Citing frustration with Sound Transit, council pulls right of way discussion off agenda

When the Mountlake Terrace City Council holds it business meeting Monday, June 19, it will not be taking up an issue proposed by city staff last week for action: authorizing the city manager to sign and execute an agreement with Sound Transit that allows construction of the Link Light Rail Project in city-owned right of way.

Councilmembers during their June 15 work/study session decided to remove that item from Monday night’s agenda, citing their ongoing frustration with what they say is Sound Transit’s lack of responsiveness to concerns about how light rail construction will impact Mountlake Terrace and its residents.

Other items on the Monday night’s agenda include approval of a three-year extension of an interlocal agreement with the Edmonds School District for community use of the Mountlake Terrace High School multi-use fields; reappointment of Ann Nygard and Bonnie Mercer to the Arts Advisory Commission and the following three members to Recreation and Parks Advisory Commission: Amelia Anthony, James Culver and Steve Woodard; a public hearing on to consider and adopt proposed ordinances to update the city’s building and fire codes; and continued discussion of a new city hall.

Regarding the Sound Transit request, City Manager Scott Hugill explained to the council Thursday night that when the Lynnwood Link light rail extension passes through Mountlake Terrace, it needs to cross through two right of ways that are city owned: 222nd Street Southwest, a forested area just south of Melody Hill, and on 60th Avenue West just north of interim city hall.

The proposed transit way agreement would allow the agency to pass over city right of way at those two locations. It also spells out what types of steps Sound Transit would need to take if they needed to close off the area for maintenance or other purposes, Hugill said.

Sound Transit is pursuing the agreements with every jurisdiction they have to go through or above to make sure that they have access. The agency will be crossing over 236th Street and under 228th Street, but those are State Department of Transportation right of ways that don’t require a city agreement, Hugill said.

“What if we say no?” responded Councilmember Laura Sonmore, who pointed to the impact of construction on the Melody Hill neighborhood and asked if Sound Transit would pay for the trees they will be cutting down as part of the light rail project. “I’m getting pretty tired of this, just taking whatever they want and doing whatever they want,” she said. “We’re not seeing a whole lot of participation on their half.”

Hugill replied that compensation wasn’t part of the right of way agreement. When it comes to replanting trees that are taken down during construction, that issue will be discussed as part of Sound Transit’s conditional use permit for the project, Hugill said.

The exact number of trees that will be lost to light rail construction isn’t clear, but Hugill said he would look into that and report back to the council.

“I agree with Councilmember Sonmore on this,” said Councilmember Bryan Wahl. “Sound Transit doesn’t play nice with others.” Wahl said he was also concerned about the mitigation for trees lost, and also brought up the city’s need for additional parking, which has been an ongoing issue for the council. The current Mountlake Terrace Transit Center parking garage at 236th Street Southwest is already full by 7 a.m. each weekday, and Sound Transit has said it doesn’t intend to construct any additional parking once the light rail station opens in 2023.

“Why is it that Sound Transit seems to have all this authority?” asked Councilmember Seaun Richards. “They are not playing fair with everyone else. It’s my understanding that all of the cities involved are having problems with Sound Transit. Is there anything we can do about that?”

“Yeah,” responded Wahl. “Drag our feet a little bit.”

Wahl later asked if the council could delay a discussion on the right of way until other issues the city had with Sound Transit regarding the 236th Street light rail station were resolved. “Let’s force them to work on and focus on that issue and then we’ll deal with this issue,” Wahl said.

Hugill replied that Sound Transit wants to get to the next stage of its planning process, which involves federal dollars. And the agency can’t get that money until right of way agreements are secured, so it is hoping to move rapidly.

“I think we can all appreciate that and the need for speed,” Wahl said. “All right, we know you (Sound Transit) need to deal quickly with this issue. We have our own issues that we’ve been trying to deal with for years now, with Sound Transit, which they’ve not been coming to the table and talking with us, until just recently.

“Well now they are at the table on those issues and it’s time to resolve those issues. And then we will worry about their issues,” Wahl added.

As a result of councilmembers’ concerns, Hugill said he would pull the right of way item off Monday’s agenda.

You can see the complete agenda the June 19 business meeting here. The meeting begins at 7 p.m. in interim City Hall, 6100 219th St. S.W., 2nd Floor.

— By Teresa Wippel


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