Council:353-unit development lacks right information

Published on Thu, Oct 25, 2007 by ara Nelson

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Council: 353-unit development lacks right information

By Tara Nelson

Plans for a 353-unit development in East Blaine will be put on hold until the project’s developers provide comprehensive information regarding plans for infrastructure improvements in that area, Blaine City Council decided this week.

In their regular meeting Monday, the council voted 4-1 to postpone a final decision regarding Blaine developer Doug Connelly’s East Maple Ridge project until the company provides more information about their plans to improve sewer, water and transportation services to meet the demands of future residents there.

Following an exhaustive “he said she said” debate between city staff and Connelly’s representative Jack Swanson, the council heeded a request to postpone their decision until they could review the project once more via a slideshow presentation.

Swanson argued that company officials were “rebuffed” by planning department staff when they asked for guidance and, at one point, yelled that he would “never come back to Blaine after this because I’ll never be able to function here again.”

“We felt like we were being blindsided by all of this,” Swanson said. “After everything we’ve been through and supplying tens of thousands of dollars of information, we got to this point where the level of information requested was just too boggling. No one would speak to us about those issues. ”

The 88-acre development is planned within a long, narrow strip of planned residential-zoned land that stretches from SR 543 to Allen Road between H Street Road and the U.S.-Canadian border. The proposal includes a neighborhood commercial center and 225 single-family lots and more than 125 other residential units in the form of duplexes, townhouses and fourplex buildings.

A staff report issued by the Blaine planning commission recommended the council deny the project’s approval concluding that the company failed on more than one occasion to provide adequate information regarding economic impacts, sewer infrastructure improvements, and other fiscal impacts to the city, despite several requests from staff and the planning commission.

“The commission believes that further attempts to provide the applicant opportunities to provide acceptable information would be fruitless and that the commission should proceed to tender a recommendation to the city council based on all information and material that has been submitted to date,” the report found.

Councilmember Bonnie Onyon said she and the other council members thought the development was a good project if it is “done well and done right.” Onyon, however, warned the applicants that if they were not willing to work with staff in a “cooperative attitude” it would be a waste of his time.

After consulting with his associates, Swanson agreed. “You have our unequivocal commitment that we will act in good faith and do our best to meet the requirements of the city,” he said.

Councilmember Ken Ely was the only council member who voted to deny the project outright.

“To me, it’s the same inconceivable notion that even though you didn’t turn your homework in on time, you can get credit to do it later,” he said. “If the project is worth doing in Blaine, then it was worth doing it in a timely and complete fashion.”

Councilmember John Liebert, however, said he thought the project would be “a real improvement” for the community as well as the local neighborhood if the company would redeem themselves by cooperating with the city in the future.

“As a teacher, I’m going to accept a student’s work late, but he’s going to be docked six points. And they’ve already been docked points in terms of increased costs,” he said. “We have that property annexed and we need to do something to make it better.”

Blaine community development director Terry Galvin said although he liked the idea of the development, the city is required by law to ensure the development provides financial compensation for its projected impact to city services or infrastructure improvements to ensure those costs are not pushed onto surrounding residents.

The project would bring an estimated 847 new residents to the area over the long-term, and would add as many as 18,000 additional daily trips to H Street, according to a 2005 traffic study by Gibson Traffic Consultants.

“One of our primary responsibilities is to make sure the community doesn’t get burdened with the cost of infrastructure improvements to adequately serve the projected population over the next 20 to 30 years,” Galvin said. “The other is to ensure adjacent neighborhoods such as the Caples neighborhood don’t suffer financially or otherwise as a result of that development.”

A second planned unit development in that area, Ken Hertz’s Grandis Pond, is slated just east of the site and would include 1,000 residential units.

Assuming each unit houses the average 2.4 residents, the two developments combined would add an estimated 3,360 new residents to the area, nearly doubling the city’s current population.

The Washington state Growth Management Act (GMA) requires that road improvements be made in concurrence with land-use developments and warns that congestion and inadequate road conditions can have hidden costs to taxpayers both in the form of increased traffic accidents and subsequent emergency services as well as potential lawsuits.

For now, the east Blaine area remains undoubtedly rural. Nearby communities include the Caples neighborhood of 24 residences and the Harvey Road Neighborhood Association of approximately 20 residences. And, for many who live here, the development has already made a negative impact

In May, residents of Lee Lane, such as Kitty King, who lives directly south of the development, had expressed concerns about storm water drainage and planned clearing of the site, currently forested with a mix of evergreen and deciduous trees.

King said since the Connelly Company began clearing brush in 2006, she and surrounding residents started noticing increased storm water entering their property, culminating with a neighbor’s clogged drainage pipe in January that flooded the neighborhood, and costing her family $1,200 to build a trench and install a curtain drain on her property.

King said she is also worried that the development’s estimated 40 percent impermeable surface area could exacerbate the problem.

Nathan Row, a consultant of APC, Associated Project Consultants Inc (APC), an independent consulting business, said the Connelly Company plans to mitigate storm water by maintaining natural drainage patterns and swales, or depressed grassy areas, between homes and along side roads to slow runoff.

In addition, the project plans for 36 acres of open space, wetlands and an on-site storm water retention pond, he said.

According to a drainage report prepared by APC, 64 percent of the property slopes gently to the south and southwest, while the remaining land slopes to the northwest.

Terry Clarke, of N. Harvey Road, however, disagreed. Clarke said he owns property directly south of the development, and that the report failed to mention the southeastern-facing slope on the east side of the property.

“It’s crazy, the land slopes toward my place, they would have to channel water uphill,” he told The Northern Light earlier this year.
More information about the East Maple Ridge development is available on the Blaine Community Development department’s website at www.ci.blaine.wa.us or by visiting their newly relocated office at 366 H Street.