That recommendation was appealed by area residents and Port Blakely Communities, developers for the project.
   The council voted to adopt the hearing examiner's recommendations, with a few minor amendments, and deny the appeals.
   Despite losing their appeal, which questioned the examiner's suggested mid-point review process, Vice-President of Port Blakely Communities John Adams said he is pleased with the results. "We're pleased the council finally finished the process it started seven years ago," said Adams.
   Representing the area where the development is to be built, King County Councilmember Louise Miller voted against the four ordinances and offered amendments to help mitigate some of the remaining concerns residents had.
   The ordinance amending the P-suffix conditions, which would fill the void created by the council in September when they voted to delete the previous conditions, passed 9-1-3, with Miller voting against and Councilmembers Derdowski, Fimia, and Phillips excused.
   The ordinance approving the Blakely Ridge UPD permit, which has incorporated into it mitigations, conditions, county regulations and triggering mechanisms for further mitigations, passed 8-2-3. Voting against the motion were Derdowski and Miller, with Fimia, Phillips, and Nickels excused.
   Miller offered an amendment to the permit ordinance requiring King County's Department of Transportation to monitor the traffic increases and their sources through Lake of the Woods, a development to the north of the Blakely Ridge site. The specific streets to be monitored at least once a year are the 216th/218th Avenue NE corridor, NE 137th Street and 227th Avenue NE. The amendment passed 10-0-3, with Fimia, Nickels, and Phillips excused.
   Miller said she was finally able to tell her constituents how she felt about the UPDs. "I had to keep my vote and my ability to amend," said Miller. "I couldn't go to anybody."
    CPT had appealed the final EIS, stating that the alternative to the UPD--1,000 one-acre plats--was not vested because of incomplete sewer and water applications, meaning they would not be allowed to develop at that level.
   Miller said she checked with the prosecuting attorney's office herself and found the one-acre lots were vested, adding that development at that level would lack the protections to the environment and promote urban sprawl.
   "The hearing examiner had many good things in his recommendations," Miller said, citing the mid-point review process should Northridge also receive approval. She also noted the council's earlier passage of the stricter surface water management manual and the Bear Creek Basin Plan. The basin plan outlined stiffer regulations for stream buffers and clearing restrictions in the Bear Creek Basin, increasing the environmental protections in that area.
   Miller said the council was in a risky position and left with very few options: Either approve the project and have it challenged in court; or deny the project even though the applicants had followed the rules for the past seven years.
   Joseph Elfelt, president of Friends of the Law and a member of CPT, commended Miller for her vote. "Because the development is in her district, she had to be much more cautious than the other councilmembers in the appearance of fairness," Elfelt said.
   Even if legal challenges occur, groundbreaking for the project could still begin as soon as September 1996.
   Port Blakely Communities are planning on beginning the six-month administrative review process for clearing and grading permits.