May 18, 1998
Canterbury Criers, city reach agreement
by Andrew Walgamott
WOODINVILLE--The latest, and perhaps final chapter this century in the struggles between the residents of Canterbury Square and the City of Woodinvile has been written. In early May, the city and Canterbury Criers Association reached a two-part federally mediated agreement that gives the Criers the opportunity to apply for four short plats, and Square homeowners the means to be able to refinance at lower interest rates. It gives the city incentive to amend its grid road ordinance as it applies to the Square in exchange for rights-of-way (ROW) through the "horizontal condominium" park at the time of redevelopment next century. "The main thing is the security which is essential the older you get since you become less risk prone," said George Scrimshaw, Criers president. More than 190 residents, many in their 70s and 80s, live at the 26-acre downtown "horizontal condominiums."
"The results should satisfy everyone," Mayor Don Brocha said. "The city has assurances in the long-term to get the rights-of-way for the downtown road system," he said. But half of the agreement is still contingent upon the city's actions in the coming month and a half. "If the city doesn't comply, there is no agreement," Scrimshaw warned.
The Criers won't withdraw an appeal they've filed in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco until the city does three things:
* The city has less than two weeks to assess whether any "fatal flaws" exist in the Criers' plans to short plat their property;
* The city must approve, deny or return a short plat application within 45 days;
* And, the City Council must make a decision on amending its grid road ordinance before June 30, 1998.
The grid road ordinance is a plan the council adopted that establishes ROWs for extending 135th Ave. N.E. from N.E. 175th St. through the heart of the Square to the South Bypass, and the future N.E. 172nd St. along its northern edge. If the council amends its grid roads, the Criers could possibly develop as many as 11 lots in the ROW, though Scrimshaw wouldn't reveal if that was their plan. But, when the Square is redeveloped sometime between now and the year 2008, the city will get a 68-foot ROW for 135th and a 28-foot ROW for 172nd. The city says that by extending 135th, traffic on 175th would somehow be improved. Property owners within the ROW would have to remove their homes at that time.
In the other half of the agreement, the city agreed to allow an outside licensed building inspector certify that the manufactured homes in the Square were installed to state standards or that standards weren't in effect at the time of their installation. Woodinville was afraid if they inspected they would find a number of code violations that would have had to be reported and fixed. Certification allows property owners to combine land and house titles which would make for lower interest rates through refinancing. "That's a benefit to everyone who is there," Scrimshaw said. He said of the 125 units at the Square, only three would have to be inspected.The clause also gets the city off the hook for inspections and absolves the city of liability if a disaster strikes the Square, City Manager Roy Rainey said.
The settlement came after the Criers filed a $700,000 lawsuit against the city last year to either allow the association to develop land in the ROWs or be recompensed by the city for taking the property. That lawsuit was summarily dismissed from District Court last February but part of it was appealed to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. A federal arbitrator working with that court helped the two sides to reach a settlement. "It brings to fruition what was set out as the primary goal: a Canterbury Square free and clear of debt and obligations," Scrimshaw said.
"I look forward to their living in peace and enjoying their property," said Councilwoman Barbara Solberg. Scrimshaw felt a different makeup on the Woodinville City Council led to the agreement. "The City Council has been more understanding than they were in the beginning," Scrimshaw said, a veiled reference to the troubles residents of the Square have had since the city incorporated. In the early 1990s, in some of the new city's darkest moments, it looked as if the seniors were in danger of being forced out.
The property owners wanted to redevelop the Square into a 384-unit apartment complex or shopping center for which the City Council rezoned it for "Regional Business." But the Criers were able to buy the park for $7.6 million, and even paid off the loans early, last September.
Still, the comment puzzled Brocha. "Quite frankly, we were at this point two years ago," he said. He said the Criers would be treated like any other developer when they come in with their short plat permits.