Northwest NEWS

August 31, 1998

Front Page

County will appeal soccer field ruling

   by Andrew Walgamott
   Staff reporter

   SEATTLE--In a move that stunned farm land advocates, King County decided it will appeal a state board's decision that soccer fields couldn't be chalked onto agricultural land near Woodinville.
   "It's a shock, just a shock," said Judy Taylor, a Green River Valley farmer and King County Agriculture Commission chairwoman, the day after the decision.
   Last week, the King County Council voted 6-4 to request the county prosecutor's office appeal the Central Puget Sound Growth Management Hearing Board's recent ruling that nixed the county's and a youth athletic group's plans to build soccer fields on 18 acres in the Sammamish Valley. The appeal will be filed in King County Superior Court.
   Previously, county officials had said they were going to look into other alternatives to address the soccer field crunch. "...With our attorney saying we had a 30 percent chance of winning [an appeal], I say find another way," County Council Chair Louise Miller told the Weekly Aug. 5.
   The council's decision came after an executive session Aug. 24. Councilman Larry Phillips couldn't comment on specifics from the closed-door meeting, but did say that the county's attorneys had come back to them with new information.
   He, along with Councilmembers Larry Gossett, Jane Hague, Rob McKenna, Cynthia Sullivan and Chris Vance voted to appeal.
   "A group of us felt it was important to uphold the county's Comprehensive Plan," said Phillips, a Democrat from the Magnolia area of Seattle. Last year, the county amended its comp plan to allow ballfields as an allowed use on what is known as the Kaplan property.
   "We thought it worked out a very good and very narrow compromise," Phillips said, adding that he believed it met two needs, preserving agricultural lands and allowing soccer for kids.
   The amendment was challenged to the hearings board which concluded that the Growth Management Act doesn't allow local governments to adopt land use plans and regulations that authorize the usurpation of agricultural uses on designated farmlands.
   Kaplan is in what's zoned the Sammamish Valley Agricultural Production District.
   While Councilwoman Maggi Fimia said she had been "okay" with the amendment at one point, she has since changed her mind.
   "I'd like to try and get other alternative sites for fields rather than in prime agricultural land," Fimia said.
   "It's disappearing, and I think there's a real benefit to having ag land close to suburban and urban areas," the Shoreline Democrat said. "I don't want my kids to travel three hours to pick strawberries."
   She and Councilmembers Brian Derdowski, Dwight Pelz and Kent Pullen voted against the appeal.
   The board's decision has been termed a "strong ruling" by agricultural advocates, drawing wonderment among them why the county would appeal it.
   "We believe Superior Court will interpret the facts of the situation just as the growth board did," said Ken Goodwin, Hollywood Hill Association vice president. The HHA joined the Upper Green Valley Preservation Society in their petition of the county's comp plan.
   Taylor hoped that Executive Ron Sims would step in and thwart the appeal, but his spokeswoman Elaine Kraft said he was on vacation last week.