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AUGUST 11, 1997

Local News

School district proposes new bus barn

  by Andrew Walgamott
   The Northshore School District may build an 85,000 square-foot bus barn and maintenance facility on slightly over 16 acres along State Route 9 north of 228th St. S.E. But a neighbor who opposes the project, though still in its infancy, says it would increase traffic and plaster as much as 75 percent of the vacant building site with impermeable surfaces.
   "This is a monstrosity," says Debbie Nicely who lives across from the proposed bus depot in the 22200 block of State Route 9 north of Fitz Auto Parts. Monstrosity or not, the district must move their bus barn out of Bothell.
   According to Steve Young, Northshore School District, executive director of support services, their Bothell bus yard must be vacated by Dec. 31, 1998 per an agreement with the city when the original was built. Young said the district has been searching for a new site over the past three years. He said the SR 9 parcel, though not centrally located in the district, has benefits such as quick access to major arterials and freeways.
   Ten to twelve other sites inspected were ruled out due to location or zoning, Young said.
   The district now has an option to buy the property from Richard Waterman for just over $2 million but won't exercise the right until feasibility studies say the site will work and permits will be granted, according to Young. The purchase must also be approved by the School Board before any construction begins.
   Preliminary plans call for bus and automobile parking for 180 full-size buses, 46 smaller buses and 237 cars. A 31-foot tall maintenance facility would be built, as well as adjoining offices. Debbie Nicely says stormwater runoff from the project will severely impact Little Bear Creek, which she lives beside. She calls the creek a "well regarded stream in terms of salmon habitat."
   "Those of us who care about Little Bear Creek are going to watch them like a hawk," Nicely says.
   The school district will build stormwater retention ponds, according to Young.
   Nicely also contends that traffic along SR 9 will be impacted. The school district operates 125 buses of various sizes serving 21 elementary, 6 junior highs and 3 high schools from Kenmore to Ring Hill, Crystal Lake to Totem Lake.
   Don Hurter, development services engineer with the Washington Department of Transportation, said in mitigating the traffic impact, the school district and the property owner of a parcel to the south of the proposed bus barn are negotiating to gain an easement to 228th St. S.E. A traffic signal would probably be erected there, according to Hurter.
   Nicely has concerns about noise and light pollution. In a letter to the county, she writes, "I live on a property which has clean and clear air, where I can see the stars at night." She alleges diesel fumes and security lights will impact her lifestyle.
   Young said the facility would operate from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. with swing shifts during the night. He added that open bay doors to the maintenance building would be oriented to the east, away from the highway and residences. Security lights would be turned off when the building wasn't in use, according to Young.
   Nicely has questions about a wetland and stream inventory by Raedeke Associates which found the site "provides little recreational value," a fact she argues. She says she rides her horse and has observed others walking and riding bikes on the land. Balloons also take off from the property.
   A better alternative to a bus barn is a park, Nicely says. "This is not the ideal spot for a bus depot," she said.
   "The district has always practiced being a good neighbor," Young contends.
   A conditional use permit to allow the facility in the R-5 zone (rural, five acre lots) has been filed with Snohomish County as well. According to Ernie Jensen, senior planner at Planning and Development Services, a hearing examiner will decide if a bus barn is appropriate at that location. Jensen expects a public hearings to take place in November.
   The Northshore School District will hold a drop-in open house meeting Aug. 13 from 4:30-7 p.m. in the Kokanee Elementary Gym. Snohomish County representatives, school district officials, land-use consultants and architects will be on hand to answer questions about the project. Kokanee is at 23710 57th Ave. S.E.