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Kenmore Council still indecisive about Bastyr University mitigation

Kenmore’s City Council missed another chance July 7 to pursue negotiations that would reconcile unapproved growth at Bastyr University.

A second consecutive motion to begin working on a voluntary mitigation agreement failed by a vote of 4-3 at the study session that day.

City Council was split during the previous attempt to win approval for negotiations June 16.

“Bastyr still wants to get this resolved,” said Kenmore Community Development Director Debbie Bent. “It’s a question of timing.”

City Councilmembers have indicated they would like to address the issue again when the university submits its master plan later this year.

At question is how much the school should have to pay for mitigation.

Bastyr has operated its campus as a continuation of land use since 1995, when King County had jurisdiction over the area.

The property previously served as a facility for the Saint Thomas Seminary and Milan Recovery Center, which brought in around 445 combined visitors each day.

The university has increased its campus population by around 690 since 1995, putting the current number at around 1,150.

City officials didn’t notice this growth until the school created a new gravel parking area, indicating that the number of visitors had risen.

A 1995 letter from King County to Bastyr noted that any expansion of facilities, as well as any increase in the intensity of use, would “require a new evaluation of required permits for the changes proposed.”

The university has indicated that it did not believe this limited its ability to grow, since the county did not mention specific caps or define “intensity of usage.”

The city’s main concern now is attaining mitigation for the effects that this population growth has on Juanita Drive, as well as for any environmental impacts that the parking lot may have had.

Studies have so far shown that traffic at Bastyr’s Juanita Drive entrance does not exceed level-of-service standards, although several other intersections along the corridor are failing.

“I want to see an amicable settlement done,” said Kenmore Mayor David Baker. “I’m confident we can come up with a mitigation number.”

Baker was among the councilmembers who voted against the July 7 motion to begin working out a mitigation agreement with Bastyr.

“There are those of us on the council who would prefer to have more public input,” he said.

The city of Bothell avoided this entire conundrum by placing enrollment restrictions on the University of Washington when the school made plans for building a new campus near Beardslee Boulevard.

Bothell’s City Council passed an ordinance requiring the construction of a new south entrance ramp along Highway 522 before UW-Bothell could increase its student population beyond 3,000.

The Washington State Department of Transportation began working on that project earlier this year.

Kenmore could choose to follow the example of its neighbor by placing a cap on future student growth at Bastyr once the school requests approval of a new master plan.

The school has already applied for permits to build a new 122-unit dorm building and an additional parking lot with 65 stalls.

Both enhancements are permitted under current zoning for the Bastyr campus.

The final decision over whether to grant permits for these projects will be an administrative one, meaning it does not require approval from the City Council.

“We get the opportunity to treat Bastyr with the same level of fairness that we do any other entity that has requests for growth or to utilize their property under their existing zoning,” said Councilmember Randy Eastwood. “Anything other than exact fairness would make it arbitrary and capricious.”

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