Wetland impacts raise concerns over proposed BG development


A proposed residential development on the southeast side of Battle Ground is receiving pushback from neighbors and raising concerns from the state ecology department on potential impacts to wetlands in the area.

During a July 7 hearing, project applicants and a number of concerned residents who live near the proposed 37-lot Cedars East development provided testimony. Hearings Examiner Joe Turner extended the period for an open record for several weeks to allow for additional information and responses, adding he aimed for a decision in August.

The roughly 18-acre project would be located off of the dead ends of Northeast 183rd Street and Northeast 180th Street in the southeast corner of the city, and would develop roughly half of the total land area. The land for the proposed development is primarily bordered by unincorporated land, except for a portion on the north side.

Based on city code, the 37 proposed lots would be more than the maximum amount currently allowed, which lands at 34. Jeremy Fick, a civil engineer with Robertson Engineering, said the project applicants would need to reduce the amount of proposed lots.

At the hearing, residents close to the project area voiced concerns ranging from traffic impacts to effects on the local environment. In written public comment prior to the hearing, a number of residents pointed to city code on wetland buffers, which based on the ratings of the wetlands in the project area could be as much as 300 feet.

“The combination of (the types of) wetland and associated buffers leaves less than 0.5 acres of developable unencumbered property,” read a letter from Peter and Sarah Barber, who live near the project area.

The project also received “significant concerns” from the Washington State Department of Ecology, Turner said. A June letter from the department stated although the project avoided direct impacts to several of the wetlands, buffer reductions proposed in the development were excessive.

“The buffers, in this case, seem in many places very narrow,” Turner said.

Battle Ground Assistant Planner James Cramer explained the applicants are considering the purchase of wetland mitigation credits and would reduce the wetland buffers based on conditions in city codes. The city’s recommendation is also contingent on an updated wetland report that needs to be approved by Ecology.

Turner noted the city would be the final authority for any approval based on the impacts of the development. Cramer said that would happen following the final report.

Another issue raised at the hearing focused on non-specific definition on avoidance, which is generally required for any impacts on critical areas such as the wetlands.

Battle Ground Community Development Director Sam Crummett said avoidance isn’t defined by the city. He gave a number of potential ways to define the applicant’s work for Turner to consider.

Crummett explained that based on the city’s planning tools under the state Growth Management Act, Battle Ground aimed for an average density of six housing units per acre across the city. The project area is planned for roughly three houses per acre developed.

Crummett said he believed those planning tools required critical areas to be avoided “to some degree,” but not completely. He said there was case history that subdivisions do have some wetland impacts, adding Ecology’s guidelines didn’t imply complete avoidance, either.

Based on city code, Crummett said it is the applicant’s responsibility to show they’ve attempted feasible avoidance, something he said was evident in the site plans.

“We don’t have a hard and fast rule, or black-and-white criteria that we can measure avoidance off of,” Crummett said.

Fick said the applicants “first and foremost” looked at avoiding the critical areas, as evidenced by a curving road layout, which avoided impacts to the most critically-rated wetlands. He said most wetland impacts are indirect in the current site plan. Of the roughly 3.64 acres of identified wetland in the project area, only about half of an acre would be directly impacted by the development.

A decision from Turner on the approval of the site plan for the development likely won’t take place for another month. On the day of the hearing, the applicants submitted an updated wetland report and requested the record be left open so they can respond to public comments about the project.

Additional comments can be submitted until July 21, Turner said. Responses to the comments will be allowed until July 28 and a final argument from the applicants will be submitted before Aug. 4.

He said he would try to have a decision sent to the city by Aug. 18.


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