Thursday, August 04, 2005

A "taste" of what is happening in King County DOT

My decision to start this blog was sudden, and I've not thought about how to present this complicated story in a clear way. For now, let me begin by simply posting a complaint I recently submitted to the King County Ombudsman, Amy Calderwood. I won't go into it now why I would challenge this department to investigate county wrongdoing when it exists to defend county wrongdoing, but in time it will be clear that I leave little for granted. You never know when something will trigger the unexpected "responsible" response to a citiizen of this county. Personally, I'm still waiting.

The complaint is pretty self-explanatory. King County erased nearly all the conditions requested to protect the public from the overwhelming impacts of this instant city of 10,000 residents. The one condition that should have halted it would have been triggered early last year, if only King County had enforced the permit.

As it is, other than a confirmation of its receipt and preliminary investigation into my allegations, the Ombudsman's Office hasn't even contacted me.

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King County Office of Citizen Complaints - Ombudsman

400 Yesler Building
400 Yesler Way, Room 240
Seattle, WA 98104

206-296-3452 v/tty - 206-296-0948 fax

Complaint Form

The Office of Citizen Complaints - Ombudsman is not an office of first recourse. Therefore, we ask that you first try to resolve your complaint with the agency before filing a complaint with the Ombudsman. If you have been unsuccessful in resolving your concern with the agency, please fill out this complaint form and return it to our office by mail or fax.

Name: Michael Costello
Address: xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
City: Redmond
State: WA
Zip Code 98053
Phone number(s): xxx-xxx-xxxx

1. King County employee, department, division, or service your complaint is about:

King County Executive’s Office
King County Executive Ron Sims
King County Department of Development & Environmental Services
DDES Director Stephanie Warden
Redmond Ridge UPD coordinator Lisa Lee
King County Department of Transportation

DOT Director Linda Dougherty

2. File, permit, record, or other number, if applicable:
Redmond Ridge & Trilogy UPD/FCC Permit

3. County employees you have dealt with (name, position, agency):

None, King County employees associated with Redmond Ridge, DOT & DDES have historically failed to provide any reasonable response to any issues and concerns I have brought to their attention. There is no excuse for this latest action, other than intentional subversion of the UPD permit conditions.

4. Witnesses/others involved (name, address, telephone number):

Issue is self-evident to everyone except employees working on behalf of Quadrant Homes and for the benefit of Redmond Ridge and Trilogy.

Summary of your complaint:

The Redmond Ridge and Trilogy Permit stipulates a condition that states that when the PM Peak Commute traffic volume (eastbound on Novelty Hill Road and on the eastern side of the intersection of Novelty Hill Road and NE 208th St.) exceeds 1,350 vehicles per hour (vph), that King County DDES must stop issuing any new building permits for Redmond Ridge and Trilogy. It is reiterated in the Redmond Ridge South Hearing Examiner’s report as follows:

“31. Returning to the 1989 Bear Creek Community Plan and tracing the development of its policies through the Northridge hearing process, the primary strategy for containing urban traffic impacts from the Novelty Hill UPD area was to focus UPD traffic onto the Novelty Hill Road arterial corridor and to allow it to feed from there into Avondale Road, the City of Redmond and SR-520. This containment strategy is implicit in Bear Creek Community Plan policies 42 through 48 (see Exhibit 143a, Appendix A). The strategy of focusing UPD project traffic on the Novelty Hill Road corridor is confirmed within the Northridge DEIS: “The assignment of traffic, based on the above trip distribution assumptions, indicates that most project traffic would use Novelty Hill Road, and would disperse at intersections of arterial or collector roads such as 208th Avenue Northeast and Avondale Road.” (Exhibit 143a, page 2-106)

The Transpo traffic study within the Northridge DEIS is equally explicit: “Primary access to the site will be provided by Novelty Hill Road….” (Exhibit 143d, Appendix L, page 7) This same statement appears within the Northridge FEIS at page 1-12. The need for Novelty Hill Road to accommodate UPD impacts is asserted at Northridge FEIS page 3-33: “With the improvements described below, Novelty Hill Road would accommodate cumulative traffic volumes from the Northridge and Blakely Ridge UPDs at final build-out, as well as other forecast traffic volumes.” Moreover, the 1350 vehicle per hour trigger for major UPD-financed road improvements that was imposed under the Blakely Ridge decision and carried over as a condition of Northridge was specifically designed to ensure the integrity of the traffic assumptions adopted for Novelty Hill Road. If, after mitigation, traffic volumes on Novelty Hill Road in the PM peak hour east of 208th Avenue Northeast again reach the 1350 threshold and further capacity-creating improvements are not available, UPD construction is to be halted.”

