Appeal against Cathcart multi-townhome development continued to Oct. 12 as arguments heard at County Council
Michael Whitney photo
A developer applied to turn this open space at Cathcart Way and Highway 9 into a townhouse development and a Community Transit park-and-ride lot. This photo looks toward the intersection.
Update, Oct. 12: The County Council affirmed the Hearing Examiner's decision today.
CATHCART — The land-use appeal crying foul to how officials approved 286 townhomes at state Route 9 and Cathcart Way, which is being heard by the County Council, may see a decision this week.
Opening arguments and rebuttals were heard Wednesday, Oct. 5.
The County Council voted to continue the hearing to Wednesday, Oct. 12 at 10:30 a.m.
The site in question is vacant county surplus land.
Appellants want the county hearing examiner’s July 2022 decision stricken and to have the whole thing re-heard by an independent hearing examiner.
One of the contentions is that at the hearing, county planners were not transparent that the county already signed a 2020 agreement to sell the land to Pacific Ridge Homes, a subsidiary of developer D.R. Horton, which could have been reviewed for the hearing.
Last week, the County Council asked county staff to bring back an answer on whether the land purchase agreement documents would have been available to anyone who could have requested it as a public record in advance of the contested hearing conducted by the County Hearing Examiner.
Appellants argue that an alternative sketch of an “urban village” with 129 townhouses and five commercial pads wasn’t followed through on.
Appeal attorney Rick Aramburu also argued last week that adjacent land for a park-and-ride lot is “clearly intertwined” with the land sale, and that this site’s environmental review should have been combined with the whole of the hearing examiner’s decision. Other appellants echoed arguments that you can’t have the townhouse development without the adjacent park-and-ride.
Aramburu also argued that the county ignored the Growth Management Act when it authorized this amount of development on 31 acres in a mostly rural area. (The land is zoned “Planned Community Business,” a form of Urban Commercial zoning.)
It appears Horton took the option to construct the park-and-ride on the adjoining property within a specific timeframe to get a discount on the land purchase price. This is from the Tribune’s review of the October 2021 fifth amended version of the purchase-and-sale contract; the county and Horton finalized the purchase-and-sale in the summer of 2022. (Post-press update: A finalized July 15, 2022 agreement also had the agreement to build the park-and-ride.)
Aramburu said a D.R. Horton representative told the hearing examiner the park-and-ride wasn’t part of the hearing.
“The Park-and-Ride was an integral part of the county’s arrangements,” Aramburu told the County Council.
One of the appellants, Debbie Wetzel, has now paid for a separate environmental appeal specifically about the park-and-ride.
“The community shouldn’t have to do two SEPA appeals,” supporter Mickie Gundersen testified to the County Council. Appeals cost $1,500 each.
The county’s sales terms stipulate that the roads feeding to the park-and-ride must go through the 31-acre property.
D.R. Horton’s attorney Duana Koloušková told the County Council that if the hearing examiner’s decision gets remanded, it would “have absolutely no value whatsoever,” she said, and not accomplish anything except having the purchase-and-sale entered as evidence into the record. A new hearing examiner would decide the same result that the proposal met all the code, Koloušková said.
Nobody appealed the environmental review, Koloušková said, and no claims the hearing examiner’s decision didn’t comply with law. Discontent with the project is not a basis to remand, Koloušková said.
Koloušková said Aramburu was newly introducing the park-and-ride arguments.
Two sections of the appeal document filed to the County Council discuss the project’s links to the park-and-ride.
John Mirante, a vice president for Pacific Ridge Homes, told a reporter the company had no comment on the case.
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