The Bothell City Council passed a motion on July 30 authorizing the city to appeal a decision made by the Growth Management Hearings Board (GMHB) concerning an ordinance impacting the Fitzgerald/35th Avenue Sub area of Bothell near the North Creek Forest.
The GMHB issued a ruling on July 21 that the city’s Ordinance 2163 was “clearly erroneous in view of the entire record before the Board and in light of the goals and requirements of the GMA in violation of RCW 36.70A.172 and contrary to RCW 36.70A.020(10).”
RCW 36.70A.172 states that “In designating and protecting critical areas under this chapter, counties and cities shall include the best available science in developing policies and development regulations to protect the functions and values of critical areas…[and] shall give special consideration to conservation or protection measures necessary to preserve or enhance [fish that return from the sea to spawn where they were born].”
RCW 36.70A.020(10) includes “[protecting] the environment and [enhancing] the state’s high quality of life, including air and water quality, and the availability of water” as a guiding factor in developing comprehensive plans and development regulations.
According to the GMHB’s decision, the impacts of developments under the ordinance would likely cause irreversible changes to the hydrology of the North Creek Protection Area, degrading water quality and eliminating salmon habitat.
“We’ve already shown that the watershed of the North Creek is a salmon bearing creek that is extremely important for our long term and future habitat of salmon,” said Suzanne Burnell, a hydrogeologist and special water specialist, who is on the Shorelines Board for the city and lives very close to the North Creek Forest. “As an environmental specialist, I don’t understand why the city council won’t move forward and basically stick with the code that was originally in place to protect this watershed. It’s unacceptable to me as a taxpayer, as an environmental specialist, and as someone who lives in Bothell and believes that we are trying to preserve our environment for our children.”
While some citizens championed the environment, one owner has been in a battle to sell his property during the past 20 years.
Tom Berry, owner of lands within zone 1 of the Fitzgerald subarea, states that his family has suffered irreversible damage due to the 19-year battle to sell their property.
“We’re honestly sick and we’re tired. We’ve been incredibly patient. The assumption that we could make pretty assuredly is that the owners of Zone 1 don’t much matter,” Berry said. “We’ve been left out of the consideration. We’re old. We’re truly beaten. We are nearly at the end of our rope, and are considered everyones enemy, now, on the wrong side of history.”
According to Berry, there have been privately-funded studies that have shown that his property has no impact on the North Creek Forests or the waterways of the area.
“Topography and gravity determine what influence zone 1 would or could have on the fishery in question, between 240th Southeast and 228th,” Berry said. “But there are no studies performed for zone 1, other than that private money.”
Others who spoke during the meeting agree with Berry.
“The Fitzgerald subarea is a very important area, there’s absolutely no question about that. Zone 1 in the Fitzgerald subarea should never have been included in the North Creek valley to speak of,” said Bothell resident Jim Phillips. “I just, really request, saving the North Creek Valley is an important thing, but zone 1, inside the city limits of Bothell, is an extremely developable area and, really, that is what growth management wants.”
While public comment was allowed, it ended up not swaying the council, which passed the motion 3-2 to appeal; with Freed, Lamb and Spivey voting in favor, and Samberg and Agnew voting against the motion. Rheaume voluntarily recused himself from the meeting due to a comment on social media concerning his opinions on the decision and Evans left prior to the vote.
While the GMHB had remanded the ordinance and given the city terms and deadlines to rework the laws, those dates will likely be disregarded as the city files its appeal to the decision.
Those, like the Berrys, who desire to sell their land will have to wait even longer to do so.
“At this point, the ability to sell our land is still in limbo. The end of our 19th year of trying is looming and we are getting beyond our years to really enjoy any retirement,” Berry wrote in a July 9 Letter to the Editor. “This is what a lack of due diligence has left us with. We have been, as Mark Twain wrote, ‘Sold down river.'”