A group of homeowners in southwest Edmonds once again are coming together to oppose a 27-home planned residential development (PRD) on 5.61 acres of the Old Woodway Elementary School playground, and will present their concerns to the Edmonds City Council this Tuesday, May 15.
Most of the homeowners represented in this latest appeal were also involved in a similar legal fight in 2006, when Burnstead Construction bought the property from the Edmonds School District. Through the Southwest Edmonds Neighborhood Association (SENA), neighbors appealed the PRD on grounds that it violated City ordinances and state laws involving stormwater drainage management, a Fish & Wildlife Habitat Conservation area, traffic congestion, safety, open space and other concerns.
According to neighborhood representative Cliff Sanderlin, after the City denied the neighborhood association’s appeal, association member Lora Petso and her husband Colin Southcote-Want appealed to the City Hearing Examiner, who turned them down. Petso, an attorney and former City Council member from 2000 to 2003, took her appeal to the next level—the City Council—in 2007, which also denied her appeal. She then sued the City and Burnstead Construction under state Land Use Protection Act (LUPA) laws for violations of City and state codes. She prevailed in Snohomish County Superior Court and, later, in the State Court of Appeals, Sanderlin said.
Though the state appeals court found in Petso’s favor, it sidestepped a final ruling and sent the case back to the City of Edmonds Hearing Examiner for more information and testimony in the areas of drainage, perimeter set-backs, and open space requirements.
On Feb. 9, opponents of the development appeared before Edmonds Hearing Examiner Emily Terrell to testify against the PRD. Petso, who is now again on the Edmonds City Council, said she was speaking both as a neighbor and a private citizen when she told Terrell that said the builder’s plan should be scrapped because it leaves many questions unanswered and has been altered significantly from the original plan.
During the Feb. 9 hearing, the Planning Division reported that the builder had made upgrades including a more robust stormwater management system. Afterward, the Hearing Examiner affirmed the City Planning Division’s recommendation that preliminary approval be granted, with certain conditions. The ultimate size and configuration of the drainage system was left open until final approval is granted. Several opponents disagreed with her decision, emphasizing the area has a long history of flooding and that no drainage system is likely to work during a major storm since there is no outlet to Puget Sound from the area, which is in a basin, Sanderlin said.
Since the appellants were turned down by the Hearing Examiner in February, their next recourse is to take their appeals to the current City Council.
Neighbors on three sides of the proposed project filed appeals to the City Council in April, stating that the City violated its own ordinances. The appellants, paying the City a fee of $365 per appeal, will give oral presentations to the Council at its May 15 meeting.
According to Sanderlin, the areas the appellants cite in their current appeals to the Council, include:
- Insufficient proof that the builder’s proposed stormwater dry-well vault will be adequate during 100-year storms or sufficiently well maintained to prevent increased flooding of homes south and west of the proposed development.
- Property encroachment, since residents along the western side of the site will lose part of their back yards ranging from a few inches to more than a foot, which includes mature landscaping and trees.
- Violation of a designated Fish & Wildlife Environmental Area of Concern, which provides habitat for two species of concern.
- Among their other complaints, the appellants point out that the SEPA Determination of Non Significance (DNS) was based on a plan for 66,000 square feet of impervious surface. The 2012 hearing examiner’s condition, allowing 3,000 square feet per lot, for 27 lots, allows 81,000 square feet before even including the road area. This, claim the neighbors, will exacerbate flooding problems and should require a new SEPA review.
- The hearing examiner skipped a legal requirement that the City’s Architectural Design Board must review the plans, including actual designs of the individual buildings, before the development can be approved.
- Adequate perimeter buffering laws are not met, and,
- The proposed homes will not fit on the lots planned for the development.
In addition to Lora Petso and her husband, the current appellants are Rick and Darlene Miller filing jointly with next-door-neighbors Constantino (Dino) and Sophia Tagios; Ira Shelton and his wife Kathie Ledger; and Sanderlin and his wife Heather Marks. Other opponents from the Southwest Edmonds neighborhood donated money to the appellants, covering most of the fees they paid the City for the right to appeal.
Petso will recuse herself from voting on the appeal, Sanderlin noted.
You can see additional background on the Lora Petso vs. City of Edmonds case here.