A king County hearing examiner issued a scathing ruling this week against the county for giving initial approval to a proposed 800-home...
A King County hearing examiner issued a scathing ruling this week against the county for giving initial approval to a proposed 800-home development east of Redmond.
The Quadrant Homes development, called Redmond Ridge East, would dump more traffic onto already overburdened local roads, according to a decision released Tuesday by the hearing examiner, Stafford Smith.
“These were willful and unreasoning actions taken without regard to attending facts and circumstances,” Smith said in his 95-page ruling. He also said the way the traffic impact was measured was “based on arbitrary and capricious agency actions” and that the permits therefore were not valid.
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The planned development would be adjacent to Redmond Ridge, a 4,500-home “urban village” that has been the target of controversy and legal action for more than a decade.
Smith’s ruling overturns what’s called a transportation concurrency certificate — which says a project cannot create so much traffic that it will violate county standards. The ruling also denied Quadrant’s applications for development permits for the project.
Quadrant received the certificate for Redmond Ridge East in 2002 and has spent millions of dollars getting ready to develop the area, said Peter Orser, president of Quadrant Homes.
It was a victory for area residents who have fought Quadrant’s development of the area since its inception.
Quadrant and the county say they are reading the ruling and considering their options. Smith’s decision can be appealed to the King County Council and King County Superior Court.
Redmond Ridge East is a proposed 337-acre development adjacent to Redmond Ridge, which has hundreds of homes now occupied and others under construction, though Quadrant’s Web site says all 4,500 have been sold. Both developments are in unincorporated King County.
Smith’s decision came more than two months after a lengthy hearing ended in April. His decision focused on the traffic problems the project would bring to already clogged roads in and around Redmond. The hearing was prompted by an appeal filed by the city of Redmond and Friends of the Law, a citizens group that has been fighting the development for more than a decade.
The city and Friends of the Law disagreed with the county’s initial decision to grant Quadrant the certificate. A developer must receive such a certificate before proceeding with an environmental study or applying for permits for any proposed project.
Steve Shifton, director of Friends of the Law, believes the county intentionally used incorrect information in the complicated model that determines a development’s effects on transportation.
“The county started off by cheating — they cooked the books to grant concurrency,” Shifton said. He also cited a “whistle-blower” complaint filed in 2003 by five King County transportation planners with the county ombudsman’s office. The planners charged that their colleagues in the roads division had used bad assumptions and methodology, and possibly violated the law, in approving the certificates for Quadrant. Two of the planners testified in the hearing, Shifton said.
“Bad traffic doesn’t negate a project,” Quadrant’s Orser said, contending the certificate should be upheld. He acknowledged that some mistakes were made in the complicated model used to determine transportation concurrency, but those could have been fixed, he said.
He defended the project, saying it would be a well-planned community that would include 240 units of affordable housing among its 800 homes.
“The quality of the community far outweighs the traffic,” Orser said. “Redmond Ridge is consistently the best-selling community in the Northwest. [Its residents] recognize it as part of the urban experience.”
Paula Adams, communications director for the county’s department of Development and Environmental Services, which oversees development in the county, said the department is reviewing the decision.
“It’s an extremely complicated legal decision, and we’re going to take the time to examine it properly,” Adams said.
Meanwhile, Redmond Mayor Rosemarie Ives said she was pleased with the ruling, although it will do little to ease the existing traffic mess on Avondale Road, Novelty Hill Road and Union Hill Road.
“The county hasn’t mitigated the problems from the development it has already approved,” Ives said. “How could the county ever think it could somehow sneak in this 800-home development? We weren’t going to let that happen.”
Rachel Tuinstra: 206-515-5637 or firstname.lastname@example.org