Thursday, July 27, 2006

Redmond Ridge East Appearl Hearing - King County still full of surpirses

Where to begin?

King County DOT did a bogus traffic study in 1994 to allow Redmond Ridge and Trilogy to be approved. Sims admitted in 1998 that the study was worthless and that it should be ignored. He then allowed DOT to do an equally flawed analysis, but Sims refused to allow public hearings or review.

Quadrant applied for a concurrency certificate in 2002 to build 800 more homes adjacent to Redmond Ridge for a new development called Redmond Ridge East. DOT planners said no, like they had to others since the critical roadway was already operating over capacity. Then 2 weeks later they reversed themselves and said yes. 5 DOT employers refused to go along with they believed was improper, and even illegal acts by their colleagues. The whistleblowers' allegations were dismissed throughout King County's management, the whistleblowers lost their positions, got punished, and are now suing the county in Federal court for retaliation.

So the Redmond Ridge East public hearing happened last year. KCDOT alleged everything was peachy, opponents blew holes in their claims, and then the Hearing Examiner, agreeing with the project's opponents, recommended denial of Redmond Ridge East and the rescinding of that ill-gotten concurrency certificate from 2002. He based his finding on several instances of "arbitrary and capricious" acts committed by DOT to help Quadrant that were improper.

Quadrant sued the hearing examiner. DOT and DDES sued the hearing examiner. In fact, King County's DOT and DDES spent more than a million taxpayer dollars to fight for Quadrant, as well as defend against the allegations and findings by the examiner and the whistleblowers.

Quadrant bought off the only citizen organization still fighting for $75,000, most of which went to repaying their attorney. The settlement occurred after the appeal window had closed, so no one else could step up to appeal. The City of Redmond, faced with the reality that King County and Quadrant ultimately get whatever they want, filed an appeal and then settled for an additional million dollars to improve an intersection critical to Redmond, but 10 miles from Redmond Ridge.

So now you're caught up, sort of.

Last Monday the Redmond Ridge East Appeal Hearing occurred at the weekly Committee of the Whole. It was pushed to the very last item on the agenda and it didn't start until around 5:00 PM.

The hearing examiner spoke first defending his findings and recommendations for denial. He stated that the critical county road, Novelty Hill Road in this instance, was already over capacity, and that the history of that Capital Improvement was the "poster child" for delayed CIP projects. This one is over 10 years old now. Then curiously, he went into a list of options to the Council that would allow Quadrant to get their way despite everything that had happened.

Next up was Quadrant's lawyer Richard Wilson. In perhaps the most remarkable statement of the hearing, Wilson immediately prefaced his remarks by declaring that he wasn't only representing Quadrant in the hearing, but, get this, King County DOT and DDES. Yup, King County's principal land use agencies were being represented by the lawyer for the developer trying to further overwhelm area roads and build 800 more homes.

As if that wasn't bad enough, once Redmond's attorney had explained the city's cautious willingness to settle in the "fantasy" that all the planning, funding, and other decisions related to fixing Novelty Hill Road could be sorted out, the council recessed for about 10 minutes. When they returned, as if it wasn't bad enough already, Larry Phillips and Dow Constantine proposed what they called a "compromise" agreement that would allow Quadrant to build several hundred more homes before that CIP project was planned, approved, funded, or even contracted out for construction. The project's completion wasn't even a concern.

Never mind that the proposal violates state law, concurrency, and rewards the wrongdoing that has occurred.

Never mind that it's a deal that would only be made available to Quadrant and no one else, which violates the State's Constitution.

And certainly never mind that had Redmond Ridge East failed that concurrency analysis in 2002 as it should have, Redmond Ridge East wouldn't even be under consideration today.

You've got to just love this bunch. If there was an award for governments demonstrating big brass balls in their willingness to abuse the people, break laws, and give preferential treatment to their special friends, I'd challenge anyone to give an example of a government more deserving than King County? The Elections fiasco notwithstanding, of course.

Absolutely nothing should be considered or approved on Union Hill until the road crisis here is fixed. That means a plan. There is no plan. That means an EIS. There is no EIS. That means funding. There is no funding. And finally, once all these things have occured, signed contracts that are required under state law to get it done.

If anyone wants to understand why our transportation situation is what it is, here is your poster child for the abuse of power and the law to overwhelm our roads with growth, while not acting responsibly to support that growth with the necessary infrastructure. That is the last couple decades of King County's development machine in a nutshell. They'll let their friends build anything they want, but we get to pay if we want to move anywhere as a result.

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