Judge denies request for roundabout injunction

Published on Thu, Apr 29, 2010 by Tara Nelson

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The Washington state Department of Transportation will be able to continue with the construction of two planned roundabouts at Peace Portal Drive and D Street despite allegations of the project’s possible environmental impacts, a judge ruled Friday, April 23.

Whatcom County Superior Court judge Ira Uhrig denied a request by the Blaine group Business United to issue an injunction based on the possibility that part of the $2.8 million project was too close to the shoreline.

The decision comes after the city of Blaine received a complaint from Blaine property owner Tom Bridge that work being conducted by WSDOT along Marine Drive was within the jurisdiction of the shoreline management act.

The subsequent lawsuit, filed on behalf of Blaine Subway owner Dale Schrader, claims the project requires a State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) review because the work falls within 200 feet of a section of Cain Creek. The creek, he argued, constitutes a shoreline area and therefore requires DOT to obtain permits to do work there.

In an April 8 email, city planning director Michael Jones responded to Bridge, saying he was “quite possibly correct” and that the work on Marine Drive appeared to be within a critical areas buffer but stopped short of issuing a stop work order on the project.

Jones then sent a letter to WSDOT’s project manager requesting that the department either comply or provide the city with information as to why they have not done so.

Instead of comply, however, DOT planners quickly ceased work along Marine Drive and restored the road to its original condition, electing not to proceed with those improvements.

The rest of the project, they said, was not dependent on the work done in that area.

Bridge said Monday he was disappointed and called the ruling a “double standard.”

“I think the biggest issue is if this was a private developer, this wouldn’t have happened, you would get a big fine,” he said. “But might makes right and that’s unfortunately worked for them.”

When asked if he would be pursuing other action against the DOT, Bridge said no.

“I don’t believe we have any other angles we are pursuing, but we may pursue something with the city – there are a few things there,” he said.

Blaine city attorney Jon Sitkin said the city supported Friday’s ruling.“(The decision) is consistent with the city’s understanding of the roundabout project,” he said. “Because WSDOT had revised its project to exclude the work along Marine Drive, the city believed that the request for an injunction stopping all work on the project was not warranted.” 

WSDOT spokesperson Dustin Terpening agreed, adding that crews will continue as planned with the exception of sidewalk and lighting improvements originally planned for Marine Drive.

“We’re pleased the judge ruled against stopping the project, recognizing that we’ve taken all necessary precautions to protect the surrounding environment during the design and construction of the project,” he said. “We’ll keep working hard in Blaine just like we’ve been doing for several weeks now. We want to get this project built quickly
and get out of the way of drivers and businesses.”