Northwest NEWS

May 31, 1999

Front Page

Judge's ruling frees Kaplan property for soccer fields

by Marshall Haley, staff reporter

   WOODINVILLE--A May 14 ruling by King County Superior Court Judge Sharon Armstrong reversed a local agency's 1998 misinterpretation of a state Growth Management Act amendment passed by the state legislature in 1997.

   Armstrong's ruling upholds King County's right to use the former Kaplan property for soccer fields. The Kaplan property lies in the Agricultural Production District (APD) along NE 171st St. (South Bypass).

   The Northshore Youth Soccer Association has County authority to begin preparing the land for next year's soccer season. The Upper Green Valley Preservation Society, an Auburn-based farmland preservation group, said they will appeal Armstrong's ruling. That organization joined board members of the Hollywood Hills Association in filing an appeal with the Central Puget Sound Growth Management Hearings Board ("the Board") against the County's proposed Kaplan use.

   In a subsequent July 1998 ruling, the Board invalidated King County's 1997 agricultural lands amendments to the County's comprehensive plan and zoning code. Armstrong ruled that Board erroneously interpreted and applied the law, by ruling that the GMA prohibited local governments from designating as agricultural land individual parcels of property not recently farmed.

   She found that the County's comprehensive plan, as applied to the north Sammamish Valley APD, fit the state's 1997 amendment to the 1990 Growth Management Act (GMA). That amendment provided flexibility to local jurisdictions in preserving agricultural lands (RCW 36.70A.177). Armstrong's ruling also noted that the Kaplan property is zoned for both agricultural and residential use.

   "When we bought the 18-acre Hmong farm property with Forward Thrust money, it was with the stipulation that it would be used for recreation fields," said King County Council Chair Louise Miller. "Since then, it was rented to the immigrant Hmong family for farming, their only means of support. King County's Comprehensive Plan, section RL-308, allows us to transfer the recreation use to a property of equal size within the APD. We bought 78 acres with Forward Thrust/IAC funds with the stipulation that we use it for recreation in the Sammamish Valley. That's out of 850 total acres the County has preserved for APD in the valley. This transfer accomplishes two things of benefit to the public: it allows a farm to continue APD use; and it places more recreation land on the edge of Woodinville's downtown business district."

   Armstrong's decision agreed with the County that the Kaplan recreation fields could easily be converted back to agricultural land.

   Miller said the County ordinance stipulates that no pavement, gravel, or buildings will be allowed on any part of the Kaplan property. That will preserve its potential to revert back to farm land, if necessary.

   "Establishing a park on the Kaplan property actually helps inhibit residential development in the APD," said attorney Peter Sorg. He is a member of "Pro Parks," an organization that represents over 1,000 Northshore families who want more recreational fields for their children.