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County Council denies neighbors' appeal of Picnic Point development


August 10, 2016

A neighborhood group’s appeal of a hearing examiner’s decision to allow a developer to build homes in a Picnic Point gulch has been denied.

The Snohomish County Council on Aug. 8 affirmed with a 3-2 vote Hearing Examiner Peter Camp’s decision to permit a developer to build 112 homes in Frognal Estates on 22.3 acres in the Picnic Point neighborhood.

“We are very disappointed but not surprised, knowing that our county is sold-out pro-development,” said Emily Mydynski, president of the Picnic Point Preservation Committee, the neighborhood group.

The Preservation Committee appealed Camp’s decision with the argument that his proposed conditions won’t fix drainage issues and won’t keep children safe when walking to school.

Monday’s affirmation reiterated the hearing examiner’s conditions for approval, including tree retention and replacement, installation of sidewalks and crosswalks, and improved stormwater and erosion control.

The County Council did not add the neighborhood group’s concerns to the list of conditions for the project’s approval.

“We had hoped they would at least consider some of our concerns and be willing to provide some mitigations, such as sidewalks to the school,” Mydynski said. “We continue to believe that there are clear legal issues that preclude this development as planned.”

The public hearing on the Frognal Estates project was held July 19 and Aug. 1. A total of 14 residents spoke at the hearing, many of them sharing concerns about risks of mudslides and unsafe roads.

Councilmember Brian Sullivan and Stephanie Wright voted against the hearing examiner’s decision on Aug. 8.

“The environmental impact on the neighborhood wasn’t taken into consideration,” Sullivan said. “Impacts with traffic, roads, sidewalks and safety were not adequately addressed.”

He said he is most concerned because of the high density of homes planned for Frognal Estates. Whereas surrounding neighborhoods have a ratio of 4 houses to 1 acre, the new development would have a ratio of 18 to 1, he said.

“This is a situation where they’re still putting in single-family homes, but it’s tantamount to putting an apartment complex there because of the density,” Sullivan said.

When the Preservation Committee appealed the EIS last year, it argued that the scope is too limited and that if the property were clear-cut for homes, it would impact slopes, traffic and stormwater runoff.

The hearing examiner dismissed the committee’s appeal, affirming that the project’s EIS is “reasonably thorough.”

“If built as is, it will be very devastating to several homes and properties adjacent, let alone highly impactful to the roads, school and environment,” Mydynski said. “Sadly, it will significantly change our community. I know many people will be considering moving.”

Mydynski said the committee has yet to decide if it would appeal the County Council’s decision to Snohomish County Superior Court.

“We are still looking for help, evaluating our options and resources, but cheered that continuing to fight this development would take us to Superior Court, where we can get away from the biases of the county,” she said.

Sullivan agreed. He said he’s not a fan of the county’s appeal process. Sullivan would rather see appeals of hearing examiner decisions go straight to Superior Court, avoiding County Council biases.

“We receive campaign contributions from developers,” he said. “That taints our ability to be good jurists in a judicial situation like this.”

If there is no appeal, of if an appeal is denied in court, the developer has about two years to fulfill the project’s preconditions for approval.

Frognal Holdings LLC owns the property, which is in a gulch between Edmonds and Mukilteo. It is near 60th Avenue West and 58th Place West, south of Picnic Point Creek and north of Picnic Point Elementary.

“We think that the County Council’s decision to deny the appeal and affirm the hearing examiner’s decision on Frognal is appropriate, considering that the hearing for Frognal was thorough, detailed and extensive,” said John Lakhani, manager for Frognal Holdings.

“The appeal restates the same issues that were brought up in the hearing and disregard the evidence produced at the Frognal hearing.”

Councilmembers who voted to allow the project could not be reached for comment before The Beacon’s deadline.

The Picnic Point Preservation Committee, formerly the Mukilteo-Edmonds Action Committee, has been fighting the plans for 10 years to make sure the risks of development are properly mitigated.

The group is interested in purchasing the property from the developer so that it can be saved as a park with trails that connect to about 200 acres of county parkland, including Picnic Point Park.

Last year, with a push from the Preservation Committee, Snohomish County required the developer to study the impacts of building on the property in an Environmental Impact Statement.

The EIS evaluated the potential impacts of moving large amounts of dirt on a site with steep slopes and the potential downstream effects of the development on Picnic Point Creek.

Since then, about 1,000 residents have shared their concerns with Snohomish County about the scope of the EIS.

In addition, the Tulalip Tribes, cities of Mukilteo and Lynnwood, and the Sno-King Watershed Council wrote letters with concerns and/or opposition to the development.

For more information, go to http://www.snohomishcountywa.gov/2541/frognal-estates.


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