No decision on Edmonds School District’s Woodway Field project

Councilmember Michael Nelson receives a plant from an Edmonds-Heights K-12 student during the meeting. Several students offered testimony regarding their concerns about the turf field project proposed for the former Woodway High School. (Photo by Larry Vogel)
Councilmember Michael Nelson receives a plant from an Edmonds-Heights K-12 student during the meeting. In addition to a presentation of plants to all councilmembers and the mayor, several students offered testimony Tuesday night regarding their concerns about the turf field project proposed for the former Woodway High School. (Photo by Larry Vogel)

Parents, students, neighbors and environmentalists who have been vocally protesting plans for a sports field complex at the former Woodway High School, on Tuesday night brought their concerns to the Edmonds City Council, which will make a final decision on whether to issue a conditional use permit for the fields.

Councilmembers heard from both project opponents and representatives for the Edmonds 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 council’s closed record review means that it can only consider arguments made during a March 28 public hearing before City of Edmonds Hearing Examiner Phil Olbrechts, who on April 10 issued his recommendation that a permit should be approved for bleachers and fencing, but that the request for field lights be denied. (The school district has since withdrawn its request for field lights.)

Olbrechts’ opinion 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 turf fields planned for the property off 100th Avenue West. (You can read his entire recommendation here.)

Those same arguments were reiterated during Tuesday night’s council meeting, with more than a dozen people who had provided testimony before Olbrechts returning to have their say. Ed Peters, director of the Edmonds School District’s Capital Projects Office, spoke briefly on behalf of the project — a joint venture between the school district, the City of Edmonds and the Verdant Health Commission — noting that he had been working on it for 10 years and that voters approved $500,000 in seed money for the project in 2008 through the district’s Technology/Capital levy.

As the hour neared 11 p.m., testimony was concluded and City Attorney Jeff Taraday noted that the council would continue its review at its meeting next Tuesday, April 28. That meeting will be “strictly limited” to questions that factually arise from the summary of testimony and objections raised, he said. Councilmembers also were advised they can’t conduct independent research and must only consider what was presented to them as part of the review. The school district is also expected to provide a written list of its objections to arguments Tuesday night that fell outside the scope of testimony originally offered on March 28.

The former Woodway High building is now shared by Edmonds Heights K-12 School — which serves home-schooled students district-wide — and Scriber Lake High School. The school district still has to decide whether to continue with its preferred plan to use artificial turf made from tire crumbs, an option that has generated concerns from some parents worried about reports linking it to health problems.

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