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December 29, 1997

Front Page

The year in review - looking back at 1997

Photo courtesy of TRF Corp.
A recent aerial shot of the growing TRF construction in downtown Woodinville captures the steady growth of the project.

Andrew Walgamott/staff photo
A geological expert (r.) examined soil conditions following landslides that endangered the neighborhood of Valhalla.

Andrew Walgamott/staff photo
The City of Woodinville and King County teamed to deepen the ditch carrying Trib 90.

  by Andrew Walgamott
   Among the top stories in the Northshore area over 1997: a city was born, a construction project hit high gear and land was preserved for parks. On September 16, Kenmore residents seized their future by voting to incorporate, creating Washington's 42nd largest city overnight. Concrete blocks by the truckload were brought to Woodinville as construction on the 44-acre downtown retail project boomed while in Bothell, the city secured 53 acres of uplands and creek bottoms near Thrashers Corner for a future park.
   Other big events; Woodinville formed a Parks and Recreation Commission and hired a new city manager, Bothell voters approved the construction of a new police station and King County bought up a number of parcels for parks, ball fields and open space.
   1997 wet, muddy
   The year began with heavy rains that turned heavy Christmas snows to heavy standing water on roofs. Roofs at the Sorenson school and Canterbury Square in Woodinville were damaged. The roof of the Gold Creek Riding Arena collapsed as well. In March, rains saturated the soil, mobilizing earth. In the Valhalla neighborhood of Bothell, a landslide sent a large maple tree past Val Kelly's house. A geo-technical expert said the whole hillside above her house was moving to one degree or another. The city ordered homeowners out for a short time. A shitzu-poodle named Buster woke a Woodinville couple at the Sun Ridge condominiums moments before a landslide hit their back porch. And Trib 90, the creek near the Hollywood Hill Schoolhouse, jumped its banks and flooded a nursery and King County baseball fields.
   Over the summer, scandal brewed at the Woodinville Water District when a commissioner with unpaid campaign debts accused another of misusing district funds and equipment. The latter, Walter Backstrom, won re-election in November after a state audit cleared him of wrong-doing. In September, the Northshore School District muddied their image when they considered drug testing student-athletes. Parent and students speaking at two public meetings overwhelmingly denounced the idea. The American Civil Liberties Union became involved, and the media watched whether Northshore would become the state's largest school district with a drug policy for pitcher's, discus throwers and cross-country runners. The school board officially gave up the notion at the same meeting it approved sending $189.8 million in levies and bonds to voters in February.
   While voters elected firefighter Tim Osgood onto the Woodinville Fire and Life Safety District board of commissioners, the commissioners' appointed another. An internal survey also showed the commissioners' direction wasn't well regarded by staff, though there is a new confidence in the fire chief. In Bothell, the state Public Disclosure Commission is investigating whether a group called Save Our Neighborhoods of Bothell committed campaign violations in late October after a city councilmember requested that SON explain why their $1,300 plus full-page color ad placed in a local paper wasn't on their books. But it wasn't just a year of floods and mud.
   Following a positive financial feasibility study and blessing by the state Boundary Review Board, Kenmore residents voted to incorporate. Since then, committees have been scrambling to organize information for an interim City Council which will inherit the 8th largest city in King County with 17,000 residents clustered on six-square miles at the mouth of the Sammamish River. Three candidates stepped forward on the first day of filing last Friday. Another dozen more are reportedly contemplating doing so. Council elections will be held in February and April.
   Elsewhere in Kenmore, the draft environmental impact statement for the Lakepointe development was issued. Proposed is an "urban village" near the Kenmore Pre-Mix plant with 600,000 square-feet of retail, professional and commercial space and 1,200 housing units overlooking the river and Lake Washington. Nearly a mile of waterfront access will become available by final build-out late in the next decade, if approved. In the meanwhile, King County employed "at-risk" youths to clean shoreline up at Tracy Owen Station Park in August. County Executive Ron Sims spoke to the crew on the merits of hard work before shovels, rakes and pick-axes were handed out.
