The Black Diamond City Council’s approval of a traffic mitigation agreement resolution with the Enumclaw School District was one of the messier and more confusing matters the city has faced this year.
According to Resolution 16-1118 documents, the construction of the new Black Diamond Elementary School would impact and increase traffic at three intersections; state Route 169/3rd Avenue and Baker Street, SR 169/3rd Avenue and Roberts Drive, and SR 169/3rd Avenue and Black Diamond-Ravensdale Road.
The city also had safety concerns about the SR 169 and Park Street intersection because of the new school.
These traffic and safety issues fall under the city’s concurrency ordinance, Section 11.11 of the municipal code.
According to the code, concurrency means adequate public facilities are available, or improvements or plans to improve within six years must be in place when development impacts occur. Otherwise, the development must be put on hold.
In this case, the development of the school impacts traffic, and the public facilities are the intersections – thus, a plan must be made to improve the intersections within six years of the school being built, or the school development must be delayed.
Such a delay would negatively affect the Enumclaw School District because it would “lead to costly and unnecessary delay damages, and ultimately could delay the reopening of the school,” Superintendent Michael Nelson wrote in a letter read to the council during public comment.
In introducing the resolution to the council, Public Works Director Seth Boettcher assured the council that as a licensed and professional engineer, he believes the resolution meets the city’s requirements.
Despite Boettcher’s reassurances, Councilwoman Pat Pepper moved for the resolution to be sent to a council standing committee for review and discussion, re-igniting the debate over the legality of the council standing committees, as set in Resolution 10-16 and approved by the council majority last January.
Morgan seconded the motion, saying she didn’t have enough information to pass the resolution that night.
Andy Williamson, the city’s economic development director and acting community development director, interceded in an attempt to bring the council together to approve the resolution.
“There is only one person, one person here who determines concurrency, and that’s Seth Boettcher,” Williamson said. “It’s your professional engineer, your licensed engineer for the state of Washington that determines concurrency has happened. That’s not open for debate.”
What is open for debate, Williamson said, is the money the city can receive from the school district to address these traffic concerns; $54,055 in traffic mitigation fees to address the first three intersections, as well as a “voluntary” $20,000 to deal with the SR 169 and Park Street intersection, according to the resolution.
“Do you think that’s enough money? Do you not? Do you want to give them some of their money back? I think they’ll take the money back,” Williamson said, adding that if the council wants more money from the agreement, or if the resolution is delayed, there will be cuts made to the elementary school.
Morgan continued to say she didn’t have enough information to pass the resolution, asking questions about the concurrency in regards to the state highway the intersections are on. She also said she was “disturbed” by the fact this resolution didn’t come to the council sooner.
Boettcher joined Williamson in the council conversation.
“It’s troublesome that I can’t do my job, that I need to be prepared to defend every little action and review that I do,” he said. “That’s unsettling for me.”
Councilman Brian Weber echoed Morgan’s thoughts on not having enough information or time to consider the resolution in order to pass it.
“I’m not questioning the staff’s abilities to do their jobs. What I want to know is, when I put my vote out there, that that’s the best thing we can have and different sources have been checked,” Weber said.
Benson pointed out that Weber, Morgan and Pepper have not asked the staff any questions about the resolution since it was placed on the agenda on Friday, Aug. 12, even though they were specifically invited to.
“These are the people that you need to talk to about this issue,” she said. “This is when you need to talk about it, when our experts are here. You have no experts that are any better than these two people.”
Weber said, “Sitting here in a regularly scheduled council meeting is not what it’s here for,” to which several people in the council chambers and the mayor said in unison, “Yes it is.”
Michael Kenyon, filling in for the city’s regular attorney David Linehan, said he recommended the council go to executive session to discuss the issue further.
But as council women Janie Edelman, and Tamie Deady with Benson and Kenyon got up to exit the chambers, it was quickly clear that Pepper, Weber and Morgan were not planning to go into the executive session.
When asked at the meeting, Pepper and Weber declined to answer why they did not go into the executive session.
Morgan said she did not go into the executive session because Kenyon isn’t the city attorney, due to the fact that the council did not approve of the contract with the Kenyon Disend firm. The $15,000 contract was approved by Benson under her sole authority.
But there was another issue Morgan had with Kenyon specifically.
“Kenyon Disend, when we had them before, Michael Kenyon himself, wants to take over the cities, and not allow the city councils to be the policy makers,” she continued. “He wants Kenyon Disend to be the policy makers. That’s the problem we’ve had with him before, and we can see him continuing the same behavior now.”
In a later phone interview, Kenyon said that he and Morgan will have to agree to disagree.
“They are the policy makers,” he said. “But they can only set policy in one way – with a majority vote, in an open public meeting on an issue the council has authority to act on.”
When Edelman, Deady, Benson and Kenyon returned from the executive session, Deady moved to approve the resolution, but Pepper believed there was a motion on the floor to table the resolution.
Kenyon said because the Benson ruled the tabling motion out of order earlier in the meeting, it was no longer on the floor. He then made it clear that the council was about to vote on approving the resolution.
Benson called for the vote, with Deady and Edelman voting for the resolution and only Morgan voting against it.
Pepper and Weber did not voice their vote. Under section 8.5.5 of the council’s rules and procedures, a silent vote “shall be recorded as a vote on the prevailing side.”
With four votes approving the resolution to one against, the resolution was passed.
Other highlights from the council meeting include:
• The long-awaited council approval of the $10,000 DKS Associates’ claim check. During the Aug. 4 meeting, Williamson was told by the council the claim check would be approved if a statement and bill from DKS was sent to the city.
Williamson presented the statement, bill and original voucher to the council, and after Weber and Morgan had their remaining issues addressed, the council unanimously approved the claim check, which has been hotly discussed since March.
The $10,000 claim check was for work done on the city’s Comprehensive Plan, which is still incomplete, and the council has yet to pass a resolution approving DKS to finish their portion of the Comprehensive Plan.
• A voucher for the Kenyon Disend legal firm was pulled from the consent agenda by Weber due to his concerns that the mayor was circumventing city code by signing a series of contracts less than $15,000 with the firm for legal services.
Benson replied that the state requires the city to have an attorney, and the series of contracts won’t be an issue with the state auditor.
Weber also said he wanted to make sure the public knew how much money was being spent on these contracts and how the city’s legal bill is growing. He suggested during the Aug. 4 meeting that the council should hire another attorney to answer some legal questions he had about former interim city attorney Yvonne Ward’s legal bill, which has yet to be approved by the council.
• The July 21 and Aug. 4 meeting minutes were also pulled from the consent agenda due to citizen’s concerns that their comments during the meeting weren’t accurately reported. The Aug. 4 meeting minutes were amended and approved, and the July 21 minutes were postponed for discussion for the Sept. 1 meeting.
• Williamson passed out a permit the council will need to approve in order for the annual Tough Mudder event to be held in the city. Williamson said he wanted the council to have all the information before it needed to pass the permit on Sept. 1. If the permit isn’t approved, the event will be canceled, he said.
• Black Diamond Police Chief Jamey Kiblinger announced the city has improved from being ranked as the 22nd safest city in Washington to the ninth.