Hearings on YarrowBay's developments The Villages and Lawson Hills moving towards completion

The marathon of hearings on the two YarrowBay developments, The Villages and Lawson Hills, continued through this week and appears to be nearing the finish line.

The process began March 6 with the appeal hearing of the final environmental impact statement or FEIS. Phil Olbrechts, the hearing examiner, will decide on the adequacy of the FEIS. The only decision for Olbrechts is up or down on the adequacy of the FEIS. There will be no conditional decision.

The second phase of hearings are the master planned development application, MPD, or land use permit.

For the MPD application, the hearing examiner makes a recommendation whether to approve or not. The recommendation from the hearing examiner can be conditional, meaning Olbrechts could recommend approving the application with some added mitigation.

According to Olbrechts, both decisions will be submitted by mid April.

The MPD hearing began March 10 when YarrowBay and the city gave presentations of the proposed development.

Thursday was the first time for public testimony with about 200 people showing up at Black Diamond Elementary. Many spoke passionately about their fears and concerns of the development, which would construct about 6,000 single family and multi-family dwellings along with commercial and office space.

Jay McElroy said he has lived on the Green Valley Road for eight years.

“We all come out here for the same reason, to get away from density,” McElroy said. “If this MPD is developed it will change our life forever.”

Jack Sperry said he was concerned with the potential flooding of Lake Sawyer from storm water runoff.

Board members from the Enumclaw School District spoke and district Superintendent Mike Nelson spoke at the hearing.

Nelson said the school district is working on a “parallel agreement” with YarrowBay for schools. He noted if the district and YarrowBay do not reach an agreement the “MPD must provide for schools.”

Cathy Dahlquist, school board member and Nancy Merrill, president of the board, also stated the importance of providing for schools in the MPD.

“Everyone knows good communities build good schools,” Merrill said. “And good schools make good communities.”

The final speaker of the night was Gomer Evans, a former mayor of Black Diamond and council member. He spoke in support of the development.

“This is our town,” Evans said. “This is our voice. We need to be heard and this plan is right for those of us who live here and know the town the best.”

The MPD hearing continued Friday and Monday. Olbrechts was hoping to finish Wednesday with the public testimony.

The city of Auburn submitted written comments Monday at the MPD hearing from Kevin Snyder, interim planning and development director.

The city is requesting traffic mitigation conditions be required for MPD approval of the projects. Auburn’s requests include an updated transportation study and mitigation based on the study.

The FEIS appeal hearings also continued last week and the hope is the proceedings can be wrapped up Friday.

Most of the testimony this week has centered on witnesses for YarrowBay and the city of Black Diamond supporting the mitigation findings in the FEIS.

Al Fure, a civil engineer, testified about storm water issues and phosphorous. Andy Kindig from the Bellevue firm AC Kindig, testified about the water quality reports.

John Perlic, from Parametrix, provided testimony regarding the traffic impacts and mitigation.

Perlic spent considerable time on the stand during direct and cross-examination describing the traffic models used by Parametrix for the impacts and mitigation in the FEIS document.

David Bricklin from the Seattle firm Bricklin and Newman represented the appellants including Cindy Proctor and Cindy Wheeler, called Natarajan Janarthanan from the Bellevue firm, Fehr and Peers, Maple Valley’s traffic expert.

Janarthanan also testified for Maple Valley during the MPD hearing.

Janarthanan contends there is large difference in traffic distribution between the Maple Valley model developed by Janarthanan and the model used by Parametrix. The city of Maple Valley believes the impact on state Route 169 in Maple Valley will be much greater than is stated in the FEIS and there should be mitigation to reflect this.

A legal spat broke out Tuesday evening when Bob Sterbank of Kenyon Disend representing Black Diamond asked for documents presented by Janarthanan to not be entered into evidence, because Sterbank was not present at the MPD hearing Friday and was not able to cross-examine Janarthanan.

The hearing examiner allowed Janarthanan to testify Friday.

Olbrechts noted MPD testimony was public and prior notice was not required, even for expert witnesses.

Sterbank contended Maple Valley was attempting to get Janarthanan’s testimony into the record with a “backdoor method. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.”

Maple Valley City Attorney Christy Todd said Sterbank complaint was “really about the lack of preparation” by Black Diamond’s attorney for Janarthanan’s testimony.

Maple Valley was not allowed to join the FEIS hearing as an appellant because the city missed the filing deadline for the appeal.

Prior to the hearings, Maple Valley filed a motion to intervene requesting to be added as an appellant, stating Black Diamond’s code was not clear concerning the appeal hearing. The motion was denied by the hearing examiner and the city of Black Diamond.

As the jousting escalated between the attorneys Tuesday evening, Sterbank requested Olbrechts issue a subpoena for the traffic analysis report prepared by Janarthanan for Maple Valley.

Todd pointed out a subpoena was being issued for a MPD document and cross-examination had been closed.

She also noted it may not be possible to provide the documents in 24 hours since the city did not know Janarthanan’s availability.

Olbrechts said he could issue a subpoena, but he was not convinced he had the authority as a hearing examiner to compel Maple Valley to turn over the documents. He said he would let the Maple Valley and Black Diamond attorneys fight that one out.

The hearing examiner said he would rule later on whether to admit the documents Janarthanan presented during his MPD testimony.

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