   Teaming to buy parkland where it is needed, Snohomish County and the City of Bothell purchased 53 acres of rolling hills and North Creek bottomlands near Thrashers Corner for a regional park in February. The land, on the city's northern boundary, was purchased with $2.93 million in county conservation funds. The city plans to use the land as a passive park with trails and interpretive signs. Developers had expressed interest in building on upland portions of the parcel. The city also secured 4.5 acres of wetlands for Cedar Grove Park near Canyon Park. Later in the year, the Bothell Parks Board proposed a $9 million-plus parks bond for 1998. Money would go for upgrades to the King County pool and area parks.
   Perhaps the board can take hope in city voters who were in a mood to tax themselves in 1997; in May, voters approved a $9.7 million public safety facility bond. It was the second try for the bond which failed to validate just three months earlier. After the city purchased several properties across from City Hall, demolition crews made way for the police station/911 call center/municipal court by tearing down vacant buildings, and, sadly, the Centennial Mural.
   The mural, with pioneer scenes of Bothell, had been painted in 1989 by high school students. Efforts to save small portions of the painting proved fruitless though photos for future reproductions were taken before it came down. Construction on the new station is expected to wrap up near the end of the century. Historic Walter's Feed Mill came down, and the city consolidated nearby properties for potential use as senior housing.
   The city said goodbye to Mayor John Curtin after ten years of civic service, the last four as mayor. Curtin, who didn't run for re-election, will be replaced on the council by Planning Commissioner Sandy Guinn. Curtin has applied for an open position on the Evergreen Hospital board of commissioners. In January, the council will begin deliberations on how to implement a consultant's year-long economic development study. The consultant, who said he was "bullish on Bothell" ultimately turned in a conservative recommendation, suggesting future retail be built near existing retail centers.
   Downtown Woodinville changed a little each day as the TRF shopping complex blossomed out of vacant fields over the spring, summer and fall. Despite loss of five months construction time due to inclement weather, Target, Cineplex Odeon and two buildings along 175th St. S.E. went up and were being detailed late in the year. TRF president Bob Parks looked towards 1998, calling it "an exciting year for everyone in Woodinville as businesses come on line." Target is expected to open this March. Two streets inside the development will be opened in January to traffic. The city is also expected to look at improving N.E. 177th Pl. off of 131st Ave. N.E. for better access in and out of retail center.
   In other business news, Molbaks celebrated 40 years of business, Towne Bank was sold to a Walla Walla based bank, Humongous Entertainment announced it would move from Woodinville to Bothell and Aviator Ales went out of business.
   The City Council made headlines all year. After former city manager Joe Meneghini resigned, the council spent six months looking for a new executive, ultimately finding a city manager in the interim chief, Roy Rainey. The council passed a five percent admissions tax aimed at the new theater. Later in the year, they mused on extending the tax to the wineries and breweries, and also mulled a utility tax on electricity, natural gas, telephones and garbage service.
   By year's end, Woodinville still hadn't attained Grace, the tiny industrial community in south Snohomish County. After property owners and the city sent notice of their intent to annex the region, the Snohomish County Council delayed action until March, 1998 when the Boundary Review Board will settle the matter--for a time. The BRB's decision most likely will be appealed. Responding in part to Woodinville's grab at Grace, Maltby area residents proposed carving a city out of 12 square-miles of rural countryside around Clearview, Turner Corner, Wellington Hills Golf Course. Maps include Grace in Maltby's designs.
