Record crowd leaves RBCA Community Meeting with renewed hope

Thursday, September 25, 2014

From the Save Richmond Beach organization

A standing-room-only crowd of more than 100 community members attended the September 9 meeting sponsored by the Richmond Beach Community Association (RBCA). The purpose of the meeting was to update the greater Richmond Beach community on a variety of issues, discussed below, concerning the proposed development at Point Wells. The buzz after the meeting was a renewed sense of optimism that the City of Shoreline has more leverage than they perhaps give themselves credit for to affect the scale and traffic of the Point Wells development.

Issue #1: Transportation Corridor Study

Tom Mailhot, Save Richmond Beach President, began the panel presentation with an update on the Transportation Corridor Study (TCS). Mailhot started by listing who is involved in creating and reviewing the TCS. The study is being conducted by Dave Evan Associates (DEA), a traffic firm hired by the developer, BSRE. There are multiple parties that will review the study results:
  1. City of Shoreline staff
  2. DKS, a local traffic consulting firm hired by the city
  3. Snohomish County staff
  4. Transpo Group, a local traffic consulting firm hired by Snohomish County
  5. A local traffic consulting firm hired by Richmond Beach Advocates (RBA)
The study was supposed to be completed this spring but it has been delayed multiple times. City of Shoreline staff found problems in some of the early study results submitted by DEA and requested that they make adjustment to address those problems. DEA recently showed City staff more complete results but has not yet provided any of the detailed documentation needed to start a complete review of the study results. The City is waiting for these details to be submitted.

The City has confirmed that it will make the study materials available to a traffic consulting firm hired by RBA. RBA is working with the City to make sure that RBA consultants have sufficient time to do a thorough independent review.

RBA is also working with the City to make sure the study includes a possible second access road through Woodway. Snohomish County has said the TCS must include a second access road so we are confident the City will realize the TCS is not complete if it does not analyze the effect of a second road.

Looking further ahead, once the City receives complete documentation from DEA, City staff and DKS will review the study results to make sure it is complete. Then RBA will ask its traffic consulting firm to review the study and recommend revisions and/or seek more information where appropriate. After one last round of revisions are agreed upon by all of the parties, City staff will prepare a draft staff report, which they will present at a public open house. The staff report is expected to include a list of mitigation items BSRE has agreed to fund and a description of the funding mechanism to both build and maintain the items.

As part of the open house, the City will also ask BSRE to present an animated model showing the projected traffic flow resulting from the completed project. The public will be invited to comment on the draft staff report. City staff will consider these comments as they create the final staff report that will be presented to the City Council for approval.

There is currently no date set for the open house or for the final presentation to the City Council; both dates cannot be set until DEA submits the detailed study results.

Issue #2: Two Public Access Roads

Tom McCormick, a Richmond Beach resident, has been instrumental in leading the charge on several topics. At the meeting, he first addressed the issue of a Snohomish County Code requirement for two public access roads at Point Wells.

Point Wells raises many issues, but none are bigger than the need for a second public access road. Snohomish County's Engineering Design and Development Standards (EDDS) provide that

 "A road serving more than 250 ADT (average daily trips) shall be connected in at least two locations with another road or roads that meet applicable standard(s) for the resulting traffic volume."

Snohomish County has advised BSRE that this two-access-road requirement applies to the proposed Point Wells development, but it also advised BSRE that it may apply for a deviation

McCormick said he expects that BSRE will either ask Snohomish County to waive the two-access-road requirement entirely, perhaps arguing that it’s not possible to build a second road on the sloping terrain, or ask the County to permit BSRE to build a non-public emergency-only access road.

From panel member McCormick's perspective, a second public access road heading east from Point Wells is required. He added, "Should BSRE submit a request for a deviation from the two-access-road requirement, we will ask that the request be denied, as the public's safety and general welfare is at stake. We have asked the City to take the lead in fighting any deviation request that BSRE may file, but we have not yet received a commitment from the City".

