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Fire Commission votes to hold off on downtown station

Attorney recommends discussion with King County

downtown station by Jeff Switzer
   The conflict between the Northshore Youth Soccer Association (NYSA) and the fire district over land use on the south bypass in downtown Woodinville has taken a new twist after the Woodinville fire commissioners voted last week to back off on their project.
   The Board of Commissioners for the Woodinville Fire and Life Safety district voted 4-0-1 last week to withhold filing of the conditional-use permit for the new Station 32, stop all forward movement on the station and set up negotiations with King County for an alternate site for construction of the station.

Commissioner Jim O'Dell abstained from the vote
   The controversy began last fall when the fire district purchased three acres on the south bypass to build a new Station 32 to replace the station near the Old Hollywood Hill Schoolhouse.
   The three acres were in the middle of a 44-acre plan for soccer fields and a community garden on the south bypass which had been in the works for more than two years. With bi-partisan support from Councilmembers Louise Miller and Larry Phillips, funding for these types of projects is included in the county's 1996 budget.
   Miller said the county and the soccer people were ready to begin negotiating prices, but the fire district's purchase caused property owners to break off talks. She added that she hopes the owners now realize their properties are going to remain in the agricultural production district (APD) and if they are to be sold, need to be sold for that kind of use.

Friends of Sammamish Valley hired attorneys
   Because the land is in the APD, the fire district would have to obtain a conditional use permit (CUP) in order to build a fire station on the three acres.
   Bricklin and Gendler, LLP are representing the Friends of Sammamish Valley, a newly formed coalition of interests opposed to the proposed location of the fire station and presented a letter on behalf of their client to the fire commissioners on March 4. "The proposal flies directly in the face of both state and local law and policy by threatening to introduce intense development onto irreplaceable agricultural lands," the letter read.
   Fire District Attorney Clark Snure told the commission that the attorneys representing the opposition were extremely successful environmental advocates who "go to all lengths to achieve success." If the fire district sought the CUP, appeals of the hearing examiner's decision, either approving or rejecting the CUP, could tie up the whole issue in court for several years.
   In light of the possibility of four to five years of litigation, Snure recommended the commission put everything on hold and set up negotiations with the county after his meeting with Councilmember Louise Miller, Fire Commissioners Don Leggett and Ben May, and members of the NYSA on March 13.
   Miller related to the commissioners the problems and obstacles they may be facing should they try to build the station on the three acres.
   "We did not know at the time (of the purchase) that it was in the APD," said Commissioner May. "We're exploring every possible option to make this work for everybody. This is a good direction for us to go in."
   Snure told the commission that Miller indicated there may be county dollars to purchase an acceptable substitute parcel which might then be traded to the fire district for its three acres on the South Bypass.
   "If the district withholds the CUP filing and authorizes negotiations with King County, there's a possibility that King County could acquire other real property that meets the district's needs," said Snure.
   Miller said the county does not have any willing sellers at this point in time. Commissioner May indicated that the board's decision does not preclude them from seeking the CUP in the future should the present course of action not work out.

CUP would probably be granted, though with strings
   In all likelihood, in spite of the opposition, the CUP would be granted, though the opposition may push for the hearing examiner to require the fire district purchase an additional three acres somewhere else in the APD to replace the developed land.
   Snure said Louise Miller indicated the county has had an extremely difficult time finding agriculturally zoned land for replacement. "We could convert them for recreational value," said Miller, "but we can only convert them for use as grass playfields."
   Previously, the fire district had been considering purchasing a section of land further east on the bypass, not within the planning area of the fields, though they were apparently unable to acquire that land.
   The NYSA has expressed concern last fall over the purchase price the fire district had negotiated, in excess of $500,000 for the 3-acre site. The King County Assessors office assessed the entire 10.97-acre Brown property (of which only three acres were purchased) at $444,100.

County owns development rights to the south
   The county has set aside land to be used for active recreation purposes, such as soccer fields. Purchased with Forward Thrust funds, the county owns recreational development rights on land further south in the valley which is currently used for farming.
   A letter to Dave Shipway of the NYSA from Councilmembers Miller and Phillips in April 1995 said that land "rightfully should be farmed," as it is located in the Agricultural Production District (APD).
   The letter went on to acknowledge the proposal from Shipway for swapping the use of the land further south in the APD for the land along the south bypass, to possibly become county owned, maintaining a balance of active and farming land use.
   The fields the NYSA uses are currently at 97 percent capacity for games and 94 percent for practices. With approximately 5,800 members, a $320,000 annual budget and no space for growth, they feel that either the quality of the program will change or they will have to find a way to limit membership.
   Miller continues to support the soccer fields idea. "If we can't take advantage of this now, it becomes much more difficult in the future," Miller said, noting that the soccer fields would provide a buffer between the urban zone and the farmlands.
   The Woodinville City Council passed a resolution last fall supporting the efforts of the Northshore Youth Soccer Association (NYSA) to build multi-purpose park fields and a community garden on the south bypass. The resolution reads: "The City Council endorses the South Gateway project concept for the development of multi-purpose fields and community garden purposes, provided that the project is consistent with and complies with planning standards associated with said type project especially but not limited to parking and ingress and egress matters." Ingress and egress matters refer to the entrances and exits for the complex.