Northwest NEWS

September 28, 1998


Kids or cabbage; soccer or succotash

   I have been following with interest the ongoing public discussion about land use in the Sammamish Valley. I have assumed, for the past several years, that this discussion would culminate in a reasoned and rational conclusion, one that would allow adequate space for the youth of this area to participate in healthy activities like soccer, baseball and softball as well as continuing opportunities for the small (read micro) farmer to cultivate the soil. Unfortunately, I was wrong and reason has not prevailed.
   For a while, a reasonable solution seemed within reach at the Woodinville end of the Valley thanks to a great deal of effort by local youth sports' officials and strong support from part of the King County Council, especially Louise Miller. And then, out of the blue, comes something called the Growth Management Hearings Board. I don't know who those masked men (or women) are but they rained all over the reasonable compromise and have apparently killed the deal.
   Meanwhile, at the Redmond end of the Valley, a similar scenario has been going on since at least 1994 and probably much longer. The local youth soccer association that primarily serves the Lake Washington School District purchased the Muller dairy farm that year with the intent of developing the property into soccer and other playfields. But guess what? The same bandits who bollixed things up at the north end of the Valley have done even greater harm at the south end.
   I could go on about the desperate need for open space and places to play for our kids (and yes, I am a soccer parent) but if you live around here you are no doubt well aware that both the Northshore Youth Soccer Association (NYSA) and the Lake Washington Youth Soccer Association (LWYSA) have already been forced to downsize their respective programs, shorten seasons and turn kids away due to the acute shortage of fields.
   Where does that put us in five or ten years using even the most modest of growth projections. What is it going to be: soccer or succotash?
   I believe I am a reasonable person but after I read the Letter to the Editor (in the September 9th issue of the Seattle Times and in the September 7th issue of the Woodinville Weekly) from Judy Taylor, who is apparently a member of something called the King County Agriculture Commission, it raised my hackles. (It's an interesting name for an organization in the most urban county in the state.
   Makes me wonder if such a commission exists in New York City) As absurd as this organization's name sounds, it must be related to the aforementioned Growth Management Hearings Board. No doubt, two pigs in a poke. I have a revelation for these folks and apparently this will be big news, This part of King County is not farm country.
   I grew up in a dairy farming community in the Midwest so I know a little of what I speak. What we have here in the Sammamish Valley are gardens. Even the so called sod farms are only overgrown lawns. In many cases the principal crop seems to be weeds. What is it going to be: playfields or potatoes?
   Ironically, according to a report in the September 16 issue of the Seattle Times,the same decision that nixed the compromise that would allow development of play fields near Woodinville may also displace a hard-working group of Laotian refugees who have been making a go of it growing flowers and selling them at Pike Place Market. The bandits strike again.
   In Ms. Taylor's letter she makes reference to various and sundry legal barriers that would have to be overcome to convert land covered by the Farmland Preservation Program to land suitable for soccer. Balderdash!
   Sometimes the law and plain old common sense are totally unrelated, even mutually exclusive. This is just such a case! The two soccer associations at each end of the Valley represent around 13,000 players. Baseball and softball account for thousands more.
   We do not have enough space for all of today's kids to participate and the problem will only get worse. What is it going to be: ballfields or brussels sprouts?
   A ray of hope may exist because recently the King County Council decided to appeal the Growth Management Hearings Board (aka Bandits) decision regarding the land near Woodinville, a decision that has at this point stopped a land swap that would allow the Laotian farmers to stay in business and enable the NYSA to develop badly needed play fields. Kudos to the council members who voted for the appeal. Maybe common sense exists after all.
   Ms. Taylor further notes that in order to get an initiative on the ballot to overturn the Farmland Preservation Program, the soccer association would have to collect 49,678 signatures and then get a 60% majority of King County voters to approve the measure at the polls. She goes on to shame the soccer association for trying to subvert agricultural protections. What is it going to be: youth or yucca?
   I have no idea where those numbers come from but enough is enough. Bring on the petitions and shame on all of us for allowing this charade to continue for so long. Shame on me for waiting so long to speak up and shame on this so called preservation organization for trying to force the families in this area to put up with this nonsense. And maybe most of all, shame on our elected officials if they try to hide behind some out-of-touch legal position that obviously needs a major overhaul. People vote; plants don't. For the record, the council members who voted against the appeal are Brian Derdowski, Maggi Fimia, Dwight Pelz and Kent Pullen.
   Like it or not, the area in and around the Sammamish Valley is urban/suburban and still growing. I am all for preserving open space. I have no problem with the golf course or its current expansion on property adjacent to the LWYSA Muller farm property. In fact, a golf course is one of the best uses of land imaginable.
   But having said that, what kind land use policy are we condoning? It seems to me that we have one that endorses golf courses but does not allow soccer fields for kids? Does anyone else see anything wrong with this picture?
   What is it going to be: cucumbers or kids?
   Terry Mercier, Woodinville