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Lake Meridian development project inches forward, court battle continues

A controversial proposal by developer Bill Floten to build 27 homes on the banks of Lake Meridian took one step forward last week.

The Kent City Council voted 5-1 July 1 to approve a rezone application by Floten to allow six homes per acre rather than 4.5 homes per acre on the 6.3-acre site on the lake’s northwest shore at 25840 135th Lane S.E.

But the development remains tied up in King County Superior Court on other matters connected to the proposal. Floten has appealed an April 15 decision by the Council that affirms a decision last year by City Hearing Examiner Ted Hunter to approve, subject to wetland issues, a preliminary plat application by Floten to build the homes.

“The first half is behind us,” said Bill Williamson, the attorney for Floten, in an interview outside City Hall after Council’s July 1 vote. “Now we need to get on with the other issues.”

The rezone application first came before the Council in November. The Council voted then to send the rezone back to the hearing examiner. Floten filed an appeal in December in Superior Court to allow the rezone.

Superior Court Judge Jay White issued an order in January that stopped the rezone from going back to Hunter. City Attorney Tom Brubaker tried two other times to get the rezone back in front of the Council. City officials and Floten finally reached an agreement to ask for a Superior Court ruling to allow the rezone to go back to the Council.

“We’re pleased to have this part of the dispute on the project completed,” Williamson said. “We hope the remainder of the dispute can be amicably resolved.”

No Council members made any statements prior to the vote on the rezone. Councilman Les Thomas cast the lone vote against approval of the hearing examiner’s recommendation.

Floten’s appeal in Superior Court seeks to remove the conditions that six lots near the shoreline of the proposed Meridian Banks development may be unbuildable because of potential harm to wetlands.

“We believe that would set unbelievable precedent on anybody who wants to redevelop property on Lake Meridian,” Williamson said. “On any remodel or building permit, property owners would lose their existing shoreline frontage.”

Williamson made a similar argument before the Council in April before its vote to affirm the hearing examiner’s decision on the preliminary plat application.

At that April 15 meeting, Kim Pratt, assistant city attorney, argued the decision to disallow six homes to be built on the wetlands on the Floten property has nothing to do with future projects along the shoreline by other property owners.

Williamson last week refuted that contention.

“The city wants to take that property for restoration of wetlands and we’re challenging that,” Williamson said of the lawsuit by Floten. “It’s unheard of that a city would do this on an urbanized lake. The fight is over that.”

Floten also has appealed in Superior Court a denial of his appeal by Hunter of the State Environmental Policy Act threshold determination.

Hunter ruled that Floten must prove he will take steps to mitigate the impact on wetlands as required under SEPA. Those steps have not been taken. The state policy requires local agencies to consider the likely environmental consequences of a proposal before approving or denying the proposal.

Contact Steve Hunter at 253-872-6600, ext. 5052 or shunter@reporternewspapers.com.

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