News

Bastyr seeks reconciliation with city of Kenmore

Bastyr University is looking to make amends for increasing its population and building a gravel parking lot at its Kenmore campus without consent from the city.

Those actions sparked anger among residents and members of the Kenmore City Council, prompting the school to seek reconciliation.

City Council remains stumped about what Bastyr can do take make things right. Two motions aimed at working out a mitigation proposal failed during the group’s June 16 study session.

Further discussions will take place July 7 at the Northshore Utility District Building in Kenmore.

City Council might consider punting the issue to the Planning Commission at that time. A motion to exercise that option failed June 16 with a 3-3 vote.

Bastyr increased its campus population by 445 people between 1995 and 2007, putting the current number of users at 1,151.

City staff members weren’t aware of this growth until the school began constructing a new gravel parking lot in 2001.

Bastyr completed that improvement without seeking a permit, causing an uproar from the City Council and residents who were concerned about the project’s environmental impacts.

“Apparently they thought they could increase their population without anyone noticing — until they built some parking lots,” said Councilmember Allan Van Ness.

Bastyr officials have been at a loss to explain why the school built a parking lot without the city’s consent.

“Clearly they should have been permitted,” said Bastyr representative David Odiorne.

“Why and how they weren’t, I don’t know.”

Bastyr has offered no such admission of guilt with regard to its population growth. Officials from the school claim there was no need to obtain permits for that purpose.

Precedent says the university is correct. The city does not monitor usage with other entities such as the Northshore School District or retail stores.

That’s brought up the question of why things should be different for Bastyr.

One answer comes in the form of a 1995 letter from King County’s Development and Environmental Services division, which had jurisdiction over the Bastyr campus before Kenmore incorporated.

The county at that time decided that the university could utilize its property for educational purposes as a continuation of prior use.

But that didn’t clear the school for growth.

A Department of Development and Environmental Services supervisor wrote to Bastyr in the fall of 1995 that “further expansion of the building and facilities beyond that which exists ..., or an increase in the intensity of usage, will require a new evaluation of required permits for the changes proposed ...”

Van Ness and fellow Councilmember John Hendrickson have said they interpret the letter to mean that the school was required to maintain status quo with regard to its population and facilities.

Bastyr disagrees.

“Our interpretation is that we were not under any obligation to report the increase (in population), and the city never requested any,” Odiorne said.

Bastyr implied during correspondence with King County in 1995 that it was anticipating a user growth of up to 10 percent per year.

The school also indicated that its overall population was not likely to increase beyond 600 people, which would keep the number at around the same level maintained by the site’s previous owner.

Bastyr’s population has since exceeded that figure, but its expansion rates have stayed below 10 percent.

The city is trying to devise a method for determining how much the school should pay for mitigating this growth, but its councilmembers haven’t decided how to account for variables such as inflation and the school’s fluctuating trip counts.

Most formulas place the compensation amount at around $140,000.

“I don’t think that’s unreasonable, and we would certainly be willing to sit down and talk about it,” Odiorne said.

Van Ness told the Reporter he feels no figure will be high enough unless it pays nearly the full amount for traffic improvements along Juanita Drive, which provides access to Bastyr’s campus.

“No amount is going to fix the problem unless it’s $15 million,” he said.

Level-of-service standards are currently exceeded at several intersections along Juanita Drive, and the city is looking at several costly capital improvements for alleviating this problem.

Further complicating matters is the fact that Kenmore is updating its impact-mitigation fees. Van Ness has suggested that the city should feel no rush to approve a mitigation agreement with Bastyr until that process is complete.

“Why should we use an old impact fee for this?” he asked.

Bastyr is looking to expand as soon as possible.

Officials from the school have said they would like to build new dorms to house existing students by 2009. They claim this would benefit the city by minimizing students’ needs to leave campus, thereby reducing traffic and pollution.

Bastyr will need a special-use permit to build dorms on its property.

City Council will not have a say in this matter, as the decision is one for city administrators.

Ordione said Bastyr is likely to apply for the permit sometime this month.

The university also plans to submit a campus master plan to the city late this fall and has assembled a citizen advisory committed to provide input on the design. That group held its first meeting June 25.

Further meetings will take place in the future, and Bastyr has promised that each will be open to the public.

The university has also created a blog (www.bastyrcommunity.blogspot.com) where residents can provide comments.

Bastyr has indicated that its master plan will include new housing options, research and clinical facilities, administrative offices and recreational amenities.

Watchdog groups have voiced concerns about how this growth could affect wetlands, as well as the quiet setting at nearby Saint Edward State Park.

Members of Citizens for Saint Edward State Park have suggested that the school minimize its footprint by building tall dorm buildings or expanding its campus to Kenmore’s downtown area.

We encourage an open exchange of ideas on this story's topic, but we ask you to follow our guidelines for respecting community standards. Personal attacks, inappropriate language, and off-topic comments may be removed, and comment privileges revoked, per our Terms of Use. Please see our FAQ if you have questions or concerns about using Facebook to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus

Read the latest Green Edition

Browse the print edition page by page, including stories and ads.

Sep 19 edition online now. Browse the archives.