There was a flood of opposition from citizens Feb. 9 at an Edmonds hearing about a plan to build 27 homes on the Old Woodway Elementary School playfields. Opponents to the Planned Residential Development, a cul de sac, alleged failure by the City of Edmonds and the builder—Burnstead Construction—to meet City and State regulations regarding storm water overflow, open space minimums and property perimeter set-backs.
Most of the opposition came from neighbors south of the property, who said they are worried that their houses will flood due to the impervious surfaces that will cover more than 35 percent of the property, not counting streets, sidewalks and driveways.
Another neighbor pointed out that all of Woodway Meadows, Hickman Park and the proposed building site are in a basin from which there is no escape route for overflow, and the soil is slow to absorb water. The builder’s solution is a large underground dry well. Based on earlier concerns about the system’s capacity, Burnstead Construction modified the design. Neighbors said the increased capacity and margin of error is still inadequate considering that storms are occurring with more frequency and greater intensity. The City Planning Department said it will require a two-year performance bond by the builder for a number of contingencies.
Citizen Roger Hertrick said there was supposed be a 15-foot buffer setback on the west and north sides of the development due to a land slide danger in addition to the standard lot setback. As it now stands, the City has allowed both distances to be compressed into single 15-foot setbacks on those two sides. Hertrick said that as the ordinance reads, whatever the setback is on one side it should be the same on all sides, and that is not the case in this plan. That puts the project out of compliance with both setback and open space minimums.
Colin Southcote-Want said that the preliminary plat fails to show the footprint of the proposed houses in relationship to the lot. He said the proposed houses could not fit on the lots and still maintain the requirement that the garage not be the most prominent feature when viewed from the street.
Corinne Beuchet noted that large houses so close together are not consistent or compatible with the rest of the houses in the area. The lots in the surrounding RS-8 area are 8,000 square feet in size while those in the proposed development range from 5,000 to slightly over 8,000 square feet.
City Councilmember Lora Petso, speaking as a neighbor and private citizen, said the builders’ plan has been altered so much, is so inappropriate and leaves so many questions unanswered that they should scrap it and start over.
Petso prevailed in both Snohomish County Superior Court and the State Appeals Court after the City of Edmonds—including the City Council in October 2007—turned down repeated appeals by her and neighbors to Burnstead’s 2007 plan. Early this year the State Appeals Court remanded the case back to the city hearing examiner to gather more information in three major topic areas—drainage, open space and perimeter setback—and to issue a final decision.
Though only testimony on the three topics was admissible, Heather Marks said errors and omissions occurred earlier in the process, including disregard of a state Designated Fish & Wildlife Habitat area for two species of concern in the wooded northeast corner of the property. “You are required by law to contact the Department of Fish & Wildlife if you want to make any changes,” said Marks. “The state has no record of anyone in Edmonds contacting it about this critical habitat area,” she added.
Associate City Planner Kernen Lien said he had reviewed the records on the Fish & Wildlife Habitat Area and concluded that it was a non-issue.
Neighbors also expressed concern about the lack of fire truck access to the forested area north of the development and to the predicted volume of vehicle trips per day through the development’s only access route in the middle of a curve on 237th Street Southwest near 104th Street Southwest.
Some 30 neighbors and other parties had requested a 90-day postponement of the hearing because they had either not been notified or had only five days to review a 169-page staff report that the City published and mailed on Thursday, Feb. 2.
The Hearing Examiner, Emily Terrell, refused to postpone the hearing but granted two additional weeks for public input. To be considered, public comments must be sent to the Hearing Examiner, c/o City Planning Associate Kernen Lien ([email protected]) by noon Thursday, Feb. 23. She said the only topics that will be factored in her decision are drainage, open space and perimeter set back. Comments are open to the general public, not restricted to neighbors.
While the hearing has not yet been transcribed there is a link to an audio recording here:
Kernen Lien also has it in a format more suited to PCs or you can arrange to get a CD by contacting him at [email protected] or 425-771-0220, Ext. 1223.
— This report was submitted by Cliff Sanderlin, a neighbor and opponent of the proposed project. Sanderlin compiled this information with the following disclaimer: “I took off my advocate hat and put on my reporter’s fedora for the article at your request because I consider it an important story. Since I had not planned to write a report I took no notes, so this is from memory, which can be scary. I had two other advocates who were present at the hearing–one a former journalist like myself–check it for bias, and they thought it was balanced and sufficiently complete. If there are serious errors or omissions, others who were present at the hearing are welcome to fill in the gaps.
Citizens interested in more information can send questions and comments to [email protected].