Hearing delayed on new track near Granite Falls

  • Thu Jun 24th, 2010 10:24pm
  • News

By Noah Haglund Herald Writer

GRANITE FALLS — A hearing on a proposed motocross track off the Mountain Loop Highway faces further delays.

The Snohomish County hearing examiner had been scheduled early next month to weigh arguments about building a track on more than 400 acres of timberland outside Granite Falls. No answer on a new hearing date is expected until at least mid-July.

“We wanted the supporting documentation for our staff report and a clarification of issues,” county permitting manager Tom Rowe said. “We will set a hearing the earliest time that is allowed.”

The delay comes largely because a track consultant was late in submitting a study on impacts to the habitat of the marbled murrelet, a threatened bird species, Rowe said. That didn’t allow planners enough time to prepare for the hearing. Planners also wanted to clarify timing issues surrounding the construction of a sound berm, he said.

Planners also want to take a closer look at two smaller issues: the effects of a proposed gravel parking lot on groundwater, and traffic-mitigation fees paid to the city of Granite Falls.

MXGP of Kirkland is trying to build the track, which would occupy about 17 percent of the total property. The rest of the land would be left as timber.

“There is no issue with the bird, it’s that we didn’t submit information on time,” MXGP co-owner Gary Strode said. “It’s a technicality, and that’s all it is.”

The Mountain Loop Conservancy, a group opposing the track, believes county planners failed to do due diligence on the project’s potential environmental impacts. The county originally granted the proposal a mitigated determination of nonsignificance, but withdrew it after the bird study arrived late and appeals raised other issues.

Had the conservancy and others not appealed, “it is very likely that a project with significant adverse environmental impacts would have been permitted and allowed to proceed onto the construction phase,” conservancy President Jeff Van Datta said.

The track consultant’s report says no marbled murrelets nest on the proposed site, though they do have nests in the nearby Canyon Creek valley. It concludes a 1,200-foot forested buffer between the track and the nearest occupied nest would prevent habitat disruption.

Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465, nhaglund@heraldnet.com.