A seven-phase, 424-unit housing subdivision in northeast Battle Ground is under consideration, as the developer’s responsibility over improvements on intersections outside of its land is being questioned.
During a virtual hearing on Oct. 28, Joe Turner, a contracted land use hearings examiner for Battle Ground, heard testimony regarding the “B & G” subdivision, which is planned for the area of Northeast Grace and Northeast Clark avenues.
Concerns over increased traffic were front and center in the nearly two-hour hearing, which was a continuation of a prior hearing held for the development earlier in October. The development needs to go before an independent hearings examiner for approval to move forward to abide by state law.
According to planning documents, the first of the seven phases of development will feature 39 lots at the corner of Northeast Fifth Avenue and Northeast 17th Street.
Representing the applicant, Scott Taylor of SGA Engineering, touched on parking. Taylor explained there would be 385 parking spaces in addition to driveway and garage spaces, with no on-street parking on the major thoroughfares of the project like Onsdorff Boulevard.
According to city engineer Ryan Jeynes, municipal code mandates that developments can’t send vehicle trips to a known failing intersection without mitigation, which has become a point of contention between the city and the developer. The intersections in question — Northwest 29th Avenue and West Main Street, North Parkway Avenue and North Onsdorff Boulevard, South Parkway Avenue and South Rasmussen Boulevard, state Route 503 and Northwest Onsdorff Boulevard, and South Parkway Avenue and Scotton Way — have been identified through a traffic study, and fall outside of the development’s scope.
Steve Morasch, an attorney with law firm Landerholm who is representing the applicant, listed a number of options for the development to move forward. The city council could amend its six-year transportation improvement plan, the developer can construct full improvements to the intersection as laid out in plans, or the developer can provide evidence that mitigation isn’t necessary.
Morasch said this project could land in the no mitigation needed category.
“A couple of the intersections, they’re only exceeding (traffic volumes) during maybe 15 minutes of the day,” Morasch said.
Of the five intersections, Morasch said the applicant is committed to converting the Parkway Avenue at Scotton Way intersection to an all-way stop.
Morasch brought up past legal precedent for the project regarding “proportionality” for a developer to pay for outside improvements. He said the project would generate less than 5% of traffic at most of the intersections in question, with one outlier at 9%. He said the costs to the developer for mitigation are too steep at $2 million.
“Based on the (court cases), our position is the conditions as written can’t be imposed because they lead to the potential where the applicant could be stuck paying for the whole thing with no way to get out of that if the council decides to not take some action,” Morasch said.
Outside of the legal argument, a legislative decision is needed in order for developers to avoid paying for the improvements outside of its project.
“It’s absolute discretion on the city council whether to amend their (transportation plan) or not and how soon they’re going to do that,” Morasch said.
A council solution would take more time, however. Though Jeynes was not aware of how much time it would take for the applicant to put together a design to present, the council would likely take multiple meetings to make any amendments.
“The way things go, it’s more likely going to be three months, four months,” Morasch said.
Turner left the record open for additional comment and responses. He anticipated releasing a decision around Dec. 10.
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Monday, November 8, 2021 Report this