Conditions set for proposed Woodway Fields project

Woodway-HS-athletic-fieldThe Edmonds City Council Tuesday night worked through a variety of issues related to proposed installation of new multi-use sports fields at the former Woodway High School, continuing its closed-record review of the City Hearing Examiner’s April 10 recommendation to permit bleachers and fencing for the project.

A final decision on whether to issue a conditional use permit for the fields, the first phase of a larger sports complex proposed by the Edmonds School District in partnership with the city and the Verdant Health Commission, is in the council’s hands. A week earlier,  on April 21, councilmembers heard from both project opponents and representatives for the school district, which has applied for a conditional use permit to to install field lights, 70- to 90-foot-high light poles, ball control fencing over 25 feet high and bleachers as part of a playfield improvement project planned at the former Woodway High School, 23200 100th Ave West. (The school district has since withdrawn its request for field lights after Olbrechts recommended against approving them.)

Councilmembers moved a step closer to approving the project Tuesday night, but not before extensive discussion. Councilmember Joan Bloom wanted to know why the project had been issued a State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) Determination of Non-Significance (DNS) given the environmental implications, including its proximity to a wildlife habitat. City Attorney Jeff Taraday replied that it was not a topic that the council could address, as the school district served as the lead agency for the SEPA review.

“There is no mechanism for city to provide a SEPA appeal or do anything in the way of SEPA even if we wanted to,” Taraday said. “That will be the school district’s battle to fight in another forum and not something we can take up here.”

City Examiner Phil Olbrechts’ recommendations to the council came 10 days after he listened during a two-and-a-half-hour public hearing to nearby residents’ concerns about lighting, noise and traffic likely to be generated from organized sports teams using the proposed turf fields. (You can read his entire recommendation here.)

On Tuesday night, both Bloom and Councilmember Lora Petso said they were worried about traffic implications of the project, noting that there is just one driveway into and out of the school property. Parking was also mentioned by both councilmembers, who said that Edmonds Heights K-12 School, located in the former Woodway High building, puts on numerous theater performances that could conflict with sporting events.

City Planner Michael Clugston replied that according to the city’s “most conservative estimates,” the site has ample parking spaces, and Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Director Carrie Hite assured the council that the city would work to ensure coordination between sports and theater event scheduling.

In the end, councilmembers voted to impose the following conditions on the project, although nothing will be finalized until after Taraday brings back a final decision for their review:

  • The traffic gate that separates the fields from the neighboring street at 102nd Place West will remain closed to all traffic except emergency vehicles.
  • No public address systems or noise amplifications will be permitted.
  • Playfield lights will not permitted per the hearing examiner’s recommendation.
  • Games must be scheduled so that all play is finished by 10 p.m.

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