   The City Council passed on the chance to buy the 10.55 acre Sorenson Complex from the Northshore School District. A new appraisal based partly on price-altering legislation lowered the value of the site to $4.5 million, down nearly $1.5 from the district's asking price. The city and district will meet again in 1998 on the purchase. The council created a Parks and Recreation Commission The seven-volunteer board came up with a parklands plan. Along the way, one commissioner, Randy Ransom, ran for City Council and won. Carol Bogue also ran for council again, and won. Bogue and Ransom will replace Lucy DeYoung and Art Saulness who helped form the city four years ago.
   King County turned Waterford Park, near the Waterford Apartments, over to the city which renamed it Woodin Park in honor of town-founders Ira and Susan Woodin. Construction on Wilmot Gateway Park, the city's much talked about four-acre downtown park, is expected to begin in 1998 after a year spent gathering funds.
   The city also went to work on surface water problems, working to install a sediment trap on Trib 87 (later renamed Woodin Creek) and teamed with King County to deepen the ditch carrying Trib 90 along 148th Ave. N.E. Work on safety features that will keep cars out of the creek has yet to be completed.
   King County
   County Councilwoman Louise Miller worked on her South Gateway Park project, a combination sports field-demonstration farm complex just south of downtown Woodinville in the Sammamish River valley. Nearby residents fought the plan, questioning a county Comprehensive Plan amendment that allows eight soccer fields to be chalked onto 18 acres the county bought there in July. They also disputed the price the county paid for the parcel.
   The county bought a 30-acre blueberry farm near Cottage Lake, land in the upper Bear Creek valley and set aside funds to purchase a large, open lot near Theno's Dairy. Renovations to Cottage Lake Park (formerly Norm's Resort) began in August and the Cottage Lake Community Service Center, a county-extension office, opened in July. After running unopposed in November, Councilwoman Miller was voted County Council Chair for 1998. Evergreen Hospital and Swedish Hospital's partnership was put on hold until next April after another Seattle hospital complained to the state.
   Murders, gas leak
   Northshore had its share of crime and mayhem. Gary Ackley of Clearview was charged with killing his girlfriend's mother, Arlene Jensen of Kingsgate on Memorial Day. Jensen's body was discovered a mile away a month later. Prosecutors allege Ackley admitted to an old school chum, Stephanie Dittrick, that he killed Jensen, and then he killed Dittrick when the pair went camping over the Fourth of July weekend. Brian Schrader was sentenced to 20 years after being found guilty of second-degree murder in pushing Michael Schuerhoff from a railroad trestle over the Sammamish in Bothell in 1996. Schuerhoff drowned.
   A Snohomish County jury recently found Jonathan Curtis guilty of murdering Steven Ver Woert of Bothell. Last winter Ver Woert's ex-wife Marty Malone hired Curtis to kill the Lake Pleasant resident for $10,000 in insurance money. Then Malone attempted to hire a Bothell Police officer to kill Curtis who tried to hire an inmate to kill a jailed Malone who plead guilty to reduced charges of first-degree murder in return for testifying against Curtis.
   December 18 saw an armed 18-year-old, Vitaly Kalchik, shot and killed after he robbed the Woodinville 7-Eleven, and a 27-year-old, Paul "Pablo" Young, shot and killed after threatening a couple in the bedroom of their Canyon Park home three days later. Gregory Johnson, a Bothell plastic surgeon, was sentenced to seven months in jail for assaulting a 33-year-old Woodinville woman at his Kirkland office in March. A jury deadlocked on second-degree rape charges, but the case returns for trial in March, 1998. An alleged child porn ring operating out of Kenmore was busted up in November. The ringleader, Brian Thompson, a former Metro Bus Driver of the Year, faces 14 counts of exploitation and molestation of minors.
   Perhaps the biggest media flare-up locally wasn't the loss of 9.2 million cubic feet of natural gas from a Northwest Pipeline pipe east of Woodinville in late June but a story that came out a week later about how a parallel pipeline "thumped" twenty-four-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week like some weird underground helicopter. Print, TV and radio news outlets covered residents' distress and concerns. Northwest quieted the pipeline by August, a month ahead of schedule.