MAPLE VALLEY REPORTER: Three City Council members approve YarrowBay development agreements
By Dennis Box - DECEMBER 12, 2011
Another step has been taken along the path inside the master planned development labyrinth in Black Diamond.
Monday morning three City Council members unanimously approved the development agreement ordinances.
Council members Bill Boston, Leih Mulvihill and Kristine Hanson voted to approve the development agreement ordinances for Kirkland-based YarrowBay's The Villages and Lawson Hills.
The approval of the agreements comes after about seven days of public testimony in July before the city's hearing examiner, Phil Olbrechts. The hearing examiner recommend approval with conditions.
The ordinances for the two master planned developments, allowing the move into the development agreement stage, were approved unanimously by the five members of the City Council in 2010.
The development agreements are documents outlining the rules governing the two projects. The agreements are to provide more ground-level detail than the supporting documentation entered during the MPD hearings.
The City Council members began quasi-judicial deliberations on the agreements in September ending with the approval of the ordinances today.
The MPD ordinances were appealed by Toward Responsible Development in October 2010, which is a group composed of residents. The appeal is currently working through the superior court system.
Toward Responsible Development asked the Puget Sound Growth Management Hearings Board to review the process used to approve the MPD ordinances and the group also filed a LUPA or Land Use Petition Act appeal in the state superior court.
The board remanded the ordinances back to the city stating a legislative process should have been used, rather than quasi-judicial, allowing more public participation. The board did not invalidate the ordinances, which is why the process advanced to the development agreement stage.
The board decision was argued before state Court of Appeals in November on direct appeal, and a ruling is excepted in 2012.
Development Agreement Hearing
Following the vote approving the agreements, Boston summed up the deliberations as "the culmination of an 18-year-process."
He added, "Change can be difficult. Change is not always popular, but it will happen."
Boston stated the projects will provide jobs, opportunities for young families to stay in the city and businesses to locate in the area.
"I am proud to be part of the this council both for the MPD ordinances we passed last year and the passage of the development agreements here today with my fellow council members," he said.
Bob Edelman, a member of Toward Responsible Development, said he wasn't surprised the agreements were passed, but he noted, "Considering the number of flaws, they are candidates for appeal."
He stated he didn't believe all issues recommended by the hearing examiner were addressed including sewer and water availability.
According to Edelman there is a question whether the agreements are "valid because the MPDs are under appeal. While the underlying issue is under appeal the city can't rely on anything."
Edelman said no decision has been made at this point by the group whether or not to appeal the agreement ordinances.
Brian Ross, YarrowBay managing partner, said after the approval of the agreements, "I'm so excited about the future and the ability to move forward on the city's plan to create a special place in Black Diamond."
Ross said the YarrowBay has vested plats that the company will now begin working on with the city staff.
He said there are about 300 homes projected for the plats.
Three Council Members
During the opening stages of the City Council quasi-judicial hearings two member, Bill Saas and Craig Goodwin, recused themselves from the process and did not return.
YarrowBay attorney Nancy Rogers submitted a letter during the appearance of fairness portion of the hearing requesting four of five council members recuse themselves.
The letter stated Mulvihil and Hanson should recuse themselves because they own property near the projects.
The letter stated two other council members, Saas and Goodwin, had ex-parte contact or discussions with opponents of the developments.
Rogers went on to write that by four recusing themselves it would trigger the doctrine of necessity because a quorum, or three of five members, would not be present. This would allow all four to return without legal liability for previous actions.
"In this way, YarrowBay and community member against community member attacks can be avoided, the city's fiscal interests will be protected, and the full five-member City Council can sit together with the community, to review The Villages and Lawson Hills Development Agreements."
Mulvihill and Hanson chose to return, but Goodwin and Saas did not.
Goodwin disputed there was ex-parte contact but was unwilling to open himself and his family to what he saw as a legal liability.
The two developments are projected to add about 6,000 residential units with retail, office, light industrial, open space and recreational space. The projects are planned for about a 15 year build out with a five year extension.
Black Diamond currently has a population of about 4,100 and the projects would increase the population to more than 20,000.
The population increase and the strain on the infrastructure including roads has created a rising wave of criticism by opponents of the projects.
The projects have been gaining momentum for two decades, but reached a critical mass when the draft environmental impact statements were released in 2009.
Edelman, a retired Boeing Chief Engineer, said he became involved in the process in about 2009.
The November election showed how deep emotions run is in this community over the developments. The incumbents Hanson and Mulvihill both lost by more than a 40 percent spread.
Ron Taylor will be taking Mulvihill's seat and Tammie Boxx-Deady will join him in Hanson's position.
Boston retired from the council and Joe May will take his position.
Contact Covington Reporter Regional Editor Dennis Box at firstname.lastname@example.org or 425-432-1209 ext. 5050.