Council requests another extension for east Monroe rezone

East Monroe was back on the agenda on Tuesday, Aug. 11, as the Monroe City Council held discussion on whether to request an extension from the Washington State Growth Management Hearings Board (GMHB). Proposed by property owner Heritage Baptist Church, the highly contested east Monroe rezone has been on the docket for about a decade.

The controversial land-use action has been in a state of flux since the ordinances rezoning the 42.8-acre parcel from Limited Open Space (LOS) to General Commercial (GC) passed in a special Monroe City Council session on Thursday, Dec. 26, 2013. A group of citizens petitioned the GMHB, alleging that the rezone was noncompliant with the Growth Management Act (GMA) and that the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) done by PACE Engineers of Kirkland was deficient.

Many of the residents opposed to the rezone live on the ridge above the property, which is located east of Woods Creek on the north side of U.S. 2, and cite flooding, wetlands and landslides as concerns. Last August, the GMHB found that the EIS failed to comply with RCW 43.21C.030 and GMA Planning Goal 10, which directly relates to environmental concerns.

The GMHB remanded the ordinances back to the city with a determination of invalidity and the EIS was deemed inadequate. The GMHB set a compliance deadline of February 23, 2015, giving the city six months to complete a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) addressing the deficiencies found in the original EIS.

The council passed a motion in December authorizing the city attorney to request a six-month extension, which pushed the compliance deadline out to Aug. 21, 2015. Staffing shortages and work on the city's Comprehensive Plan have necessitated another extension request.

PACE Engineering has been actively engaged in its scope-of-work plan, which includes a hydraulic flood rise analysis, hydrologic and hydrogeological assessments and geotechnical analysis of landslide risks. -á -á

Once the draft SEIS is complete, it will be reviewed by city staff and issued to the public for a 30-day public comment period. Once the comments have been reviewed and written responses filed, both the planning commission and the city council can proceed with public hearings.-á

Monroe Community Development Director Dave Osaki asked the council to authorize the city attorney to request an additional extension of up to six months to complete the process.

Councilmember Kurt Goering was opposed to the six-month time frame.

"I am not comfortable with a six-month time period, I'll just be straightforward about that,GÇ¥ Goering said. "I'd be much more comfortable with something like a date of Dec. 1. That's four months from now.GÇ¥

Councilmember Ed Davis agreed, stating the rezone should be the city's first priority.-á

"I would like to see this done as soon as possible,GÇ¥ Davis said. "This should not run into next year under any circumstances.GÇ¥

Councilmembers Hanford and Kamp were in agreement with the Dec. 1 deadline.

Osaki explained the request was for a time frame of up to six months because it could be problematic to have to go back and request an additional extension.

"You don't want to be in the position to have to go back if you can avoid it,GÇ¥ Osaki said. "That's why it was written as "up to six months,' because that's consistent with the prior extension request.GÇ¥

Councilmember Patsy Cudaback has been long opposed to the rezone, which has cost the city more than $195,540 in legal fees and staff time. It has also been costly for the landowner, Heritage Baptist Church, which agreed to foot the bill for the supplemental environmental analysis.

"I've heard a couple councilmembers say this is the highest priority,GÇ¥ Cudaback said. "That's debatable, and I happen to disagree with that. I think there's lots of other priorities.GÇ¥

Goering moved to authorize the city attorney to request an extension from the Growth Management Hearings Board, altering the city's recommended motion by including a compliance date of Dec. 1, 2015. The motion passed 4-2, with councilmembers Cudaback and Jason Gamble dissenting.

Photo by Chris Hendrickson A small landslide occurred at the north end of the rezone property in February of 2015. Residents of the area have cited concerns over landslides in relation to the rezone of the property, which would allow for more significant development.


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