May 6, 2002
Woodinville paying close attention to Brightwater project
by Jeanette Knutson
Some may wonder what City of Woodinville officials think about the prospect of a mega sewer plant located right on the city's back step, so to speak, one that would be around in perpetuity.
The Woodinville City Council hasn't taken a position "for" or "against" a Route 9 Brightwater facility, said City Manager Pete Rose.
But Rose wouldn't go so far as to say city officials remained "neutral" on the topic, either.
"The council has instructed us to get plugged in and remain plugged in (to the unfolding Brightwater proceedings)," said Rose.
And so they have.
Rose represented the City of Woodinville on the Brightwater Siting Advisory Committee. When that committee fulfilled its mission and morphed into the Executive Advisory Committee, Rose remained a member, again representing the city. He is also a member of the Route 9 Community Task Force.
Furthermore, the city is considered a "consulted agency" for the purposes of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and EIS Scoping, said Rose, meaning the city will be asked to review and comment on the EIS once it is complete.
In addition, the council is open to hiring a consultant to help them through the EIS process, but they haven't done so yet, he said.
Brightwater officials have given about a half dozen presentations to city officials regarding the proposed wastewater treatment plant. And the city has held two public hearings to solicit citizens' concerns.
"No one from incorporated Woodinville showed up to comment, but folks from the Route 9 area came and expressed concerns," said Rose. "They've been a rather civil, 'together' group - they're not yellers. They have been a decent group to work with," he said.
According to Rose, the City of Woodinville will have a few issues of its own to raise once the EIS Scoping process begins.
When the city did a community survey about the Brightwater project, the top three concerns, said Rose, were odor, air quality and water quality.
The industry, said Rose, considers odor to be a "mitigatable" issue. Given the geography of the area, if it is indeed a "throated," U-shaped area, Rose's questions to Brightwater officials would be "Can you do it? Can you make it odor-free? Can you cover it and guarantee odors won't cross property boundaries?"
It is with reluctance that Rose raises the specter that the day the plant opens no one will know whether or not the plant smells.
"It will be years until the plant is operating at capacity," he said.
The visual impact of the facility would also be a city concern if the plant were sited on the Route 9 property. The placement of the plant, after all, would be at the city's northern gateway.
"Look, there would be an 80 to a 100-acre site with ... buildings on it. I'm not convinced it can or cannot be made to be attractive. (We'd just have to) insist they do a good job, and if they do, it could end up being better to look at than auto recyclers," said Rose.
But the City Council is concerned. If it comes down to a Route 9 site, they would prefer to see the permitting - the site development permits, the building permits - go through the city's standards, instead of Snohomish County's rural standards. This is one reason the city is looking at annexing the land, said Rose.
The southern 80 acres of the 111-acre proposed Route 9 Brightwater site lie within the unincorporated Urban Growth Area of the City of Woodinville.
"Those 80 acres," said Rose, "have a role in the future development of Woodinville."
The city's Comprehensive Plan earmarks that area for future jobs, for a good upscale office park, for light industrial development, said Rose.
"(Those 80 acres are) still in the city's Comprehensive Plan," he said, "still in our Zoning Code, still on our Land Use Map. And if we work the plan, we will move toward annexation. Or, as the Mayor of Grace would say, 'Grace will annex Woodinville.'"
Unfortunately, Rose explained, the Washington State Supreme Court has invalidated the "petition method" of annexing Urban Growth Areas into cities. This ruling, no doubt, will waylay a future petition for annexation.
But that won't prevent the City of Woodinville from doing the legwork to determine if the area in question needs urban services.
"Our council is not interested in presenting the possibility of annexation without benefit to them," said Rose.
There is no doubt the siting of an essential facility such as a regional wastewater treatment plant will have impacts on the community in which it is placed, but the King County Wastewater Treatment Division has an obligation to leave the local community in as good as or better shape than it was before the project. That might mean that the city's northern corridor would be left finished so that the city doesn't have to go back "on their watch" and fix roads, landscaping, etc., "so that the city wouldn't have to worry about streets and underground infrastructure for a generation," said Rose.
What the City of Woodinville would gain or lose by a Route 9 Brightwater "depends upon what the thing looks like," said Rose. It would also depend upon the mitigation package, he said.