Neighbors of the former Old Woodway Elementary soccer and baseball playfields in southwest Edmonds sent out a press release Wednesday requesting postponement of a hearing scheduled Thursday aimed at deciding whether a housing development should be allowed on the property.
Residents in the surrounding neighborhood expressed concerns during a community meeting Tuesday that their homes will be flooded if Burnstead Construction is allowed to develop the 5.61 acres just west of the new Hickman Park, the news release said. Neighbors “have numerous questions and want tomorrow’s hearing by the Edmonds Hearing Examiner postponed for further review,” the release added. “Some expressed concern that this case is so huge and complex—with challenges, appeals and legal action stretching over six years–that it will be very difficult to find a Hearing Examiner with sufficient background to make an informed ruling.”
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Residents are also questioning whether it is appropriate to use a temporary Hearing Examiner for such a high-profile case, “since the City’s primary Hearing Examiner has recused himself from the case due to a possible conflict of interest.” The news release also cited “inadequate notification and lack of sufficient time to review a report of the Edmonds Planning & Development Department.”
“”Very few people in Edmonds received the printed staff report that the Planning & Development Department published Thursday, and few of the recipients actually live in the immediate neighborhood,” neighbor Ira Shelton said. “The web link to the City’s website was not included in any of the fliers or other printed materials that were sent out,” he said, “so we have been deprived of access to information needed to formulate our comments for the Thursday hearing.”
The staff report, which recommends preliminary approval of the plan submitted by Burnstead Construction, is 169 pages long. It was mailed to 20 “parties of record,” and they did not receive it until Friday afternoon, Feb. 3. That left five working days to review a long and complex case dating back to 2007, when the builder originally submitted the plan, Shelton said.
According to the news release:
Those who have had some time to review the full report with its numerous attachments, maintain that the City Planning & Development Department’s conclusions that the plan is acceptable are inconsistent with information inside the full report. The report was filed by the City’s own Engineering Department and a consulting firm hired to review Burnstead Construction’s engineering plan for stormwater drainage.
“The way we read it, the question is not IF but WHEN there will be flooding since the dry well vault proposed by Burnstead is not big enough to collect and infiltrate heavy rains from a 100-year-storm,” said Cliff Sanderlin, another neighbor. “The 100-year storms seem to be coming more frequently these days,” he added.
“The area south of the property has a decades-long history of flooding during heavy rains,” says Sanderlin. “The top several feet are hard as a rock and keep the water from filtering through, so ponds and puddles develop all around the area, from the new Hickman Park to the southern end of 107th Street behind the cemetery, where some homeowners keep sandbags ready,” he said.
“When Burnstead Construction originally proposed the 27-lot Planned Residential Development (PRD) in 2006 the community asked that all 11 acres of the school property be evaluated as a single unit,” said Sanderlin. “After that request was denied, we wanted to make sure the builder did not rely on the City’s half of the property for its stormwater overflow,” he added. “Our request was promptly disregarded and the builder proposed a surface pond in the southwest corner of what is now Hickman Park to catch stormwater overflow. In other words the City’s taxpayers would be subsidizing a private developer’s project,” he said.
Neighbor Heather Marks expressed concern about a change in hearing examiners from the one initially proposed and advertised by the City. Instead of Hearing Examiner Phil Olbrechts, the presiding Hearing Examiner will be Emily Terrell, one of Olbrechts’ backups. Olbrechts stepped aside due to a possible conflict of interest. “If Mr. Olbrechts has a conflict of interest then one of his business associates may well be in conflict as well,” said Marks. “In any case we have no idea whether she is qualified to assimilate so much information and make a fair decision.”
Responding to the news release, City Attorney Jeff Taraday said the following on Wednesday afternoon: “The Hearing Examiner can consider requests to continue any hearing. This would most likely occur, if at all, when the remand hearing begins tomorrow at 3 p.m.”
City of Edmonds Public Works Director Phil Williams said the city doesn’t intend to prepare a response to the citizens’ concerns but did note that City Stormwater Engineer Program Manager Jerry Shuster, who performed the stormwater technical review for the Burnstad application, “will be available at the hearing to answer any questions the Examiner may have on those topics.”
Thursday’s hearing will be in the Council Chambers, Public Safety Complex, 250 5th Ave. N.
For those who want to do further research on the matter, the Southwest Edmonds neighborhood news release included the following links to background information:
Lora Petso vs. City of Edmonds — for background on the legal aspects of the case (Both the county Superior Court and State Court of Appeals found errors in the previous attempt by the builder and City to go forward with the project.)
Hearings Examiner Agenda: http://www.edmondswa.gov/2011-04-26-04-42-04.html, Then click on February 9, 2012 Hearing Examiner Agenda.
The link below is the most current plat/PRD map:
The City of Edmonds agenda page (http://www.edmondswa.gov/government/public-involvement/public-notices/meeting-agendas-and-materials.html) has the staff report and all of the attachments listed on it. Note on the attachments. If the attachment number is 2007-#, that file is from 2007 when this first went through the City. If the attachment is 2012-#, that has been submitted as part of this remand.