Development ban won’t help North Creek residents

  • Alexis Bacharach<br>Mill Creek Enterprise editor
  • Monday, March 3, 2008 11:56am

It seems residents in the North Creek area can’t quite catch a break.

They’ve been trying for almost a year to stop construction of more than 200 houses around their neighborhoods off of North Road and 164th Street SW/SE in unincorporated Bothell.

Letters, public testimony and reports from environmental experts, claiming the proposed construction sites along North Creek will wreak havoc on protected wetlands; have carried little weight in the building permit process.

Residents crossed their fingers last month that a temporary ban on development along 164th Street would bring an end to their nightmare once and for all.

No such luck.

The development ban, ordered by the Snohomish County Council in response to traffic backups on one of the county’s most frequently traveled roads, does not apply to developments already engaged in the permit process. It simply prevents developers temporarily from getting building permits for construction projects that will add more than two vehicle trips per evening rush hour.

The ban should be lifted in November, when the County Council is expected to declare 164th Street at ultimate capacity — a designation allowing controlled development on roadways that cannot be expanded or improved to alleviate traffic problems.

“So, it’s just one more dead end,” Gravenstein resident Becky Johnson said. “We’re starting to run out of options, but we’re not giving up.”

She and other members of the Gravenstein Neighborhood Group are still hoping the county will order Environmental Impact Statements for the proposed developments — Berry Place, Normandy Park, Gracie’s Place I and Gracie’s Place II.

County staff reviewing the projects are expected to issue their determinations within the month whether or not the projects will have significant impacts on the environment.

If determinations of non-significance are issued, the projects will receive hearing dates for final approval.

Johnson and her cohorts are doing everything in their power to prevent that from happening.

Several neighborhood residents on a recent excursion to North Creek Park stopped joggers, dog walkers and other park visitors to show them where sections of the dense tree line will be replaced by rooftops and other signs of development.

“Maybe if more people actually knew what was at stake, the county would have a harder time shoving through these developments,” Gravenstein resident Patrick Riley said. “This is just one more example of Snohomish County’s ‘Gross Mismanagement Act.’”

It’s not just the North Creek neighborhood that residents are concerned about, said Riley’s wife, Diana Riley.

“I feel like we’re being cheated out of a park,” she said. “Back in 1993, the areas where all these developments are going in were identified as future parklands. This area could be the crown jewel of Snohomish County parks.”

The loss of wildlife habitat coupled with the danger of increased traffic on quiet, residential streets, should mean something to local lawmakers, Diana said.

Members of the Gravenstein Neighborhood Group are hoping the temporary development ban on 164th Street — while it doesn’t apply to proposed developments in North Creek neighborhoods — is a sign that county leaders will review with more scrutiny the impact of development on local roads.

“If they’re serious about dealing with traffic problems, we still have some hope that these developments won’t go through,” Johnson said. “They’ve already built like 15 percent more than they had projected for 2020. We can’t keep going like this.”

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