Northwest NEWS

March 20, 2000

Front Page

Judge's ruling stops work on Safeway project

by Lisa Allen, Valley View editor

   DUVALL--Following a ruling by a King County Superior Court judge, a stop work order was placed on the Safeway construction project pending further road and traffic studies.

   The March 10 ruling by Superior Court Judge Kathleen Learned was in response to a lawsuit filed by Bob and Marise Schader, the owners of Boxhill Farm, a retail nursery located across SR-203 from the Safeway project. When Safeway planned the store, part of the proposal included relocation of Big Rock Road to a point farther north on SR-203. The location currently is planned to exit across from the nursery driveway. The intersection will be signalized.

   Included among the judge's findings was that the city of Duvall issued a Mitigated Determination of Nonsignificance (MDNS) in 1998 that did not consider any of the offsite impacts of the proposal and that the SEPA checklist which Safeway had submitted did not consider the impacts to the Schaders' property from the relocation of Big Rock Road.

   The Schaders detailed their concerns in a letter to the city in 1998, after which the city issued a Modified Mitigated Determination of Nonsignificance (MMDNS), finding the impacts to be significant but could be mitigated. Some of the conditions Safeway agreed to included relocation of some buildings, driveway improvements, and landscape screening and fencing the property from light, noise, and glare.

   But Safeway terminated negotiations in July 1998, court documents said. Safeway then announced they were dropping the project, because, they said, they were concerned that the state Department of Transportation (DOT) might not approve a southbound left turn on SR-203 into Safeway at a separate access south of the proposed realigned Big Rock Road. Generally, the state requires 660 feet between a signaled intersection and another private access, so it appeared that the second driveway would not be approved, court documents said.

   "Safeway said they dropped the project, but during that time, they were continuing with the permit process," Bob Schader said. "Then when the project was restarted, the city saw no need to inform us."

   The Schaders say their main concerns now lie with the placement of the new intersection.

   "When the city decided to move Big Rock Road north, they said it was for safety reasons," said Marise Schader. "But this new intersection will be much more dangerous. There is a dip in the road that causes cars coming from Duvall to disappear from view. I predict more and worse accidents there. Plus, it will remain a 55mph road."

   The Schaders say they want the intersection moved back to where it originally was to be located--90 feet south, for better visibility. "But Safeway won't move it south because they want the extra left turn," she said.

   They also complain that Safeway has not budgeted enough to mitigate the impacts of headlights and noise. "Safeway said they will pay a maximum of $8,000 toward landscape mitigation," said Bob Schader. "That won't be enough."

   Judge Learned agreed with the Schaders, ruling that Safeway had to stop work until the impacts and mitigations are fully considered.

   The judge also said that the city planner at the time, Eric Jensen, had not actually considered the impacts of the road realignment but "assumed" the realignment would reduce impacts, not increase them, and also that the impacts of the relocation were not evaluated in the city's 1994 Comp Plan.

   In the ruling, she said the Safeway proposal "will have significant adverse impacts on the Shaders' property which have not been mitigated."

   Duvall City Engineer Elizabeth Goode said the subgrade and base rock for the new road are complete, but the asphalt has not yet been laid. "Also as part of the court decision, the judge found the building permit for the Safeway store, because it came after SEPA, was invalid," she said. "The court ordered them to stop work until it can be resolved."

   She said the next step will be the re-evaluation that will require Safeway to provide additional analysis of noise, traffic, light, and glare. A consultant will be hired to conduct the studies. "It will be at least 30 days," Goode said, adding that Safeway has all the construction permits from the state DOT for the modification to the highway.

   "The judge didn't find the proposal to be inadequate," Goode said. "The judge found there weren't enough studies done to determine whether or not it would work. We will re-evaluate and make sure it is adequate and if not we will recommend additional measures."

   Bob Schader noted that the lawsuit will end up costing everyone, including the citizens of Duvall. "They (the city) made the process a secret," he said. "They will get Safeway, but they need to do it right."