Northwest NEWS

September 6, 1999


Guest editorial

Local involvement needed to protect lifestyles and property value

by Jim Eldridge, president, Novelty Neighbors

   On August 10, 1999, Superior Court Judge Sharon Armstrong finally ruled in the favor of Novelty Neighbors and King County regarding the Alberg properties located approximately three miles south of Duvall along SR-203.

   This ruling affirmed the Growth Management Hearings Board decision which upheld the County Council's action that changed the Alberg property from Legal Non-Conforming to Potential Mineral. The appeal process took 11 months, and was reassigned to four different judges, including one judge friend of the Albergs who had to excuse himself after Novelty Neighbors objected.

   The case was further postponed and was finally heard on March 30, 1999. It then took Judge Sharon Armstrong approximately five months to issue her ruling. This latest ruling demonstrates that a common organized group of people can make a difference in county decisions and policy-making.

   It was Councilmember Louise Miller's original 1995 amendment to the Comp Plan that was reversed by the Council in 1997. With the extra help from councilmember Brian Derdowski, Novelty Neighbors convinced the full Council that the Alberg claims were invalid.

   Unfortunately, the local community had to spend a considerable amount of resources to correct Miller's amendment for the Albergs through active participation at the Council, Hearings Board, and in Superior Court.

   The Albergs are also appealing a decision by the Department of Development and Environmental Services (DDES) in April 1999 that rejected their mining application based on a total lack of evidence that they had operated their farm as a commercial mine in the past.

   Novelty Neighbors has intervened in that case as well, in order to prevent an out-of-court settlement between DDES and the Albergs. A hearing on this issue is expected this October.

   Another group, Friends of Cherry Valley, is also trying to undo a special interest give-away by Louise Miller. In December 1994, Miller introduced an amendment to the Comp Plan on behalf of a developer to convert 80 acres of rural zone (RA-10) to Mineral after the public comment period was closed.

   In addition, there was no notification of a mineral zone change to any of the adjacent landowners, contrary to County code. Louise Miller did not even bring the mineral zone to the attention of her constituents in the Duvall area.

   The Comp Plan states that Designated Mineral Resource Sites are sites that have undergone a formal review and approval process. The rural-zoned property had never been mined and there was never any application approval process in progress at the time of Miller's amendment.

   This free mineral zone that was given away without adequate constituent involvement is another example of why there is mistrust with politicians and their abuse of the planning process. It is also a primary reason for the legal challenge by Friends of Cherry Valley against the County to help correct such actions in the future.

   Novelty Neighbors, Friends of Cherry Valley, and several other organizations in the Snoqualmie Valley continue to demonstrate that positive results can be made for the community. Participation in the Comprehensive Plan process has brought about some recent beneficial changes.

   However, citizens of the Snoqualmie Valley area need to remain active with Executive Ron Sim's staff and with their Council representatives to help us protect our rural lifestyle and property values from poorly-crafted plans and development proposals.