Northwest NEWS

February 8, 1999

Local News

Little Bear Creek group takes bus barn to court

by Andrew Walgamott, staff reporter

   WOODINVILLE--A local environmental group is taking Snohomish County to court for conditionally approving a new bus barn in a rural area near Woodinville, but county officials say their position will be upheld.

   The Northshore School District, which has plans for a 100,000 square-foot, two-floor building off of State Route 9, is also named as a defendant in a Jan. 29 lawsuit filed in Snohomish County Superior Court by the Little Bear Creek Protection Association.

   The group is concerned about surface water runoff, says traffic hasn't been mitigated for, and questions the legality of building in an area zoned one home per five acres.

   "We're doing this to protect the creek," said Corinne Hensley, a local watchdog and member of the protection association. "I've been told by a biologist in King County that [Little Bear Creek] is the best salmon habitat in south Snohomish County."

   Court documents allege that the proposed facility in the 22200 block of SR-9 doesn't provide adequate buffers to critical areas and fails to address drainage impacts to Little Bear Creek. Dawn Findlay, a Snohomish County Deputy Prosecutor assigned to the case, says that the appellants failed to bring those issues up at the appropriate time--during the SEPA process.

   The association also alleges that the Snohomish County Deputy Hearing Examiner and County Council acted "illegally" by granting a permit for a land use not allowed at the site. The association says that auto repair, bulk fuel storage, and a warehouse aren't permitted as conditional uses in R-5 zoning.

   Findlay says county code allows for government uses in rural areas, and that a bus barn "is a conditional use that is allowed."

   The district's bus barn would house maintenance facilities, a warehouse, and offices. There would be parking for 290 passenger cars and 173 buses and support vehicles.

   The petitioners want a judge to reverse the county's decision and deny the district's application. But Findlay believes "upon review of Superior Court, the decision will be upheld."

   School district officials, who had just received the lawsuit, couldn't yet comment.

   There have been concerns about the bus barn since at least 1997, when the district applied for the complex. Then, a neighbor worried about the light and noise impacts it would have.

   Northshore has been attempting to move their bus barn out of downtown Bothell. Per a 1987 agreement with the city, the district was to vacate the downtown facility by the end of 1998, or exercise two five-year extensions. Earlier this month, the Bothell City Council granted one five-year extension for the district.

   In a recent newspaper article, district officials expected that the construction of the new barn would be completed by January 2000.