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Demo forest meeting gives residents a peek

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By Brian Beckley

The Courier-Herald

Residents had their first opportunity Thursday to debate plans for the proposed development of Washington State University Demonstration Forest property during an open house at Mountain View Junior High School.

Quadrant representatives were on hand with large displays highlighting the company's proposal to turn the 147-acre forest into a mix of commercial, residential and park lands.

The forest is currently zoned public facilities, but Quadrant Development has filed a comprehensive plan amendment application. The company's plan calls for approximately 30 acres of commercial space, 36 acres of public park land, 86 acres of single-family residential housing and and additional five acres of private parks for those homes.

The Bonney Lake City Council will make the final decision on zoning.

The plans displayed Thursday, however, differed from the company's original proposal, shifting the residential area farther east, enlarging the main park and shrinking the buffer along 214th Avenue East.

Through the changes, the amount of open space on the property increased from 30 to 36 acres.

Though most residents at the meeting saw the forest's development as inevitable, most still lamented the loss.

"The best plan is always to keep the forest," resident Lillian McGinnis said.

McGinnis said she has concerns about the increased traffic flow in the area, but said she liked the "urban village" concept for the commercial space, set to be built along state Route 410.

McGinnis also said she has had some questions answered and hopes the company will continue to stay in contact with area homeowners and residents.

"I'm more and more satisfied with (the plan)," she said.

Not all residents shared McGinnis' increasing comfort with the proposal.

"Leave it alone," Joanne Moore of Prairie Ridge said. "If they're going to cut all the trees down and build houses I think it stinks."

Ponderosa Estates Homeowners' Association President Janice Harrison said her neighborhood, which is outside of the city and therefore does not have representation on the city council, is opposed to the proposal.

"We don't like it," Harrison said. "Why would we want to see a bunch more...houses and apartments go up across the street from us instead of a forest?

"Where are the animals supposed to go?" she asked.

Many residents also said Quadrant needs to provide more to the city.

"I would love to see more (parks) for the city," Laurie Carter said.

Carter said she would prefer to see the three-acre private park added to public space and would like to see Quadrant pay for projected ball fields in the land designated for active recreation.

"I think they need to take a look at the city's interests first," echoed Brian Felczak, who called the parks "pee-wee."

Wally Costello, senior vice president of corporate real estate for Quadrant, said the design for the land changed due to input from residents and the council and the company would continue to evaluate comments throughout the process, which is expected to last until fall of 2006.

"We had a chance to make a presentation to the city council. They made some comments and we listened to those comments," he said. "We took a lot of that into consideration."

Costello, who called the meeting an "outreach effort," also said it was an opportunity to talk with residents about the process.

"Once it goes to a public hearing process, the venue's different and you can't answer questions people have," he said. "That's the purpose of tonight."

Councilmembers have routinely said that public response to the project would determine their votes when it come time to re-zone the land, something Moore seized on to.

"People have the power," she said. "Voice your opinion. Enough is enough."

Brian Beckley can be reached at bbeckley@courierherald.com.

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