65 Brookside residents attend meeting about proposed changes at Town Center

Friday, February 1, 2019

Brookside Town Center Open House meeting
Photo by Bart Shilvock


By Donna Hawkey

Residents of the Brookside neighborhood in Lake Forest Park organized a Town Center Open House on the evening of January 30, 2019 at Brookside elementary school. Organizers set up stations with different topics related to Town Center and invited participants to talk to others interested in that topic.

Participants then gathered for a general discussion.

About 65 people attended. They gathered to share information and build support against what they see as an immense housing development allowed for in the current version of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for Lake Forest Park Town Center.

Three alternative scenarios are spelled out in the DEIS. One, which is required, is for no action. The second calls for varied heights up to 75 feet. The third scenario is for uniform heights with structures up to 85 feet tall and potential housing for as many as 1,500 new residents within Town Center.

Residents expressed shock at the number of housing units as well as the building heights.

There are no specific proposals or plans at this point, but residents have different understandings and concerns about the terms of the DEIS and the process to create it.

The DEIS assumes a 15-25 year multi-phase time frame, but some residents fear that if circumstances change, such as if the property is sold to a new owner, that time-frame could be expedited.

Most of those attending the meeting live close to Town Center. They are concerned about what will be built next to them and about the lack of time to understand the issues and make comments to the City.

The public commenting period for the DEIS ends Friday, February 1st at midnight.

These residents would like an extension of this deadline to re-evaluate the process as they don’t feel the DEIS represents the community’s stated visions and values.

The Lake Forest Park Stewardship Foundation has expressed similar concerns.

Much of the process has been driven by deadlines imposed on the City by Sound Transit, which is trying to implement its Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) through Lake Forest Park. LFP needs to site a parking garage in Town Center to serve the BRT.

Recently, Sound Transit pushed their plans back in LFP for one year.

Most of those in attendance seemed to agree that a future possible Town Center redevelopment plan is a welcome idea to increase vitality, diversity, and density in Lake Forest Park. However, they want restrictions that help maintain its current sense of community and beautiful natural surroundings.

A statement submitted by LFP resident Ray Skjelbred, seemed to sum up the feelings of many. “Lake Forest Park is not a suburb. It is a little city that represents an idea of how to embrace and coexist with the natural world, and today it is an endangered species.”

Former LFP Councilmember Jack Tonkin attended the meeting, but instead of any zoning changes, Jack suggests increasing population by loosening regulations of Accessory Dwelling Units (ADU) so that they can be rented and bring in income to help offset other living cost increases for residents. He likes the idea that the City creates incentives for residents to build additional ADU type housing.

Councilmember Mark Phillips was the only council member at the meeting. He joined in and helped answer questions as best he could. 

He said the City Council has “no specific plans or preconceived notions for any development. The DEIS is the beginning of a long process with various other opportunities for residents to input."

Citizens questioned why these new density levels are so much higher than the required 2035 Growth Management Act (GMA). In the City’s 2015 Comprehensive Plan, only 551 new housing units are stated. The DEIS speaks to 1,500 new housing units, seemingly a large number for a small city like LFP to absorb.

Census bureau data shows that the rate of growth throughout King County has seen a 2.5 percent increase in population just from July 2016 through July 2017. Since 2010 that also represents a nearly 19 percent growth rate.

One long-time resident, who is also an environmental lawyer, sent a letter to Stephen Bennett, Director of City Planning which states, “the DEIS is inadequate, incomplete, and misleading about key issues, impacts and features. The alternatives, the hearts of the DEIS, are skewed toward dramatic increases in density and traffic, and away from the community’s values and needs.”

Even though this is a non-project, and the DEIS states an assumed multi-phased time frame of 15-25 years or more, once it becomes the final EIS, it becomes City code.

Another resident stated that “City Council seems tone-deaf and submissive. What they direct in the Final EIS is translated into code. From the code, a developer could build out the Town Center to over-maximum capacity at any time.”

To help with education, the Lake Forest Park Stewardship recently provided this definition of a DEIS:

“DEIS is the acronym for Draft Environmental Impact Statement. An environmental impact statement (EIS) is a document required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) for certain actions ‘significantly affecting the quality of the human environment.’ 
"An EIS is a tool for decision making. It should describe the impacts on the environment as a result of a proposed action, it should compare impacts of alternatives as well as plans to mitigate the impacts. To ‘mitigate’ means to lessen or remove negative impacts.”

The deadline for residents to comment on the DEIS is by February 1st midnight. Send any written comments to this address steve@cityoflfp.com

Here is a copy of the DEIS

--Donna Hawkey can be reached at dhawkey@comcast.net


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