Testimony underlines concern with Black Diamond developments The Villages and Lawson Hills | Week Two

The second week of hearings for two master planned developments began Monday, June 28, in Black Diamond with testimony from the parties of record.

The City Council is considering permit applications for The Villages and Lawson Hills in a closed record hearing, which means new evidence is not be admitted into the record.

The two developments are proposed for construction by YarrowBay and if approved would add about 6,000 homes with office, retail, commercial and industrial space.

The first week of the hearing open June 21 and concluded June 24. The second week began Monday, June 28, and wrapped up Wednesday, June 30. A total of 30 people spoke. Each person was allotted 10 minutes by the City Council, but up to four could allot their time to one speaker.

A person who is a party of record either testified or provided written comment during the SEPA or state environmental policy act and master planned development hearings in March before the city's hearing examiner Phil Olbrechts.

Olbrechts ruled the SEPA document was adequate and he recommended approval of the two MPDs with conditions.

The City Council now must decide whether to approve the applications and consider the conditions recommended by the hearing examiner.

As of Wednesday more than 80 had signed up to speak.

All of the speakers Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday expressed deep concern about the effects of the two developments on the environment, traffic, storm-water runoff going into Lake Sawyer and the change to the small-town atmosphere in Black Diamond.

Rich Ostrowski was the first speaker Monday and he stated, "We don't want our town looking like an artist's misconception of an apartment complex."

Peter Rimbos pointed out the need for incremental growth, approving a smaller plan rather than approving "6,000 homes at the outset."

The idea of incremental growth or starting smaller with the development was a point brought up by many speakers over the three days.

Jack Sperry said, "Why not take an approach build a little, test a little... This approach allows for a more controlled growth. This approach balances the desires of the developer with the concerns of the citizens."

Michael Irrgang said he moved to the Seattle area in 2005 from Texas and after more than a year found a home in Black Diamond surrounded by trees.

Irrgang said,"All of us really care," he said. "We really, really care. We want you to preserve what is a picture postcard for the evergreen state.... We trust you to not vote for a short-term agenda."

Joe May spoke Wednesday and stated to the council, "This is no time for the faint of heart."

May said he could not support the master planned developments.

"They will negatively impact Black Diamond and everything around it," May said. "Please respect the history and small town character of Black Diamond, and do the very best you can."

Testimony from the parties of record are expected to last through Tuesday, July 6 and Wednesday, July 7. Each day the hearing is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. and end by 9:30 p.m. at the Black Diamond Elementary School gymnasium, 25314 Baker St.

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