Monday, February 13, 2012

Community activists take City of Redmond to court to enforce long-standing tree ordinance

Rendering of Group Health Overlake Village by the City of Redmond
13-story hotel is absent.  Significant trees are shown in the park
Group Health Overlake site, 11/2012
UPDATED:  A legal fight over Redmond's Group Health Overlake Village is brewing from the City waiving a long-standing tree retention ordinance.   "Citizens and Neighbors for a Sustainable Redmond" ("Sustainable Redmond") of which Mayor Emeritus Ives is a member, and two neighborhoods, are suing the City and  the Group Health landowner for a 100% clear-cut of the 28-acre site.  Removal of all trees on the site, including 65 extra-large trees over 30.25 inches in diameter are slated to be cleared.  The diameter on one "Landmark Tree" is estimated to be over 50 inches, and 250 years old.  Group Health's arborists claimed the trees were dangerous and will fall over in wind storms.   City associate planner Lisk said the eleven significant trees in the "park" area will be removed and the remaining "parkland" will be hydroseeded.

City council voted 6-1 (Kim Allen) to waive the long-standing 35% tree retention ordinance.  At least four councilmembers justified the tree ordinance Exception by referencing requirements of the Growth Management Act.   Ive's showed council a city map of all the buildings in Overlake that could absorb the City's density requirements.

Several stakeholders were quoted in a February 12, 2012 online Seattle Times article by Keith Irvine, as follows:    Mayor John Marchione justified 100% tree removal saying:  Read More >>

"As a kid I went to Group Health, so I'm very familiar with the site.  If  it was possible, I would have them keep their trees on the borders of the property and have the buildings hidden among the trees.  That's what I wanted, but the data and the engineering show that preserving those trees is not feasible with the density that we want." 
Councilmember John Stilin explained his vote saying: 
"We'll have forests where there should be forests and we'll have development where there should be development."    (Group Health plans to mitigate the tree loss with off-site planting of tree saplings and shrubs;  though, the city is struggling to find "forest sites.")
Bill Biggs, Group Health Vice President and Chair of Redmond Economic Development Alliance (REDA) stated:
 "If you think about this location and light rail coming and 40,000 Microsoft jobs next door, I don't know how you'd come up, frankly, with a better location.  It's going to be different but it's going to be a wonderful place.  It's the kind of walkable, dense, mixed-use development that that site actually is ideal for."  He submitted a sealed "offer" to of little consequence.
Mayor Emeritus Rosemarie Ives said during her 16-year tenure she'd  tell developers Group Health Cooperative was an excellent example of saving trees while building.  Ives said,
"Group Health knew exactly what they were doing in 1977.  They didn't come in and clear-cut that property when they built the hospital and the clinic.  I've said to developers in my years, "You want to see how it's done, go see Group Health, and we'll work with you."   
Before the vote, Councilmember Emeritus Nancy McCormmick rose to the podium reminding the Council and Mayor the earlier planning decisions were to include trees in and around the development and up the terranced hill.  Councilmember Margeson said trees were drawn into the plans primarily for "scoping' the size of the buildings.  A 13-story hotel and numerous 8-story buildings are planned.

Reported by Bob Yoder
Rendering by City of Redmond
Photo By Yoder

1 comment:

Sam W. said...

Good! Take this council to court on our tree retention ordinance, and if that doesn't work, vote the bums who support this travesty out!

Kim Allen has won my vote - the rest should start looking for new things to do with time.