Workers begin clearing Wednesday for the long-contested Frognal Estates development near Picnic Point. Neighbors and environmental groups oppose the 112-home subdivision, which they say poses risks to a salmon-bearing stream and could increase the chance of landslides. (Noah Haglund / The Herald)

Workers begin clearing Wednesday for the long-contested Frognal Estates development near Picnic Point. Neighbors and environmental groups oppose the 112-home subdivision, which they say poses risks to a salmon-bearing stream and could increase the chance of landslides. (Noah Haglund / The Herald)

Trees fall at Frognal development as activists look on

A developer is taking initial steps ahead of major logging and grading at the Picnic Point project.

PICNIC POINT — Workers started blazing a path through the woods Wednesday morning to prepare land for a subdivision that neighbors have been fighting since 2005.

Earlier this week, neighbors parked cars strategically along 58th Place West to prevent crews from working on the Frognal Estates development. They thought they were parked legally.

On Wednesday, sheriff’s deputies informed them otherwise. A few neighbors moved vehicles on short notice but one car was impounded.

“What a shameful, shameful thing you guys are doing,” Julie Meghji scolded orange-vested workers later that morning, after the excavator trundled into the woods near Picnic Point Elementary School. Men in hardhats and safety vests soon trekked up the same path with chainsaws.

Meghji lives in Redmond now, but earlier called the Picnic Point area home for about a decade.

During that time, she grew concerned that developing Frognal would harm a salmon-bearing stream nearby, among other impacts.

“This is not a NIMBY issue,” Meghji said. “There have been lots of documented landslides in this valley.”

If completed, Frognal would put 112 homes on about 22 acres. It’s within Mukilteo’s future annexation area. While other large land parcels in the area were developed long ago, building on the steep, environmentally sensitive terrain has proven more challenging.

A developer started seeking permits from Snohomish County 13 years ago, initially under the name of Horseman’s Trail. The Frognal title derives from a London neighborhood.

Representatives from Everett-based Integral Northwest met with county planners last week to discuss the upcoming work. President & CEO John Lakhani said Monday that crews are preparing to build erosion-control fences required before more extensive logging can take place.

Opponents have fought the project to the state Court of Appeals, where judges this spring ruled in the developer’s favor.

The nonprofit Sno-King Watershed Council filed a petition Tuesday asking the King County Superior Court to put an immediate halt to clearing at the site, until larger questions about the project can be aired in court.

A hearing is set for Friday morning. The Watershed Council contends there are insufficient measures in place to control storm runoff and that no work should take place during the rainy season.

“For whatever reason, Frognal is choosing to commence its logging and grading activities at the worst time of the year,” wrote the group’s attorneys.

The Watershed Council also is petitioning the court to overturn forestry and grading permits for the project. A hearing is scheduled in mid-February.

Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465; Twitter: @NWhaglund.

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