It has also been determined that this condition would be enforced through the implementation of an annual monitoring program, which any “reasonable or honest person” would conclude means traffic counts “at least” every 12 months. It has also been stated, though, that the 1,350 vph threshold can be lowered if circumstances justify it. This was reiterated in the Redmond Ridge South finding 23, which states:

23. Moreover, the 1,350 vph value is not chiseled in granite. Attachment No. 11 to the UPD/FCC permit specifically provides that the “…1,350 threshold figure may be modified by the County upon a determination that the actual traffic capacity of Novelty Hill Road at this location has been incorrectly estimated”. At this point, the Intervenors at most have raised theoretical objections to the 1,350 methodology. While we find that the methodology has been adequately supported, if a point is reached where actual counts show Novelty Hill eastbound peak hour traffic reaching saturation at a lower figure, the County has ample authority to modify the trigger value.

On April 27-29, 2004 (not 2005!), King County DOT performed traffic measurements at this critical location on Novelty Hill Road and found the following:

April 27th 2004: 1340 (PM peak hour, East bound)

April 28th 2004: 1325 ( " " " " " )

April 29th 2004: 1327 ( " " " " " )

The average peak hour volume during these 3 days was approximately 1,330 vph with a peak of 1,340 vph, or just 10 cars short of triggering the requirement to halt issuing new building permits.

Given the closeness of this count, any “reasonable and honest person” within the noted agencies with the authority to order more frequent traffic counts, or lower the threshold to 1,330 vph, should have done it in the public interest and to enforce the permit conditions. In April 2004, cars were already moving at well below posted speed limits eastbound of 208th in PM commute, and the saturation of Novelty Hill Road traffic was already occurring.

Someone, if not a conspiracy between several county employees, clearly committed “arbitrary and capricious” actions in not only failing to order more frequent counts or lowering the threshold to recognize homes and permitted homes already or soon to be constructed, but even more troubling is that even the annual count that should have been performed around the April 2005 timeframe at the latest, was avoided. This was clearly intended to allow the flow of permits to continue beyond the point where any “reasonable or honest” person” or department would have halted them.

It’s also not farfetched to suggest that a count was, in fact done, but triggered the 1,350 vph threshold and was covered up and kept from public view, It is not reasonable to believe that a decision to delay, or even cover up a count that would have halted permits, was made by one individual without the consent of others.

I have personally witnessed counters at the noted location on several occasions since April 2004, although I cannot testify that they were King County devices. Who is authorized to take traffic counts on Novelty Hill Road if not King County? What happens to those counts and does King County receive copies?

As UPD Coordinator, Lisa Lee appears to be the person responsible for guaranteeing that UPD permit conditions were enforced. She clearly failed to do so, and the result of her inaction, I’m alleging “official misconduct of a public official” in Lee’s inaction, which aided Quadrant Homes in avoiding this condition.

I have had personal contact with Ms. Lee as have many others I know. She has repeatedly shown herself to have a clear bias in favor of Quadrant and my repeated requests over the years for her removal as UPD coordinator have been refused. The last time was after her supervisor was forced to override her position on buffer adequacy on Novelty Hill Road. While she claimed that frontage buffers satisfied the county’s Type I Landscaping requirements of opaqueness resulting in a visual barrier, her bias was made obvious when any “reasonable of honest person” looked at the construction within Redmond Ridge through the nearly non-existent buffers.

I am also alleging that other county employees, including supervisors, managers, directors, and even Ron Sims himself, engaged in a conspiracy to keep the flow of permits moving well after any “reasonable or honest” person would have concluded that the threshold had been surpassed, requiring permit issuance to stop.

On July 11 2005, Fatin Kara of the DOT/RSD/TES - Impact Review and Data Analysis Unit, notified Joseph Elfelt of Friends of the Law that the next scheduled King County count at this location was not planned until some time between September and December of 2005. This is utterly ridiculous! This count will not have been performed until nearly 20 months after the count that fell just 10 cars, or .007% short of the threshold level.

While just 10 cars short of this trigger on April 27, 2004, the houses under construction at the time along with permitted homes not yet under construction at that time would have easily been sufficient, by themselves, to trigger the halt of permits. Any “reasonable or honest person” would have come to the same conclusion, but the unknown combination of employees identified in this complaint responsible for these decisions have not acted reasonably or honestly.

I am alleging the strong likelihood that a conspiracy has occurred within King County, potentially including, but not limited to, Lisa Lee, Stephanie Warden, Linda Dougherty, and Ron Sims to intentionally delay the inevitable measurement of traffic at this Novelty Hill Road location that would trigger halting of permits. Reducing the 1,350 vph threshold to 1,330 vph, which was clearly the reasonable thing to do in April 2004, was clearly within their rights as specified by the hearing examiner, and taking more frequent counts was also in the public interest if defending the public interest was their principal concern, which it apparently is not.

The “official misconduct” of all of those involved in this decision has clearly resulted in the worsening of an already crisis-level traffic congestion problem on Novelty Hill Road, identified now for all to see in the Redmond Ridge South Hearing Examiner recommendations for denial and termination of the Redmond Ridge South concurrency certificate. The eventual cost to the taxpayers as a result of the continuing “arbitrary and capricious” actions by employees in King County DOT, DDES will likely be measured in tens of millions of dollars to improve Novelty Hill Road and other area roads to satisfy homes that are not supported by the existing road network, not to mention the hours of added time in traffic for King County citizens forced to use those roads.