When BSRE purchased the Point Wells site, BSRE knew, or should have known, that a second public access road is required. It took a risk, knowing that it likely would not be able to develop the property if it couldn't construct a second public access road. Snohomish County should not bail out BSRE. It should deny BSRE's deviation request, thereby putting the burden on BSRE to challenge the denial in court. The risk of loss should be borne by BSRE, not by the public for whom the two-access-road requirement is designed to protect. The Snohomish County Code says that the County's Development Code "shall be enforced for the benefit of the health, safety, and welfare of the general public, and not for the benefit of any particular person or class of persons."

To build a second public access road heading east from Point Wells, BSRE will have to seek a road-building permit from the Town of Woodway. And BSRE would need to work with Woodway to ensure that the traffic impacts aren't too great. As a result of both of these items, in McCormick's view, Woodway would likely gain leverage over the scope of the project and seek to downsize the project.

Issue #3: Tolling on Richmond Beach Drive

The City has expressed concern about the huge scope of the proposed Point Wells development. It has told us that there is little it can do about the scope of the project since the site is in Snohomish County and it, not Shoreline, is the permitting agency. In its efforts to do what it can, the City is working with BSRE on a Transportation Corridor Study, which the City hopes will culminate in a traffic cap of no more than 11,587 ADT going to and from Point Wells. That's over 20 times the current traffic volume on Richmond Beach Drive. In exchange for permitting that many trips on its roads, the City expects to enter into an agreement with BSRE whereby it promises to pay for lots of road improvements and other mitigations and promises to somehow secure an ongoing, long-term stream of funds to pay for future road impacts.

Is there anything that can be done about this, so that the City is not so dependent on BSRE for revenues? If the City did not have to depend on BSRE for revenues, the City would gain leverage and would not need to accept such high traffic volumes from Point Wells.

Tolling is a possible alternative revenue source that needs to be seriously considered and studied by the City. The City could gain the revenue it needs by setting up tolling at the entrance to Point Wells, just south of the County line. Our preliminary research indicates that Shoreline's Transportation Benefits District has the legal authority under state law to institute tolling on Richmond Beach Drive, subject to voter approval. Shoreline voters would be asked to approve tolling at Point Wells as a means of having future Point Wells residents, workers and visitors (rather than Shoreline residents) pay for road improvements, other mitigations and ongoing, long-term costs for Shoreline roads that would not be incurred but for the Point Wells development.

Assuming there are 10,000 ADT going to and from Point Wells after the project is fully developed and the toll is $1 for each trip in and out of Point Wells, gross annual revenue after expenses would be around $3 million. ADT and revenue would be lower in the early stages of the development.

Point Wells presents an ideal opportunity for tolling. The property is in Snohomish County, the project approvals and permitting are under the control of Snohomish County, tax revenue inures to the benefit of Snohomish County, yet the traffic impacts are borne mainly by the City of Shoreline. Tolling is an opportunity for the City, through its Transportation Benefits District, to secure a revenue source independent of BSRE for up-front road improvements and other mitigations and for ongoing, long-term costs of road maintenance and operation. The possibility of tolling also helps the City gain leverage in negotiating lower traffic limits than are currently being discussed.

McCormick concluded his remarks with this advice, "The City should thoroughly study the use of tolls at the entrance to Point Wells."

Issue #4: Completion Timeline for Draft EIS

Panel member Bill Willard summarized the issue of a timely completion for the Draft Environmental Impact Study (DEIS). Willard commented, "The TCS and EIS are related because the City and BSRE agreed to use the TCS as the transportation component of the EIS. This should result in a more thorough study of the traffic impacts than otherwise would be required." Willard said that after the TCS is completed, reviewed by the City and approved, it becomes part of the DEIS. Subsequent links in the chain are Snohomish County review, public commentary, final review by Snohomish County and publication of the final EIS.

