By Sally Gillie, Monitor A citizen’s appeal challenging the city of Monroe’s findings that a wakeboard park on Lake Tye would have non-significant environmental impacts has been denied.
The decision, handed down Dec. 11 by city hearing examiner Carl Cox, means the city and park developers can move forward in the permitting process for the wakeboard park.
Cox’s ruling, however, calls for safety measures to help keep birds from colliding into the cables and guy wires at the proposed park. The ruling calls for bird diverters, or other line visibility devices, to be installed on or alongside the cables and guy wires as a safety precaution.
The park’s developers, H3O of Sammamish, are also required under the decision to provide a written contingency plan that lays out criteria for evaluating whether these diverting measures lead to an unacceptable loss or injury to wintering waterfowl, including discussions to consider removing the cables in winter.
In Cox’s decision, he stated that the appeal brought by Monroe resident Diane Elliott made a compelling argument regarding those hazards posed to bird populations who frequent Lake Tye. The lake lies in the migratory corridor for many bird species, including the trumpeter swan, and is also frequented by hawks, eagles and cormorants.
Avian power line collisions have occurred at the lake in recent years, taking the lives of trumpeter swans, cormorants and ducks, according to wildlife biologist Martha Jordan of the Trumpeter Swan Society, who testified on behalf of Elliott’s appeal before the hearing examiner on Nov. 16. Elliott’s appeal challenged the city’s SEPA determination of non-significance for the wakeboard park on several grounds. I
n addition to bird collisions, she claimed the city’s SEPA review failed to adequately address noise impacts, traffic congestion, effects of the wake action on the shoreline, and the fact that the wake could stir up contaminants that might be in the water.
But Cox’s decision found these other impacts stated in Elliott’s appeal did not provide substantial evidence that the city’s determination of non-significance was “clearly erroneous,” as needs to be shown under state law.
The decision said the wakeboard applicant and the city’s critical areas study, geotechnical report and transportation impact analysis “provided relevant and detailed information concerning impacts to plant and wildlife, including migratory birds and waterfowl at Lake Tye,” and also, “included detailed analysis of impacts to the community and transportation system.”
As a result, the city can go forward with its application to the state Department of Ecology for a shoreline substantial development as required by law. The application for a shoreline conditional use permit, also required to be approved by the state DOE, will be considered by the council at its upcoming Dec. 18 meeting.
Elliott said she hasn’t decided whether or not she will ask for a reconsideration of the hearing examiner’s decision. She said her appeal, “served its purpose to bring public awareness to this issue, such as concerns about what may be in the water. The water has never been tested for heavy metal.”
The proposed cable park will be located at the south end of Lake Tye, and will cover an area of about 17 acres.
Plans call for a total of eight towers, each of them rising 22 to 30 feet above the water. There will be one oval shaped circuit with a cable running between six towers, and a smaller beginner’s two-way circuit using two towers. The cable system will be powered by a 37 kilowatt electric motor, pulling wakeboarders, skiers and kneeboarders along the water.
The recreational facility will also include a 2,500 square foot building for ticket sales, board rentals, restrooms, lockers, a multi-purpose room and sports retail shop. There will be a dock and viewing area of about 11,000 square feet.
At the Dec. 11 city council meeting, Public Works Director Brad Feilberg, who is the city’s SEPA official, updated the council on the hearing examiner’s decision. Mayor Robert Zimmerman said he was pleased with the hearing examiner’s finding that allows the city to move on with the next phase of the project. If the permitting process goes smoothly, the next phase for the new wakeboard park will be getting the necessary building permits from the city.
School mitigation fee decisions tabled until next year
Council action regarding school mitigation fees have been put on hold until next year. A motion unanimously approved by the council tables further action on school impact fees until which time the council looks at all of the changes proposed in the 2013 comprehensive plan update.
City Administrator Gene Brazel said that earlier council discussions, along with “quite a bit of public testimony” were contributing factors in the council’s decision to postpone its decision on school impact fees. He said the council has not yet scheduled the dates it will discuss 2013 plan updates.
There are two proposals regarding school impact fees put forward for council consideration. The first is to remove the current regulatory language regarding school impact fees from the city’s comprehensive plan, including rationale for the city’s current 25 percent discount offered to builders of new homes in Monroe.
The second proposal is to determine what the current school impact fee discount rate will be, and update the city’s ordinance accordingly.
City receives grant for pedestrian/bicycle path
Monroe has received a grant for $131,480 that will go toward purchasing the right-of-way for a shared pedestrian and bicycle path along Chain Lake Road.
Public Works Director Brad Feilberg told the council that the grant, which requires city matching funds of $20,500 and an environmental review which is estimated to cost about $9,000, will be applied toward path improvements on Chain Lake Road from Rainier View Road to Brown Road, roughly one third of the path the city would like to eventually complete.
The council unanimously approved the matching funds and environmental review costs, which will be taken from the city’s streets budget for 2013.