PICNIC POINT — Neighbors parked cars to block heavy equipment from reaching the site of the long-contested Frognal Estates housing development on Monday morning.
The developer, Integral Northwest, has permits to put up erosion-control fences and log the property near Picnic Point Road, according to Snohomish County planners.
The mini confrontation ended after a brief stalemate. A deputy responded, but issued no citations or warnings. The workers left.
“Almost all of that site is designated as an erosion-hazard area, meaning that if there’s bare soil, it will probably erode,” said Bill Lider, an engineer with the Sno-King Watershed Council, a group fighting the project in court. “To go in and clear-cut and construct roads in the wet season — it’s irresponsible for the county to let them do that work.”
The Watershed Council intends to seek a court order this week to stay the initial work, Lider said.
The group also is pursuing a land-use petition in King County Superior Court to challenge a Snohomish County grading permit that’s necessary for more earthwork to take place. A court hearing in mid-February could determine whether the developer can move forward with the more extensive grading.
If completed, Frognal Estates would put 112 homes on about 22 acres. The property borders Picnic Point Elementary School and the Regatta Estates subdivision along Picnic Point Road, which the same developer built in the 1990s. Monday’s confrontation occurred on a street in Regatta Estates.
Managing drainage and erosion make it challenging to develop the steep, forested property. Opponents worry about consequences for nearby Picnic Point Creek, especially if any logging is allowed this winter.
Permit applications have been pending since 2005, originally under the name Horseman’s Trail. Progress slowed during the recession, but by 2015, an environmental impact statement was complete.
The county hearing examiner later approved the project. Neighbors have appealed that decision all the way to the state Court of Appeals, which ruled in the developer’s favor this past spring.
County planners say the initial work is allowed.
John Lakhani, president and CEO of Everett-based Integral Northwest, said his company had recent discussions with the county about this week’s activities.
The work was scheduled “pursuant to a pre-construction conference that was held with the county last week at the site, attended by all our consultants, contractor and the county representative,” Lakhani wrote in an email to The Daily Herald.
Critics of the development had sent County Executive Dave Somers 82 emails as of Monday morning, according to a spokesman.