In his closing remarks, Willard gave a heads-up to the audience that a hot issue still unresolved in the TCS is the debate of a three-lane vs. a four-lane roadway design for Richmond Beach Road. He said, "This issue is more complex than it seems." So he advised community to follow it closely and weigh in on their perspectives.
Wrap up

During the Q / A period that followed the panel presentation, community members asked clarifying questions on issues discussed at the meeting and posed questions to the panel on other topics, including:
  • Safety issues for Point Wells residents if immediate evacuation was required
  • Landslide danger zones as illustrated on a map that one community member referenced
  • Probability of the City of Shoreline annexing Point Wells
  • Pros and cons of Richmond Beach Road becoming 3 lanes vs. 4 lanes

At the conclusion of the September 9 RBCA meeting, community members walked away more convinced than ever that the issues discussed require much more extensive investigation by local officials than has occurred so far. The RBCA Board urges you to stay current on these issues. Most importantly, let your appointed and elected officials hear from you regarding your expectations for how these issues get publicly deliberated and how you can expect to be fully informed on the most current information available on a given issue.


Anonymous,  September 25, 2014 at 7:29 AM  

RBCA's characterization of the "buzz after the meeting" is pure conjecture if not invention. I was there.

Anonymous,  September 25, 2014 at 8:40 AM  

Really? Tolling? Can you imagine if every County - or City - started tolling drivers that crossed into "their borders" but didn't pay taxes there? Let's start that train rolling down the track, shall we?

Anonymous,  September 25, 2014 at 9:23 AM  

Just exactly what are Mr. Tom McCormick's credentials that suddenly qualify him as an expert here?

Anonymous,  September 25, 2014 at 10:19 AM  

Tolling is just insane, it harms businesses and routes traffic onto alternate routes. But Richmond Beach is so entitled that is something they would think of, wouldn't they?

Anonymous,  September 25, 2014 at 12:42 PM  

What is really insane is that Richmond Beach (and Innis Arden) in large part have installed their preferred majority on the City Council - Doris McConnell, Keith McGlashan, Chris Eggen, Will Hall, and Shari Winstead. And now they feel cheated by the City Council and City Hall staff. Hello! Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it.

The city councilmembers are too friendly with the city staff, and these are the councilmembers you wanted in office, the nextdoor coments from Richmond Beach seem to indicate that these sheep still think Doris McConnell is on their side all the while she votes against their own interests. This is beyond funny, it tragicomic. I can't explain how the most educated, wealthy neighborhoods in Shoreline keep on shooting themselves in the foot, I wouldn't care except for the fact that their stupid decisions (in electing the council majority) materially affect the rest of Shoreline.

And how does it affect the rest of Shoreline? What about the 185th St. ST zoning? Why aren't the cry babies down in Richmond Beach paying attention to that hot mess? Between the upzoning at the Town Center and the 185th St. ST area, it appears the almost 10,000 dwelling units will be added to the NW corner of Shoreline (and I am not even counting what the Crista Master Development Plan has in mind) -- I hope these dolts down in Richmond Beach pay attention to what is at the top of the hill as well as the bottom of the hill.

Anonymous,  September 25, 2014 at 4:06 PM  

Instead of bawling out the RB'rs, why not convert them to the larger issues? Sounds a lot like there is some bad blood between you and them.

Anonymous,  September 25, 2014 at 4:56 PM  

@12:42pm What you might not be able to see from where you live is that the Richmond Beach neighborhood is hardly homogeneous. On the one hand, there is the RB establishment. They've been around a long time. They lead all the organizations down here. They are strong supporters of the 'West Wing' you have correctly identified. Then there are the radicals who are sick and tired of the City's double-crossing our neighborhood and the rest of Shoreline, as well as the RB establishment's feigned opposition to Point Wells. At first there was only one or two clarions. But gradually, more and more in our neighborhood are catching on, and adding our voices. Give us time. By next November, the tide will change.

Anonymous,  September 26, 2014 at 7:12 PM  

If there's a gate, it needs to be in Shoreline. Bridge technology exists to make the logical entrance to Point Wells through Woodway at the developer's expense. This way there will be shared misery.

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