Opposing Sides Praise County's Agreement On Grand Ridge Development
An agreement announced today by King County Executive Gary Locke with the owners of the proposed Grand Ridge development drew early praise from both environmentalists and pro-development advocates.
Hailed by Locke as a breakthrough and by County Councilman Larry Phillips as a "new way of doing business in King County," the agreement calls for the owners of the 2,025-acre property on the East Sammamish Plateau to donate more than two square miles of land to open space.
In exchange, the county would allow a mix of office, retail and high-density housing development on 352 acres of land.
Today's agreement also creates a development that many consider aesthetically appealing. Without the agreement, Grand Ridge would have been developed with large, expensive houses on five-acre lots. The proposal creates a mix of housing in several price categories.
"I've rarely been prouder of an elected official than I am today of the county executive," County Councilwoman Cynthia Sullivan said today. "It's rare that someone comes into a process and produces a result that it so public-spirited."
The proposed Grand Ridge development provoked controversy because it's just east - on the rural side - of an urban-growth boundary set in 1992. Environmentalists were worried that if the county allowed one large parcel of rural land to be developed in an urban manner, others would follow.
Mary Anne Tagney Jones of the Washington Environmental
Council also applauded Locke's agreement. "For four years, we've lived and breathed Grand Ridge," she said. "Under this proposal, we'll keep the wild salmon streams, the bear. There is a cougar on that land - I've seen it."
Today's agreement is consistent with a compromise Locke introduced last week that would allow some urban development in rural areas adjacent to the county's urban-growth boundary. Locke proposed that developers be allowed to build in rural areas if they donate four acres of public open space for every acre they build on.
Locke's compromise would require approval from the Growth Management Planning Council before the Grand Ridge proposal could go forward.
The council is to vote on the compromise Wednesday.
In the past two years, Sullivan - one of the region's most well-versed official on growth management - has turned her focus toward streamlining those regulations to also allow for job growth and affordable housing. A supporter of the Grand Ridge project, she described Locke's proposal as a way of accomplishing all of these goals.
City Councilman Jim Street called the idea workable, and Gary Lawrence, the city's planning director, said it answered Mayor Norm Rice's desire to create additional open space.
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