By JESSICA SPARKS
Published May 23, 2012
Resident challenges East Monroe environmental study
MONROE - A Monroe resident has filed an appeal challenging the city’s final phased environmental impact statement for the East Monroe Economic Development Group’s comprehensive plan amendment and rezone request.
The city’s hearing examiner, John Galt, will hear the appeal Thursday, June 21 at City Hall. The city had yet to schedule a time at press time. The hearing will be open to the public.
The appeal will not affect the scheduled public hearing on June 5 before the City Council on all of the 2012 comprehensive plan amendment proposals. People will be able to speak on the East Monroe proposal. The appeal challenges just the final phased environmental impact statement.
If the hearing examiner’s decision is appealed, it would go to Snohomish County Superior Court.
The city can only amend its comprehensive plan once a year, and the City Council is scheduled to vote on all 2012 amendments in July.
Lowell Anderson, a longtime opponent of the East Monroe proposal along with 92 of his Rivmont neighbors who live on the bluff above the property, filed the appeal earlier this month.
The proposal asks the city to change about 50 acres of farmland zoned as limited open space to general commercial. Primary property owner, Heritage Baptist Fellowship, has been trying for years to get the zoning changed, but each time the city has denied the church’s attempts.
With friendlier people in office this time around, including friend of the church Mayor Robert Zimmerman, the church may get its desired outcome this year.
The city hasn’t hid its desire to push the rezone through.
It began with the abrupt reversal to require a full environmental impact statement and continued with a personal visit by Zimmerman to the planning commission to lobby for the rezone in the name of economic development. The latest example came last month when the city submitted a last-minute surprise rewrite of the comprehensive plan to make the rezone “align” with the comprehensive plan so it could be approved.
The planning commission couldn’t get a majority vote, though, and sent the proposal to the City Council with no recommendation. The City Council has final say on comprehensive plan amendments.
The land, located right off U.S. 2 in the eastern edge of the city, floods and has significant environmental and traffic constraints in addition to a lack of access to water and storm water infrastructure. The state Department of Ecology has told the city the studies alone that would be required would be costly and time consuming. Ecology also questioned the integrity of the city’s environmental impact statement.
For many residents and local and state officials, the thought of allowing commercial development on this piece of land doesn’t make any sense.
Littered throughout the final phased environmental impact statement right before any mention of an impact is this sentence: “This action in and of itself does not have any environmental impacts.”
Many residents, including Anderson, aren’t buying that.
Read the appealhere.