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YarrowBay's The Villages and Lawson Hills Black Diamond developments clear first hurdle | Read Documents

At 11:59 p.m. Thursday, April 15 the Black Diamond hearing examiner, Phil Olbrechts, released his decision stating the final environmental impact statement for The Villages and Lawson Hills were adequate, which allows the master planned developments to move to the next round.

Olbrechts wrote in the first line of The Villages executive summary, "The Villages Final Environmental Impact Statement (TV FEIS) is adequate."

Olbrechts released the decision on The Villages Thursday, and stated in an e-mail the written decision for the Lawson Hills development, which he also declared to be adequate, will be sent out in a “few days.”

The hearing examiner stated the Lawson Hill decision “will not differ markedly from the Villages decision except that it will include some of the Wheeler appeal issues that were not filed against the Villages and some Villages only issues will be removed.”

Olbrechts wrote in the document, “An EIS is adequate if it contains a reasonably thorough discussion of probable significant adverse environmental impacts.”

The hearing examiner pointed out the EIS could have been improved and “The appellants of the EIS have identified several shortcomings in the EIS. Many of these shortcomings will be addressed through enhanced mitigation of the MPD permit, including mitigation regarding noise, traffic and Green Valley Road. Overall, however, the EIS provides a more than adequate analysis of environmental impacts.”

Olbrechts noted the “adequacy standard does not require perfection. It requires reasonableness.”

The hearing examiner outlined the FEIS shortcomings in the document describing the “most difficult issue by far in the TV FEIS was the adequacy of the Lake Sawyer water quality analysis.” He pointed out phosphorous from stormwater runoff could result in “blue-green algae blooms, which in turn can result in the release of toxins, closure of beaches, aesthetic blight through production of a green surface scum and damage to endangered fish.”

Olbrechts also noted shortcomings regarding noise and traffic, including the competing models between Maple Valley and the Puget Sound Regional Council model used in the EIS.

In the conclusion Olbrechts wrote, “The City and the Applicant hired the best experts they could find and put a substantial investment into the analysis that comprises the EIS. It shows. The fact that the SEPA Appellants found so many problems with the EIS has more to do with Appellants’ skill and diligence than the short-comings of the EIS. No document could survive unscathed the multi-pronged attack levied by the SEPA Appellants. The monumental work of the SEPA Appellants was not wasted in the least. Their efforts will result in substantial improvements to the MPDs by exposing areas that need further attention and mitigation. The SEPA Appellants have done much to better their community through these appeals. They and everyone else who participated in these appeals are to be congratulated for work well done.”

The appellants included Cynthia and William Wheeler, Melanie Gauthier, Cindy Proctor, Chris Clifford and others.

Brian Ross, YarrowBay managing partner, said by phone Wednesday, “We are very please with the level of detail and work from the hearing examiner. He took his time and we think he did his job well. It was a well thought out decision.”

Ross said he expects “conditions on the MPDs. We fully anticipate approval with mitigation above and beyond what the city recommended, and that is fine.”

The decision came after more than two weeks of public hearings ending March 22, 50 hours of testimony, lawyer battles and hundreds of pages of documents were presented to the hearing examiner.

The Kirkland-based YarrowBay Holdings intends to build about 6,000 home, single and multifamily, with a mix of retail and office space.

The next step is for the Olbrechts to release his recommendation for the master planned development permits, which will be go before the City Council in a closed hearing.

Villages Final (781869)

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