Local News

Redmond Councilman speaks against UPDs at hearing

Coalition calls for removal of Vance as committee chair

UPDs hearing by Jeff Switzer, staff reporter
The public, attorneys, and developers involved with the Blakely Ridge and Northridge developments stepped up to the mike again at the hearing regarding two ordinances that would shift the urban planned developments (UPDs) into fully-contained communities (FCCs).
   The King County Council's actions respond to decision of the Growth Management Hearings Board remanding several Comprehensive Plan issues to the county, including the urban "island" designations for the Blakely Ridge and proposed Northridge UPDs.
   Redmond City Council President Richard Grubb testified against the proposed King County Comprehensive Plan changes which would allow the UPDs to become FCCs. "We believe the developments are inconsistent with the Growth Management Act (GMA) and they are not FCCs," Grubb told the council.
   The Redmond City Council voted 3-3 Feb. 20 to send a letter to the County Council indicating its desire to keep Blakely Ridge and Northridge zoned rural rather than FCCs because of the projected impacts to traffic and rural uses from the mini cities. Redmond Mayor Rosemary Ives broke the tie, voting in favor of sending the letter.
   "We believe, after an ongoing consideration of the evidence, [the developments] are not in the best interest of the city," Grubb added. "You can only get so many beans in a jar."
   Councilmember Louise Miller, who represents the area where the developments would occur, asked Grubb why Redmond issued certificates of water and sewer availability to developments they oppose. Jud White, deputy director of Public Works for the City of Redmond, said the City Council's opposition to the projects is not inconsistent with providing water and sewers.
   "The City of Redmond is not the land use authority," said White, "but by agreeing to provide the water service, we do not give up our right to object to the land use proposed by the land use authority." White said the Northridge certificates issued 16 to 18 months ago have expired, but that the city is prepared to reissue them if the developers ask.
   In his comments, John Adams, vice-president of Port Blakely Communities, said that the Blakely Ridge UPD, which was approved in December, received its water and sewer certificates in 1992 and have been renewed every year. Adams also said that during the UPD hearings last summer, Redmond had testified that the impacts had been mitigated to the city's satisfaction.
   "If the county doesn't declare us an FCC, we're still vested as a UPD," Adams said, citing the council's December decision approving Blakely Ridge.
   Coalition for Public Trust (CPT) President Steve O'Donnell submitted and read portions of a letter arguing against the FCC designation. The letter also asked the council to remove Councilmember Chris Vance as chair of the Growth Management, Housing and Environment committee, citing campaign contributions from the development community.
   "If the county is unable to defend [the developments'] existence as urban planned developments to the board on Mar. 15, then Blakely Ridge and Northridge should be deleted and the area should be returned to rural zoning," O'Donnell read. "This 'arbitrary and capricious' attempt by the Growth Management committee's chairman Chris Vance to ram these developments down the public's throat, and to change the comp plan to allow it, could not show more clearly how special interests are corrupting members of our King County government," the letter said.
   Councilmember Ron Sims was incensed by the letter's tone.
   "In my 11 years as part of this body, I have not once seen a member sell their vote," Sims said. "That letter was deeply offensive to me."
   Hague said an official response to CPT's letter would be drafted. Friends of the Law President Joseph Elfelt--also a member of CPT--reiterated his argument that the one-acre plat applications for the UPDs are not vested, and also requested that the council ask their attorney if King County is required to obey legal interpretations from the GMA Board.
   "This is important," said Elfelt, "because the board had repeatedly interpreted GMA as requiring counties to numerically show their work."
   Elfelt's comments also addressed public perceptions of elected officials. "If you think for a minute this is just about MPDs or UPDs or FCCs, then you are dreaming," he said. "This is about public trust. There is a growing feeling in the community that developers, in general, purchase council approval through campaign contributions and that the council has closed its mind to the evidence and facts an affected community brings forward."
   The council is scheduled to pass the two ordinances on Mar. 11 in order to comply with the Hearings Board remand requiring action by Mar. 15.