Plan for county park at Wellington Hills delayed

MALTBY — Snohomish County has gently slowed down its timetable for developing a regional sports complex at Wellington Hills, though things could pick up next year.

The original schedule called for adopting a master plan this fall. Now, county parks director expects to send the County Council a proposed road map for development in February or March, then seek building permits once a plan is approved.

Some neighbors continue to voice strong objections to the county’s vision for the 100-acre park, which includes synthetic-turf ballfields, night lights and two buildings for indoor sports.

“We slowed down and kept listening to people,” Director Tom Teigen said last week. “We want to make sure that everybody can continue to work through the process with us.”

The park department’s draft master plan for Wellington Hills met with a favorable 9-1 vote during a Nov. 13 meeting of the county’s Parks Advisory Board.

The room was filled with about 30 opponents of the plan, according to Todd Bailey, a neighbor who has taken a leading role organizing community opposition.

“It may have passed with the park board, but the room had more people opposed to the park then in favor,” he said. “So if the vote went to the room, the master plan would not have been approved.”

Bailey and other members of the group Neighbors to Save Wellington Park believe a sports park isn’t appropriate or needed for their area.

Teigen says the sports fields were an implicit promise when Snohomish County received settlement money from King County in 2005 to compensate for location of the Brightwater sewage treatment plant in the Maltby area. The county used nearly $10 million of that money earlier this year to buy the Wellington Hills property from the University of Washington, and expects to spend another $10 million developing the park.

A nine-hole golf course on the property closed at the end of September, after more than 80 years of operation. After that, the county fenced in the course’s parking lot.

Teigen has been fielding questions about whether the park would hurt neighbors’ property values or create a glut of sports fields in the area.

He says neither will happen.

The parks director also has defended the county’s intention to include facilities at Wellington Hills that the public would have to pay to use. He points out that in the past, people had to pay to golf there.

People will have more chances to comment on or appeal the plan before it is sent to the County Council for adoption. Environmental studies are ongoing.

Meantime, plans are evolving to build up 240th Street SE, which runs through the park property. Proposed improvements include new sidewalks, a round-about and wider lanes.

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

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