If Snohomish County is allowed to proceed with its present plan, the open space we now enjoy on the former golf course will be replaced with a regional sports complex designed to host frequent athletic tournaments. The proposed complex would feature seven sports fields (of which four are artificial turf), stadium lighting (to accommodate night games) and paved parking for over 700 vehicles (approximately the same amount of parking as the nearby Costco). The complex also includes two large buildings—a privately run 60,000 square foot indoor mountain bike facility and a Community Activity Center with office space for various private clubs. Because such a massive sports complex would require large open and flat areas, hundreds of existing trees would be removed and a massive cut-and-fill project would ensue in order to level the gently rolling landscape.
Thus far Snohomish County has provided insufficient objective evidence supporting the need for a regional sports complex or tournament athletic facility.
In fact, Snohomish County Parks & Recreation Department’s recent survey ranked Sports Facilities and Special Use Facilities as the two lowest priorities of Snohomish County residents. Also, public input reflected a definite focus on prioritizing the maintenance and use of existing facilities over developing new ones.
The impact from the proposed regional sports complex would be far worse for the community than the Brightwater Sewage Treatment Facility, the very project the park was supposed to mitigate. The County has yet to provide documentation detailing the effects of increased traffic volumes in our neighborhoods, noise from the fields during regular games and athletic tournaments, ambient light from the tall pole lights, reduction in habitat for wildlife, increases in emergency response times, etc.
As part of the Brightwater Settlement Agreement, King County gave $70 million in mitigation funds to Snohomish County for impacts to the affected neighborhoods and communities in and around the Brightwater Sewage Treatment Facility. Of this, $16.9M was specifically allocated for a “Maltby Area Park” as community mitigation. Snohomish County would use the funds intended for this community park to instead build a regional sports complex for the benefit of regional, state, national or international individuals and organizations.
Although the Brightwater Settlement Agreement stated that multiple locations were being considered for the “Maltby Area Park” project, the County has not provided sufficient documentation of this site selection process. Furthermore, the County’s Comprehensive Parks & Recreation Plan does not identify a regional sports complex anywhere in South Snohomish County.
Snohomish County hasn’t provided this information, but we do know the following: $9.7M was paid to purchase the 100-acre Wellington Hills Park property in January of 2012. And over $900K has already been paid in fees to Bruce Dees & Associates to develop the current Master Plan. Additional costs would include improvements to 240th Avenue SE, four turf fields estimated by Snohomish County at approximately $1M each (with a useful life of 10 years), as well as the numerous other features shown on the Master Plan. The County's estimate for full build-out is approximately $27M. But only $16.9M was allocated in the Brightwater Settlement Agreement. ALL project cost overruns would be the responsibility of Snohomish County. A feasibility study and business model should precede the development of the Master Plan, but there is no public information detailing the numerous costs to develop and maintain a large regional sports complex.
We are not opposed to sports or sports fields. Our position is that the County must demonstrate the need for a sports complex and they must properly site such a complex in an area that is conveniently accessible by all Snohomish County residents. We also believe in the rules and regulations that stipulate proper use of the Wellington Hills Park property as required by the Growth Management Act (GMA) and the Snohomish County Comprehensive Parks & Recreation Plan. That is, a rural area park must be consistent with rural activity and uses. Our goal is for a thoughtfully developed park that serves the community and is in balance with the surrounding neighborhoods.
The park property is currently zoned R5 (one home per 5 acres). Because the Growth Management Act (GMA) protects rural areas, it would be very difficult for the County to rezone the property. Rezoning the property would require a demonstration by the County that housing and employment goals cannot be met unless the urban area boundary is expanded.
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