News

School board inks agreement

Despite the pleas of Black Diamond residents to delay their decision, the Enumclaw School Board unanimously approved its Tri-Party School Mitigation Agreement with the city of Black Diamond and developer Yarrow Bay at its Dec. 20 meeting.

The school board acknowledged the Black Diamond group’s comments were compelling and passionate, but it had already delayed the process for several months and was ready to move forward.

The Black Diamond City Council discussed the agreement at its Dec. 9 workshop and plans to place the agreement on its Jan. 6 regular meeting.

There are currently two appeals slowing the process for the developments that would more than double the size of Black Diamond. Black Diamond resident and school board member Tim Nickson recused himself from the voting.

The tri-party agreement contains changes presented during the board’s Dec. 6 workshop.

The changes are subtle, but Superintendent Mike Nelson said they are necessary to ensure district leaders will have flexibility years into the future. He again presented this information to the board and audience members at the Dec. 20 meeting.

“We believe these changes only enhance it on the school end of the deal,” Nelson said.

Since the developer announced plans to create a Master Plan Development in the small community north of the Green River, the school district has been working with Black Diamond and Yarrow Bay. District leaders formed the agreement to provide future administrators with a long-term infrastructure and security, provide neighboring school locations and flexibility for future decisions.

The district currently has one elementary school in Black Diamond. Middle and high school students are bused to Enumclaw.

The pair of proposed developments, Lawson Hill and The Villages, is expected to eventually bring 6,050 housing units to the city and an additional 3,500 students.

The agreement would set aside, at no cost to the district, sites for four elementary schools, two middle schools and one high school in Black Diamond.

More than a year ago, the Enumclaw School District board of directors hosted a joint meeting with the city of Black Diamond and Yarrow Bay, releasing information about the agreement. The district followed up with two community forums in November where members of the public were able to ask questions and provide comments. Master Plan Development hearings took place throughout the spring and summer.

District leaders began to look at the document again after those hearings concluded.

Nelson laid out the changes.

The original 35-acre high school site in the agreement has been bumped to 40 acres, but will not include a joint-use piece with Lake Sawyer Park. Additional language has also been added to make the hilly Lawson Hills elementary school site more versatile with Yarrow Bay covering those costs.

Since the city is in the process of discussing the draft development agreements with Yarrow Bay and looking at a mid-February date with the hearing examiner – and due to appeals at the Superior Court and Federal Court level, as well as a petition filed with the Central Growth Management Hearings Board – the school district has asked that the agreement reflect the delay. The due diligence part of the agreement, where the district has 180 days to hire qualified consultants to review and assess each site, will begin at the end of the appeal process.

The agreement notes if a site does not meet standards for a school, the three parties will meet again to determine an alternative site; if the alternate site is not identified, Yarrow Bay will be required to pay mitigation fees up to the value of the site at the time the site would have been conveyed to the district.

All school-related documents are posted on the district’s website at www.enumclaw.wednet.edu.

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