Houses at the end of the 2100 block of 93rd Drive SE in Lake Stevens used to front a forest. Now the property has been clearcut to make way for a new Costco store near the intersection of Highway 9 and 20th Street SE. (Chuck Taylor / The Herald)

Houses at the end of the 2100 block of 93rd Drive SE in Lake Stevens used to front a forest. Now the property has been clearcut to make way for a new Costco store near the intersection of Highway 9 and 20th Street SE. (Chuck Taylor / The Herald)

Lake Stevens neighbors mourn 1,000s of trees at Costco site

A woodland off 20th Street SE has been leveled, leaving wildlife in search of new habitat.

LAKE STEVENS — The lush green backdrop residents on 93rd Drive SE once enjoyed has turned brown, hot and dusty.

Costco construction is underway.

“The trees are gone,” said Doug Turner, former owner of Turner’s Grocery and a member of Livable Lake Stevens.

Environmental degradation is a byproduct of development, something that Livable Lake Stevens, a group that opposed the construction of Costco, attempted to prevent through a Land Use Petition Act lawsuit.

Developers say they plan to plant three trees for every mature tree they cut. But not all of those will be on the Costco land off 20th Street SE. When all is said and done, nearly 2,000 will be planted on the nearly 40-acre lot. The rest, more than 3,000, will be planted elsewhere. The company, according to a memo from Costco’s wetland, stream, traffic, geotechnical and stormwater consultants, also will provide a monetary contribution to the city’s tree fund.

In the meantime, the site will be canopy-deprived.

“And that means this backyard is going to be hot — not just warm — but I mean truly hot,” said Lake Stevens resident Beth Phillips.

When Beth and Richard Phillips open the gate on their fence today, they see mulch, stumps and dust where verdant, towering trees once stood.

The couple is hiring an arborist to help plant trees that will bring back the shade and clean air on their property they once took for granted.

In just one year, a mature tree will absorb more than 48 pounds of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, according to the Arbor Day Foundation.

Lake Stevens city code requires developers to retain all existing “significant trees” unless “the retention of such trees would unreasonably burden the development or in the opinion of the Planning Director cause a significant safety problem.”

Backyards in the 2100 block of 93rd Drive SE in Lake Stevens used to abut a forest. The property has been clearcut to make way for a Costco store. (Chuck Taylor / The Herald)

Backyards in the 2100 block of 93rd Drive SE in Lake Stevens used to abut a forest. The property has been clearcut to make way for a Costco store. (Chuck Taylor / The Herald)

Costco’s project will also result in the loss of 1.84 acres of wetlands, which is being offset by creating 0.82 acres of wetlands on a neighboring site and buying credits in Snohomish County’s wetland mitigation bank. The company must also remove three off-site culverts impeding fish passage into a tributary of Mosher Creek and replace three others with a rerouted stream.

Just a few weeks into work, residents complained that the Costco construction site has brought clouds of dust, noise and wild animals into their yards.

It’s a normal process of construction, City Council President Kim Daughtry said.

In late June, Beth Phillips called the Lake Stevens Police Department when she was concerned her fence may be damaged by contractors cutting brush and trees. According to the call log, the officer advised Phillips to contact the city for clarification.

“I’m always open for calls about things and talking about concerns and finding out the information if I don’t know — I’m always for that,” Daughtry said. “That’s what our job is.”

Daughtry said he hasn’t been out to the construction site recently, but typically developers are required to spray the site with water to keep down dust. He added that city code stipulates construction-related noise shouldn’t be occurring outside of daylight hours — 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Turner, who lives about a half-mile from the Costco site, said he has seen more deer, coyotes, owls and hawks in his neighborhood since construction began.

Suzanne West, executive director of the Sarvey Wildlife Care Center, said there are calls from residents in Lake Stevens regarding wildlife in neighborhoods every year. However, there will always be more displaced wildlife when development occurs.

“When you knock out an entire block of habitat, you’re going to push something out,” West said. “Unfortunately sometimes they don’t make it because they’re getting hit by cars because they’re going into areas they’ve never been before.”

While birds can fly to a new forest, small mammals such as coyotes and raccoons are more likely to end up on residents’ decks or backyards when developers knock down their habitat, West said.

The Sarvey Wildlife Care Center encourages residents to discourage wildlife from taking residence at their property by scaring them off with loud noises and keeping pet food and trash locked up.

If residents find orphaned or injured wildlife they can call the Sarvey Wildlife Care Center at 360-435-4817.

Mayor Brett Gailey did not immediately respond to request for comment.

Isabella Breda: 425-339-3192; isabella.breda@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @BredaIsabella.

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