School district continues hearings on land

Approximately 25 citizens, mostly from the Green Valley Road and Lake Sawyer areas of Black Diamond who do not want schools in their neighborhoods or additional traffic on their roads, arrived at the Enumclaw School District’s public hearing Thursday night at Black Diamond Elementary School to speak to Superintendent Mike Nelson and district school board members about its mitigation agreement with developer YarrowBay and the city of Black Diamond.

The three parties recently announced an agreement that would, over time, give the Enumclaw School District seven large parcels of land as future school sites in YarrowBay’s master plan development for Black Diamond.

The public’s next opportunity to comment is at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the Enumclaw High School library.

YarrowBay purchased the land in 2006 and the school district began hammering out an agreement with the two other entities about two years ago.

“If we didn’t have a development coming in we wouldn’t have had this conversation,” said Nelson who gave a brief overview to the audience before the board opened the floor to comments. “We wanted to attack it as proactively as possible.”

When finished, approximately 15 years from now, YarrowBay leaders are projecting 6,050 total units, 4,530 single family unites and 1,200 multifamily units. Those homes, apartments and town homes are expected to bring in 2,025 kindergarten through fifth-grade elementary school students, 680 middle school students and 837 high school students. Nelson said at its greatest number, he would expect the high school to have a student population of 1,200 similar to Enumclaw High School.

He said since the Enumclaw School District has not seen growth in more than a decade, leaders used numbers from districts that have had similar developments and growth – Kent, Tahoma and Issaquah.

The agreement outlines seven school sites, or “blue dots” as audience members referred to them on the map, four elementary with one lying on the east side of state Route 169 on Lawson Hill, two middle schools and a high school. Nelson said 80 percent of the homes will be within walking distance of a school.

Nelson said it would not be unlike the Sumner School District which has expanded due to growth in Bonney Lake. For many years, the Sumner School District was primarily located in the valley below Elhi hill, but with the boom of homes in Bonney Lake, the Sumner School District now has nine elementary schools, three middle schools and two high schools, most on the hill.

The Enumclaw School District currently has five elementary schools, two middle schools and one high school. Only an elementary school is located in Black Diamond and that school, Nelson said, would remain.

More importantly, Nelson noted, the district will not pay for the land.

“No money from our taxpayers or our general fund will be put forward to purchase land,” Nelson said.

The agreement calls for the developer to pay mitigation fees that, for the first five years, are set at $4,670 per single family unite and $1,501 for multifamily units and then increases to a minimum of $7,782, single family, and $2,502, for multifamily units, for the remaining years through build out.

Nelson said the district tried to think through the whole agreement from the first home through to the 6,050th.

Of the nine citizens who spoke, several live on or near Green Valley Road and called the plans for development and schools “unneighborly” and felt both were being forced on them. Others came from the Lake Sawyer area and, like the Green Valley Road residents, did not want schools in their neck of the woods.

A few were concerned the district would be getting an unbuildable site.

The agreement, Nelson pointed out, has a due diligence claus with that process already under way. The district will hire qualified consultants to conduct a review and assessment of each site. If it does not meet the district’s standards for a school, the three parties will meet again to determine an alternative site. There are safeguards in the agreement, he said.

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