Kenmore City Council tables complaint over Brier project
February 8, 2010 · 5:48 PM
For now at least, Kenmore officials have set aside their intentions to challenge the city of Brier for allegedly using outdated regulations to approve a 13.7-acre residential development on the Brier/Kenmore border.
Not everyone is totally happy with that decision, and a local environmental group is pushing forward with legal action against developer Phoenix Development Inc.
Kenmore Mayor David Baker and others said the city had intended to make a formal complaint regarding Brier’s approval of the Phoenix project to the Central Puget Sound Growth Management Hearings Board.
Authorized by the state’s growth-management act, the board is empowered to help resolve land-use disputes. But after Brier Mayor Bob Colinas and three Brier City Councilmembers showed up at a recent Kenmore council session, Baker said local officials decided to wait before approaching the growth management board.
“We tabled it indefinitely,” Baker said of a resolution authorizing a formal complaint. “We wanted to give Brier the opportunity to work with us.”
According to Baker and others, Brier officials indicated they are in the midst of reviewing their critical areas ordinances and rules. It is exactly those rules that Kenmore leaders have complained are outdated and should be revamped.
Colinas did not return a phone call asking for comment for this article.
Known as Sunbrook, the development in question would place 29 residential lots along South Brier Road in Brier. Including some Kenmore city officials, as well as local environmental activists, critics allege the construction could cause flooding in Kenmore, as well as hurt local wildlife, especially fish. President of the grassroots organization People for an Environmentally Responsible Kenmore (PERK), Elizabeth Mooney seemed mostly unimpressed with the Brier officials’ comments during that recent Kenmore council meeting.
“They are still not doing what is right on the Stream 0056 watershed,” Mooney said.
While PERK leaders and others have expressed concern about losing trees and greenspace to Sunbrook, the presence of the waterway known mostly by its number designation has attracted perhaps the most attention.
Stream 0056 flows from Brier into Log Boom Park and, ultimately, Lake Washington. Along the way, it passes close to the Harbor Village Marina housing development in Kenmore. That existing development suffered significant flooding in the past when 0056 overflowed and some contend water runoff from Sunbrook only will worsen the overall problem. Mooney and an attorney representing PERK, Gerry Pollet, have criticized Brier for how they treat the stream in general.
According to Pollet, Kenmore rules classify the waterway as a stream and require a 200-foot development setback on both banks.
“When it crosses into Brier, it’s called a ditch and gets 25 feet,” Pollet has said. According to Mooney, Brier has no plans to increase required buffers around the stream, possibly even in a revamped critical areas ordinance. Presumably with that contention and others in mind, Mooney said PERK and Brier will be in Snohomish County Superior Court over Sunbrook on April 16.
Mooney did add PERK is attempting to work with Phoenix Development and possibly avoid any legal maneuvering.
PERK filed its lawsuit using Washington’s Land Use Petition Act. The filing basically asks the court to reverse Brier’s decisions, among other measures, forcing Phoenix Development to complete an environmental impact study of the Sunbrook project.
Brier has ruled the construction environmentally insignificant.
Not all Kenmore officials are anywhere near eager to criticize their Brier counterparts. Kenmore City Councilman John Hendrickson said Kenmore’s legislators gave Brier’s legislators very little time to respond to his city’s complaints.
Baker sent Brier’s Colinas a letter stating his concerns over Sunbrook in November. Hendrickson said the rest of Kenmore council moved just 19 days later to begin a formal challenge with the growth management board over Brier’s actions. He further argues comments made at a late January council meeting showed Kenmore may not have the right to make too many complaints about Brier’s environmental record.
“As the discussion ensued, there was not a clear understanding of the material differences, if any, between Kenmore’s and Brier’s environmental regulations,” Hendrickson said.
Hendrickson finally contends that, even though the issue has been indefinitely tabled, Kenmore has spent $3,900 in legal fees on the Sunbrook question.
For his part, Baker insists the city’s actions to date have been justified, both in terms of considering legal action against Brier and in — for now — dropping that legal action.
“We got their attention and we made a little headway,” Baker said. “We’ve got them at the table talking, which is more than we could have said even a few weeks ago.”