By now all in the area should be aware that a momentous decision is about to be made by three or more of the five members of the Black Diamond City Council. That decision deals with YarrowBay’s proposed 6,000 plus home, 1.1 million square feet of commercial/business master planned developments (MPDs) on nearly 700 acres.
Why am I, someone who lives in the rural area near Hobart, interested? Why are the cities of Maple Valley, Covington, Auburn and Enumclaw interested? Why are King County and the state interested? Why should you be interested? The reason is that a yes decision by as few as three council members in Black Diamond will adversely affect your quality of life and that of your children and their children for generations.
I personally like MPDs, in the right place, in the right way, with the right safeguards and with everyone who will be affected having a voice in the decisions. You guessed it, the YarrowBay proposed MPDs in Black Diamond go 0-for-4 of those attributes. Even the Mariners do better than that.
Most have undoubtedly read the near unanimous letters to the editor in opposition to these monstrosities. Many may have read the articles describing the monthly Greater Maple Valley Area Council meetings where unanimous votes in opposition have taken place. Some of you have participated in the FEIS (final environmental impact statement) hearing, the MPD application hearing, and/or the ongoing closed-record hearing. The story is the same. As more details are revealed, the worse the picture looks.
For those of you who have been unable to participate in those hearings due to time and/or family commitments, here in a nut shell is what has transpired. The hearing examiner, after listening to expert testimony, found the FEISs to be adequate according to the very low threshold in our SEPA (state environmental policy act) laws. The hearing examiner, after listening to testimonies from the public, government agencies and organizations, recommended approval of, but imposed well over 100 detailed conditions. The Black Diamond City Council, after listening to testimonies from the public, government agencies and organizations, began deliberations on the MPD applications on Monday, Aug. 9 and are still ongoing.
Observations from those deliberations have been startling, as several Black Diamond City Council members: (1) have demonstrated they not read or understood much of the evidentiary material compiled by the hearing examiner; (2) do not understand the far reaching ramifications of these proposed MPDs on southeast King County residents and businesses; (3) feel compelled to give YarrowBay a fair shake, but not the public; and (4) are ready to make a rush to judgement on the most important civic decision of their lives.
A major decision the City Council members are gravitating to is to reject what is probably the hearing examiner’s strongest recommendation: to develop and validate a new traffic model at the start to determine what mitigations will be needed. Unfortunately, the City Council intends to use YarrowBay’s flawed traffic model (the hearing examiner’s words) and its resulting inadequate mitigations and then wait until 850 homes are built, (about a 50 percent increase in Black Diamond’s population) before even creating and using a new traffic model that works. That’s like Boeing saying: “For a new airplane program, we’ll build 850 airplanes first based on our flawed existing model, collect real data from any crashes, and then create a new model using the crash data to look at how we should design the airplane.”
In closing, there are several issues related to the proposed MPDs you may be concerned about. The topmost probably is endless traffic congestion throughout southeast King County as 10,000 plus extra vehicles are added to already clogged roads with little to no major funding for improved infrastructure expected for a generation or more. In addition, there are many major impacts both inside Black Diamond and outside: direct connection to Green Valley Road; average densities of nine homes per acre with highs up to 30 homes per acre (that is not a typo); up to seven schools to be sited in the rural area; new pressures imposed on already overstretched police, fire and emergency medical services; habitat degradation and wildlife loss; extensive storm water runoff with new collection and retention facilities required; phosphorus impacts and resulting degradation of local lakes, especially Lake Sawyer; new wastewater conveyance, treatment and discharge facilities needed; air and water quality degradation; extensive clear cutting; bogs and wetlands decimation and groundwater protection and recharging.
The Black Diamond City Council is poised to approve applications for these two outsized MPDs with some conditions. This would give Yarrow Bay at least 15 years of vesting for land use of nearly 700 acres. Please go to the city of Black Diamond’s MPD web page to access more information.
Make your voice heard now, because, if you don’t, you’ll forever regret it.