If the next count does not occur until December, (and I doubt any count will be done until DDES and DOT are forced to do so!) nearly 20 months of building permits will have potentially been issued beyond the point at which the Redmond Ridge and Trilogy UPD/FCC permit mandated a halt to new building permits.

I am requesting that the Ombudsman’s Office, consulting with our King County Council representative Kathy Lambert on the choice, hire an outside investigator to perform an independent investigation of possible conspiracy to defraud the citizens of King County with the intentional delay of routine and regular traffic counts on Novelty Hill Road. I’m also requesting that if the results of such an investigation indicate the commission of arbitrary and capricious acts by any of the individuals named herein or others, that a criminal investigation be launched by the King County Sheriff or Prosecutor’s Office into “official misconduct” and/or possible “fraud” committed by county employees to defraud the citizens of King County.

5. In your view, what would be the best way to resolve your complaint?

Given the closeness of the count 14 months ago to the trigger of 1,350 vph, and the obvious increase in volumes as a result of the homes constructed since and as a result of permits issued before April 2004, issuance of building permits for Redmond Ridge and Trilogy should be halted immediately. Any issued permits since April 2004 where construction has not started should also be rescinded.

Any King County employees, who have engaged in “arbitrary and capricious” acts for Quadrant Homes and conspired to avoid measuring traffic to allow the Redmond Ridge and Trilogy UPD/FCC permits to be violated, should be immediately suspended and removed from any influence in King County land use planning or decisions. If criminal investigations are warranted, they should be pursued with full vigor and, in the public interest, the individuals prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

I affirm that the above statement and facts are true and correct to the best of my knowledge. I reserve the right to amend this complaint as new information becomes available.

Signature

Michael Costello
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Redmond, WA 98053
xxx-xxx-xxxx

Date: July 15, 2005

Request for non-disclosure: I request that my name not be disclosed (Initial)

“I waive my right for non-disclosure”

pursuant to the provisions of RCW 42.17.31 O( e). If you initialed the request for non-disclosure we will not release your name in the event we receive a public disclosure request for your complaint.

Please mail your complaint to the Ombudsman Office at 400 Yesler Way, Rm. 240; Seattle, WA 98104. You may also fax your complaint to us at 206-296-0948. Please contact the Ombudsman Office at 206-296-3452 if you have any questions about how to fill out this form.

Rev. 12/03

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

You apparently have a lot of time on your handds, Mr. Costello. And your anti-progressive attitude obviously overtakes reason and logic at several points in your article. However, I will provide here some information that you may not be privy to in order to help explain this situation a little better. I will not tell you my relation to this issue, but you should find this useful - or at least investigate it and acknowledge it:

Under the original contract with the DOT and King County, and the permits obtained by Quadrant with the city of Redmond and applicable entities (in a process that lasted nearly 25 years beginning in the mid-late 1970's, in partnership with Weyerhaeuser Corp) there were future improvements to Novelty Hill Rd. to be shared by both the County and by Quadrant. Quadrant did in fact fulfill all of their requirements under the contract and permits, spending millions of dollars on local improvements (most recently the complete reconstruction of Novelty Hill Rd. between the Redmond Ridge and Trilogy developments and the Carnation Valley last year). The problems arose when the County refused to make the improvements required of them, causing the City of Redmond (and uninformed "activists" like yourself) to begin an unjustified course of action to halt the development, which ended up costing Quadrant hundreds of millions of dollars in lost revenue and legal expenditures.

There are always two sides...

Observantly,

corwin

Mike Costello said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Mike Costello said...

corwin,

I've been at this a long time and I know where the skeletons are, not that anyone seems to care. And whether you're pretending to know something to feel important, or you're Peter Orser himself trying to do a little PR, you've not offered anything of substance to the conversation except a deceptively crafted Quadrant version of history.

Quadrant has done what they were required to do, but then we know that they controlled what they were required to do, don't we? They've added no "real" capacity to area roads and their mitigation was just a couple pennies for every dollar that will be necessary to fix this mess. $20 million sounds like a lot, but we know it's nothing compared to the real costs that will be necessary to build the roads to support these developments at build-out, don't we? We know what King County did for them and we know what it's going to cost us.

And if you don't know, then you really sound silly suggesting that you can tell me something I don't already know, and then offer nothing.

As for your charge that I'm "anti-progressive", if progress is amassing billions of dollars in liablities for the taxpayers to pay in the future to subsidize the profits of major corporations today, I don't need your progress. If progress is KCDOT committing "arbitrary and capricious" acts to help Quadrant improperly obtain new traffic concurrency certificates, that isn't progess either.

Being a conservative make me opposed to welfare even to corporations; something the Republican Party has apparently forgotten. Progress has to improve our quality of life too, and not take more and more from us to subsidize an elite class!

Give me the $100 billion to start fixing the mess these unholy alliances have created in Washington and that will be progress.

Mike Costello

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