Woodway fields opponent files appeal to overturn Edmonds City Council permitting decision

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Signs from Edmonds-Heights K-12 families protesting the sports fields project line the fencing outside the planned location for the project.
Signs from Edmonds-Heights K-12 families protesting the Woodway sports fields renovation were fastened Tuesday to the fence next to planned project.

A neighbor living a half-block from a multi-use sports fields project planned for Edmonds School District land adjacent to the former Woodway High School has filed an appeal in Snohomish County Superior Court to overturn the Edmonds City Council’s land use decision regarding the property.

In legal action filed last week, Edmonds resident Mark Wall asked the court to overturn the council’s May 5, 2015 final decision to approve a conditional use permit for bleachers and fencing for the sports fields project jointly planned by the City of Edmonds, the Edmonds School District and Verdant Health Commission. The council decision followed a closed-record review of City Hearing Examiner Phil Olbrechts’ April 10 recommendation that a permit be approved for bleachers and fencing, but not field lights on the property, located off 100th Avenue West in the Westgate neighborhood.

Wall is asking for the court to deny the requested permits for the project. School district spokeswoman Debbie Joyce Jakala said Wednesday that the project contractor is planning to install temporary construction fencing and erosion control around the Woodway fields site starting next Monday, June 1, but she was unable to comment further about the district’s response to the legal action.

Wall was an official “party of record” during the Hearing Examiner’s March 26 open record hearing, presenting testimony after spending “tens of thousands of dollars and two months of my time” researching the issues related to project proposal, he said in an interview Tuesday.

Hearing Examiner Olbrechts in his April 10 recommendation cited a traffic engineering report prepared by Wall as a reason for denying field lights for the project, noting the lights would lead to extended field use, which in turn “has the potential for generating traffic that is significantly detrimental to public safety and welfare.”

Olbrects referenced Wall’s report of “both national and local trip generation studies of similar multipurpose fields experience heavy demand throughout a majority of the year, especially when combined with field lighting to provide late afternoon/early evening tournaments, games and practice events on sports fields.”

Wall said he decided to appeal the city council’s decision because “I just want someone to be held accountable” for impacts of the three-phase project, which eventually could include a walking track, resurfaced tennis and basketball courts, four-year-round multi-use turf fields, concessions and bleachers.

A $2.5 million grant by the Verdant is funding the first phase, which would include two sports fields, bleachers and safety fencing. The school district withdrew the request for lights after Olbrechts recommended against approving them, but officials have said the district is likely to reapply for lights at a later date. There is no funding available currently for phases two and three.

In his appeal, Wall said that the project will affect his “use and enjoyment” of his Nottingham Road property due to increased noise, parking and congestion (and lights if they are eventually included), and that activities generated by the fields project will also have “adverse wildlife impacts.” (During the hearing examiner’s hearing, Susie Schaefer of Pilchuck Audubon Society offered testimony about the possible impacts to wildlife that currently inhabits the area.)

Wall’s appeal noted that the city council not only erred in approving a conditional use permit for bleachers and fencing but it also erroneously authorized the project to be permitted and reviewed in segments — with separate approvals required for fencing, bleachers and lighting. “Such bifurcation had the effect of preventing a unified review of the project and its impacts; preventing the ADB (city’s Architectural Design Board), examiner, and council from basing their decisions on full information and facts consistent with applicable law,” the appeal said.

The appeal also faulted the city council for approving Phase 1 permits even though the school district, “as the SEPA (State Environmental Policy Act) lead agency for creation of a new regional sports facility,” didn’t conduct a traffic analysis of the project’s impacts, which led to a declaration of non-significance (DNS) for the project. That omission was brought to light during the Hearing Examiner’s hearing, but the district refused to reconsider the DNS, and the city council erred when it agreed to that action, the appeal said.

The legal action filed last week also makes mention of another controversial aspect of the Woodway fields project — the artificial turf proposed for the site. An active group of opponents — including parents of students attending nearby Edmonds Heights K-12 school and project neighbors — have been raising concerns about what they believe are potentially unsafe environmental and health impacts. Since synthetic turf fields are “a major project element,” the council should have required a conditional use application for their incorporation into the project, Wall’s appeal said.

Also cited in the appeal was the assertion that the council’s approval violates a 1965 deed restriction that requires the property to be used “for school site and educational purposes.” Wall said Tuesday this relates to the fact that the fields will be used for adult recreational leagues.

You can see the complete land use appeal document here.

The Woodway fields project is located next to the former Woodway High building at 23200 100th Ave. W. The building now houses Edmonds Heights K-12 school, Scriber Lake High School and the district’s V.O.I.C.E. program.

Planning for the Woodway fields renovation has been underway for 10 years, and voters approved $500,000 in seed money for the project in 2008 through the district’s Technology/Capital levy. The City of Edmonds is scheduled to provide maintenance and operations support under a pending agreement.

 

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