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Letter | What is the rush to approve Coval development?
Despite citizen concern, the City of Mercer Island seems intent on moving with great haste to permit the largest residential development on the Island in 28 years. While one would expect the City to be concerned with sustainability, neighborhood character, and preservation of the natural environment--as mandated in the Comprehensive Plan and the City Code—sadly, this does not appear to be the case.
Let’s take a look at what is at stake.
The Canadian Walmart developer has applied to develop mega-houses on 18 lots on this unique, beautiful site. Despite the fact that the site—known as the Coval site—sits on a watercourse and includes three Hazard Areas, the Planning Commission after a divided 4-2 vote, is still recommending that the City approve all 18 lots.
Why the rush to develop this site? Why the rush to short-circuit public process? During recent Planning Commission meetings, the discussion among the Commissioners suggested (strongly) that some felt their hands were tied by instructions from the City that they could NOT consider any options other than the absolute minimum requirements of the Code. What purpose does the Comprehensive Plan serve if it cannot be used to guide the recommendations of the Planning Commission and the decisions of the City Council? Why should the City even consult the Planning Commission and City Council if they have little or no flexibility? The City Code mandates achieving a balance between the needs of developers and neighbors. This principle appears to have been lost.
While we support responsible, sustainable development, we question the haste with which the City is moving in this instance. Consider these facts:
The developer has presented evidence that conflicts with experts retained by those who feel this development needs to be subject to public scrutiny.
The nature of the watercourse, wetlands, location and composition of stormwater run-off, and impacts of removing the western ridge are issues that remain unresolved. Case in point: the developer proposes to use the ditch on 84th Avenue S.E. for stormwater run-off, with the notion that the ditch is sufficient to carry stormwater Lake Washington. There are serious and substantial environmental concerns that independent experts have raised—that seem to be brushed off by the City. We suggest that the City Council hear from the Planning Commission and citizens to determine the proper course of action—after debating in an open public forum.
Because there are outstanding issues that have not been resolved, and because the Planning Commission was hampered by the instructions from the City that they could not recommend anything other than the minimum requirements, we encourage Island residents to express their concerns by attend the February 24th City Council meeting.
For more information, please visit www.mi-frnds.org.
Signatures of citizens concerned about process are being gathered. Contact Sue@writestuf.biz and sign your name on a letter to the city council members. Please, make your voice heard.