Happy trails?

  • Amy Daybert<br>Enterprise editor
  • Monday, March 3, 2008 12:59pm


The next step in determining whether a Lake Forest Park City Council ordinance violates federal, state and county trail development standards for the Burke Gilman Trail will be by July 23 in the form of a state Growth Management Hearings Board decision.

At a hearing on June 1, Andrew Marcuse, the attorney representing King County, began his opening statement by giving background of Burke Gilman trail landscape, usage and history. He told board members the county wishes to redevelop the approximately two-mile “heavily used” and oldest portion of the trail through Lake Forest Park but is unable to proceed due to ordinance 951 adopted by Lake Forest Park City Council in January.

“Applications for both state and local government permits should be processed in a timely and fair manner to ensure predictability,” Marcuse said, quoting the state Growth Management Act (GMA) planning goal seven. He said the city ordinance violates the GMA because it lacks “direction and sideboards” that would guide administrative decisions in timely, fair and predictable manners.

“If you must have 12 feet of landscaping unless it is determined that 12 feet is not practical, how do you determine that?” Marcuse said. “What are the boundaries?”

While the ordinance defines a multi-use and multi-purpose trail as a “paved recreational path for non-motorized users that connects with or continues with such paths in other cities” the county contends that authority to grant conditional use requirements on the Burke Gilman Trail would place the rights of homeowners and motorists above those of trail users. Trail crossings, speed limits and yield signs are all among possible requirements of the conditional use process.

Jeff Eustis, attorney for Cascade Bicycle Club who is also appealing the ordinance, said the ordinance allows the city to deny or second guess decisions to improve an existing public facility such as the Burke Gilman Trail and imposes “unreasonable and unfeasible conditions not in compliance with the GMA.”

“Rather than encouraging the use of an existing facility for non-motorized transportation … (the ordinance) discourages it,” he said.

Eustis also said the city does not refute county claims that the ordinance was adopted without compliance with the State Environmental Protection Act (SEPA) and the criteria should have been considered before or during the process instead of at its conclusion.

Lake Forest Park city attorney Michael Ruark said the city has exercised good faith and integrity throughout their decision-making and appeals process.

“The city is being characterized as an exclusionist when in fact nothing could be further from the truth,” he said.

Ruark told board members driveways along the Burke Gilman Trail can serve up to 30 homes and the city provides services such as emergency aid along the portion of trail through Lake Forest Park. He said the city agrees the trail is a public facility but questioned whether the trail is in fact an essential public facility.

Addressing the county’s concern over language used in the ordinance, assistant city attorney Rosemary Larson said phrases are compatible with development and are used in practically every contract.

“(Ordinance) 951 is much more specific than criteria in other conditional use processes,” she said.

Larson also said the city complied with SEPA requirements including a 60-day notice and determination of non-significance when the city adopted ordinance 958, re-enacting ordinance 951 in March.

“We’re not accusing the city of having bad intent,” Marcuse said. “Even good jurisdictions make mistakes.”

Representatives from both sides are aware that should the board not rule in their favor, a court date may be in the future.

“We’re hopeful but if we don’t get what we want here we’ll go to court,” Cascade Bicycle Club advocacy director David Hiller said.

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