Preserving our communities through responsible and sustainable planning.

What are we saving Richmond Beach from?

Save Richmond Beach is a local community group, all volunteer, that was formed in 2009 to fight against a proposed large scale development at Point Wells that would put a small city of 6,000 new residents at the end of a single two lane neighborhood road and generate traffic volume that would ruin the quiet, safe, and walkable neighborhoods we live in. We aren’t opposed to development at Point Wells, but strongly believe it should be scaled to fit with the residential neighborhoods surrounding it and to fit with the very limited access to the site. We are trying to save the quality of life we all enjoy in Richmond Beach, Innes Arden, and Woodway.

How did this start?

Point Wells has been a petroleum facility for over 100 years. The Alon Group purchased Point Wells in 2006 intending to continue its use distributing petroleum products. But within a few years Alon realized that the site would be much more valuable if it were developed into a mixed use residential and commercial area. In 2010 Alon transferred control of the site to its real estate arm, Blue Square Real Estate (BSRE), with the intent to develop it.

BSRE started working with Snohomish County to change the site’s zoning to allow a large Urban Center development. Snohomish County’s Comprehensive Plan would not allow that since it required Urban Centers be near mass transit facilities such as train stations or large transit hubs, while the only access to Point Wells was a single two lane dead end road. BSRE was not willing to accept lack of access as an obstacle to their plans, so in August, 2009 they persuaded the Snohomish County Council to pass ordinances Nos. 09-038 and 09-051 which amended the Snohomish County Comprehensive Plan and Future Land Use Map (FLUM) to allow Point Wells to be zoned as an Urban Center. The City of Shoreline, the Town of Woodway, and Save Richmond Beach (SRB) joined to petition the Growth Management Hearings Board (GMHB) claiming the plan changes were inconsistent with other sections of the Comprehensive Plan and that the environmental review for the changes was not complete.

A few months later in May, 2010, BSRE convinced the county to pass ordinances 09-079 and 09-080 amending the county’s development regulations to implement the new Urban Center zoning for Point Wells. Once again the City of Shoreline, the Town of Woodway, and SRB petitioned the GMHB claiming that the new regulations were not consistent with the requirements in the county’s Comprehensive Plan. The GMHB consolidated this new petition with the original petition and held a hearing on March 2, 2011.

Instead of waiting for the GMHB its issue its ruling, two days later on March 4th BSRE submitted development plans to Snohomish County for a large Urban Center development at Point Wells with over 3000 dwelling units and over 100,000 square feet of commercial space.  The county accepted the plans as complete. BSRE did not want to wait for the ruling because under Washington State law, if they submitted their plans before the ruling was issued, BSRE would have vested rights to build the development even if the GMHB later ruled the comprehensive plan and regulation changes were invalid.

So what was the ruling (long version)?

This is the long version. The short version follows below if you don’t want the full details.

The final ruling was issued on April 25, 2011. The Board concluded the county’s actions were clearly erroneous in three respects:

  • The designation was inconsistent with County comprehensive plan provisions concerning Urban Centers and thus non-compliant with the internal consistency requirements of RCW 36.70A.070 (preamble).
  • Because the action thwarted state Growth Management Act (GMA) compliance by the City of Shoreline, the action violated the RCW 36.70A.100 requirement for external consistency.
  • The action was not guided by GMA Planning Goals 1, 3, and 12.

1. Accommodate urban growth where urban services can be efficiently provided.

3. Encourage an efficient multi-modal transportation system based on regional priorities and consistent with city comprehensive plans.

12. Ensure provision of urban services in urban areas as growth occurs, without decreasing service levels for existing residents.

The Board concluded ordinances 09-038 and 09-051 substantially interfered with the goals of the GMA and therefore declared them invalid and ordered the County to take legislative action to comply with the requirements of the GMA.

The Board also concluded the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) review for ordinances 09-038 and 09-051 was deficient because the Final Supplemental Environment Impact Study (FSEIS) did not include analysis of reasonable alternatives. The Board also ordered the County to take action to comply with SEPA.

When the Snohomish County Council passed ordinances Nos. 09-079 and 09-081 to amend the Snohomish County development regulations specific to Point Wells, the County relied on the FSEIS previously done for ordinances 09-038 and 09-051.  The Board ruled that because the FSEIS was deficient for ordinances 09-038 and 09-051 it was also deficient for ordinances 09-079 and 09-081 and ordered the County to issue a supplemental EIS to address issues raised by the City of Shoreline’s Traffic and Safety Study for Point Wells development.

So what was the verdict (short version)?

The Growth Management Hearings Board concluded that due to lack of access to high capacity transit facilities, the Point Wells property should never have been zoned as an Urban Center. Unfortunately the ruling didn’t stop BSRE’s development plans because since they had submitted their development plans prior to the GMHB issuing the ruling, BSRE claimed state law gave them the right to develop according to the plans submitted.

We don’t give up, we take our case to court(s)

Since the GMHB had clearly stated Point Wells was no place for an Urban Center development, and BSRE’s proposal to add more than 3000 dwelling units would result in ten to fifteen thousand new car trips through our quiet residential neighborhood, we were not willing to just let BSRE proceed. In September, 2011 the Town of Woodway and SRB filed suit in King County Superior Count (Case 11-2-31315-8) claiming that BSRE’s development permit should not be considered vested because it was based on regulations passed without a valid SEPA review; that is, the invalid SEPA review overrode the normal state vesting rules. The suit also asked the court to order Snohomish County to halt further processing of the development permit.  The City of Shoreline did not join in this suit.

After a hearing on November 23, 2011, the Court granted SRB/Woodway’s motion for summary judgment and concluded that BSRE was not vested to the Snohomish County ordinances in effect at the time BSRE’s urban center development permits were accepted. The Court also enjoined Snohomish County from further processing BSRE’s Urban Center permits until it has complied with the Growth Management rulings with respect to SEPA. The County and BSRE appealed the decision to the Court of Appeals (case numbers 68048-0 and 68049-8 (consolidated). The Court of Appeals hearing was in December, 2012 and on January 7, 2013 the Court reversed the Superior Court decision and found in favor of BSRE and Snohomish County.

SRB then joined with the Town of Woodway to petition the State Supreme Court to review the Court of Appeals decision (case number 88405-6). On June 4, 2013 the petition was considered by a 5 justice panel with unanimous agreement to accept the petition for review of the case. The Supreme Court heard the case on October 24, 2013 and on April 10, 2014 issued their ruling upholding the Appeals Court decision and confirming that BSRE did have vested rights to develop an Urban Center at Point Wells.

We lost in court, but that’s not the end

Since we had not been successful in stopping the development, we turned to working with our local governments to minimize the impact of the development as much as possible. With Snohomish County that means making sure they follow all their development regulations before approving the permit. With the City of Shoreline that means trying to convince them that they have some measure of control over what happens on their streets.

Click here to get more information about the specific issues we are now working on…

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