June 26, 2000
After five years of attempting to hold off construction of Redmond Ridge, the Coalition for Public Trust has called it quits following a hearing board decision which cleared the way for the massive development to proceed.
On June 15, the Central Puget Sound Growth Management Hearing Board, by a vote of 2-1, approved King County's designation of the development as a "fully contained community (FCC)," allowing it to go forward under the state's Growth Management Act.
Redmond Ridge, currently under construction by Quadrant Corp., a Weyerhaeuser subsidiary, is located on a plateau east of Redmond south of Novelty Hill Road. When built out, the 2,000-acre development will be larger than the city of Woodinville.
Under the Growth Management Act, urban-style development is allowed only inside incorporated or other urban areas. The concept of fully contained communities, allowed by the Legislature as part of the GMA, was referred to as a "loophole" in the law by board member Lois North. Under law, Redmond Ridge could only be built if it were considered an FCC and will be the only development like it in the county. Plans are for two subdivisions of 3,950 homes, a business park, shops, and an elementary school.
Two groups, Friends of the Law and the Coalition for Public Trust, have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars fighting the development over the last several years. The June 15 vote was the last straw for CPT, said Michael Costello, founder of the citizens' group.
"Our vision was to try to hold politicians accountable for land-use actions," he said. "The decision showed that no one in government can be held accountable."
In question was the FCC status, which Friends of the Law had challenged in court. The case eventually ended up in the state Supreme Court, which remanded it back to the hearing board to make a decision. Board chairman Joseph Tovar was the only dissenter, saying the decision flouted the spirit of the Growth Management Act. Board member Lois North, recently appointed to the board by Gov. Gary Locke, had been King County Council Chair in 1991, when the developments (called at that time Blakely Ridge and Northridge) first came under study by the council.
"Apparently she (North) didn't recognize the potential conflict," said Costello. "She didn't have to participate in the decision, but she chose to anyway. I think it is pretty outrageous that she blamed it on the Legislature in creating the FCC loophole."
Costello says he has seen it all.
"Nobody is interested in following the law," he said. "When elected leaders choose not to do their jobs through improper government actions and a series of improper rulings, it would seem that you have to be a millionaire to get into the game. They will follow the law or break it as they please."
Friends of the Law, however, will continue to actively oppose the development, said leader Joseph Elfelt.
"We are filing a motion asking the board to consider its ruling," said Elfelt. "Plus there is an active lawsuit in Pierce County to be heard in September, which should expose the traffic scam."
The lawsuit claims that faulty traffic studies were used by King County and Quadrant to obtain approval for the development. Lawsuit papers say that as a result of the studies, which inflated the capacity of Novelty Hill Road, Quadrant was required only to add a few turn lanes heading into the development and that no extra lanes needed to be added.
All the required road work has been completed by Quadrant. But, Elfelt said, the latest study has shown that the road will be so congested that King County traffic engineers are recommending that the road be widened to five lanes, at taxpayers' expense.
"This could cost the taxpayers $100 to $200 million," he said. "Friends of the Law will continue to put up a fight."