Maltby park plan hinges on County Council vote

MALTBY — The future of a proposed sports park near Highway 522 could hinge on a Snohomish County Council vote in February or soon thereafter.

If council members sign off on a master plan for Wellington Hills County Park, an initial phase could open to the public in 2015. No council hearing date has been scheduled.

The current design includes seven ballfields plus walking trails, playgrounds, an off-leash dog park and picnic shelters.

That’s less ambitious than what parks officials announced in 2012, after the county bought the 105-acre property from the University of Washington.

“What we’re building is the baseline plan we said we’d build,” county parks director Tom Teigen said.

The new timeline also lags about two years behind the original construction schedule.

The change in course follows a protracted dialogue between the county and homeowners who are concerned about changes the park would bring to their low-density neighborhood.

In a Dec. 16 letter to park neighbors and Woodinville city officials, Teigen described adjustments the county has made in light of concerns that had been raised.

The letter included a heads-up that the county was about to apply for a permit for grading work, an action it took the next day.

County leaders have promised to hold off on issuing permits or breaking ground until the County Council approves a formal park plan.

Another significant piece of the planning process could come in about a month, when county planners expect to issue a study gauging the park’s likely impact on people and the natural environment.

The environmental document must address points of contention that came up in legal challenges to the park plans earlier this year.

In April, Woodinville and the Neighbors to Save Wellington Hills Park group challenged the county’s plans under state growth-management laws. The sides agreed in November to dismiss the appeal at the Growth Management Hearings Board.

Woodinville wanted more study of traffic and drainage impacts. The nonprofit neighbors group raised concerns about traffic, noise and artificial light from park facilities designed to host athletic tournaments.

In early plans, the county described the future park as sports complex. More recently, Teigen has emphasized that the initial construction phase would preserve three-quarters of the parkland as woods or wetlands.

Compared to what the county had in mind earlier this year, the latest plans reduce parking spaces, increase road improvements and commit to more study about drainage, Teigen’s letter states. There are no plans to install sewers in the area.

Planners have reconfigured ballfields to increase the vegetation between athletic fields and houses. That would reduce glare from artificial lighting, which could be used no later than 9:40 p.m. at any time of the year.

Of the seven ballfields, three would be natural grass. Those would be open between early May and late October, during daylight only.

Four other synthetic-turf fields would be open year round.

As part of the park construction, Snohomish County plans to upgrade 240th Street SE, which runs thru the park, with wider lanes, sidewalks and a roundabout at the park entrance.

A future community building included in earlier plans wouldn’t materialize until later, and then only if nonprofits or other community organizations team up with the county to build it.

Meanwhile, a mountain bike park that an outside group wants to build isn’t likely to become a reality for years, Teigen said.

The land in question sits near the junction of Highway 522 and Highway 9, just up a hill from the Woodinville Costco. The Wellington Hills Golf Course operated there for 80 years before shutting down in 2012.

The county bought the land from the UW in early 2012 to satisfy a requirement of a 2005 legal agreement reached over King County’s Brightwater sewer plant. Part of the settlement required Snohomish County to provide a park of at least 40 acres with “primarily active recreation facilities for the broad community surrounding the treatment plant site.”

The park also had to be within four miles of the Brightwater plant located immediately northeast of Highways 9 and 522.

Snohomish County looked at several other parcels before buying the Wellington Hills property for $10 million. The county has another $13 million in settlement money for the park’s development. Brightwater money also paid for Tambark Creek Park near Mill Creek, which opened this summer, and Miner’s Corner Park near Bothell, which opened this month.

Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465; nhaglund@heraldent.com.

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