Letter to the editor: Woodway fields — what happens next?

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Dear Editor,

Your headline, Decorum takes a holiday as council decides to review Woodway Field permits, was (unfortunately) spot on. I was at the meeting and I agree, it was very contentious and without the usual and expected decorum. As someone who very much dislikes and tends to avoid heated conflict, I was uncomfortable and confused while at the meeting. I have been processing the events of the evening ever since, trying to figure it all out.

As community members we can continue to point fingers, judge, ignore, yell or take other actions, which only add to the problem. Or, we can learn from this experience and ask ourselves why and what.

WHY are we in this position, and WHAT can we do to fix/improve it now and in the future?

Conflicts between otherwise reasonable individuals usually arise when there is of a lack of communication, understanding, or following of rules and laws. What would lead otherwise reasonable people to disrupt the usual calm (sometimes monotonous), but respectful, environment of council meetings?

For six months citizens have attempted to communicate their concerns related to crumb rubber and the impact of this project on the surrounding neighborhood. At the Architectural Design Board Meeting, citizens were told that there would be no public input allowed, as there was to be only one hearing on the matter. However, at the one hearing (Hearing Examination March 26, 2015), they were only allowed to discuss three specific variances and impacts/concerns directly related to lights, fencing, and bleachers. Any mention of concerns with the toxic nature of the surface, the impact to wildlife, streams and water supply was not allowed to be discussed. Many times citizens have attempted to communicate their concerns, however it appears processes may not have been followed, and input was stifled. Why was citizen participation not allowed? What should have occurred to allow the required “public participation in the design process”?

The Hearing Examiner and City Council ruled to allow for permitting of bleachers and fencing, but NOT lights. Yet the full lighting infrastructure, including 10 foot tall concrete bases for lights, was permitted for, and is now installed. Why can the full infrastructure be allowed for something that was denied? What, if anything, should have been allowed?

The SEPA report filled out by the school district resulted in a “Determination of non-significance” as far as environmental impact. Among other things, the report stated “no known migratory birds”, yet neighbors and school children know of the many species of birds in the area, including hawk, Bald Eagle and migratory birds. On a March 23 visit to the site, the Audubon Society identified “20 winter resident species using the trees and natural area (a state Fish and Wildlife Protected Area) in less than one hour”. Most importantly they identified a Pleated Woodpecker (which is listed by the Department of Fish and Wildlife as a very important bird, because of its impact on the ecosystem), a Neo-tropical species of swallow, a Yellow-rumped Warbler, and a Green-Violet Swallow, all of these birds are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Why can children, neighbors, and the Audubon Society identify the birds, and yet the School District did not? What should be done to correct that?

Many citizens are extremely concerned over the health implications of using crumb rubber, which contains known toxins and carcinogens, in the middle of a neighborhood and is surrounded by state protected land. They have been urging the School Board and City to use a non-toxic infill on the synthetic surface in order to alleviate some of these concerns. There is a petition with almost 1,000 signatures urging the City to place a ban on crumb rubber in the City of Edmonds. Citizens have not felt like their concerns have been taken seriously. This is a project with many “irregularities” that they have been pointed out numerous times, only to be told “it is not our decision”, “the City allowed permits for it”, “it’s a School Board decision”, “we cannot stop it”, “let the state fix it”, “we need sports fields and cannot afford any additional delays while alternative infills are explored”. Why does the School District refuse to simply negotiate infill used? If this is a partnership between City and School- then what does a partnership entail?

After months of discussion some City Council members have stated that even though they are against the use of crumb rubber, the only way to have any control over its use in the future, is to sign the Inter-local Agreement (ILA) and include a clause about material to be used on future fields. The ILA as currently written, contains a cancellation clause and would give the school district the ability to keep city funds ($500,000), partner and utilize the city services to perform all of the scheduling and maintenance, and cancel the contract should they wish to continue the use of crumb rubber in the future. We have no reason to believe they would do otherwise, as they have already proven they will not negotiate on infill. Why is the City unable to protect citizens from the unnecessary use of a product which contains many known toxins and carcinogens, and will be spread over acres of City-zoned Open Space? What can be done about this, now and in the future?

If we review the permits and problems are found, then they should be remedied, not glossed over for fear of embarrassment to either party involved. If problems are not found, then we all have the answers to the questions that have been asked for months, and the project moves forward. During Tuesdays meeting, Councilmember Johnson stated it well when she said “….in the past month we have had citizens who have have come to us week, after week, after week, raising their concerns and their issue(s) and I think that as a City Council we have a responsibility to make sure that all of our questions are answered and the best way to do that is through this appeal process and that’s why I support it. Not because I have taken a position one way or the other, but because there are very specific allegations and concerns raised and I want to use the process that we already have in place to review that.”

WHY are we in this position, and WHAT can we do to fix/improve it now and in the future?

Laura Johnson
Edmonds

1 COMMENT

  1. Laura – what is next is that hopefully you continue your mission. Thru you we’ve experienced that civility, accuracy, trustworthiness, honesty and sincerity are prerequisites for effective social/political debate. There is a scarcity of these features all to often so thanks for your demeanor and bringing balance. Compared to the ranting and hyperbolic posts regarding local issues, yours have been a pleaseant alternative. We all have lost battles here and there, but the war on commercial toxicity will never end, I hope you have many wins. I began my fight in this arena over 25 years ago. It’s been reported that many Americans likely have several industrial chemicals in our blood stream, which is obviously true when you consider fluoride and pharmaceuticals are in the mix. Our body chemistry is no longer our own.

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