Gwen Davis

SeaTac will appeal Port's decision to forgo environmental review in phase 1 of 3,000 tree-cutting plan

By Gwen Davis

The City of SeaTac will appeal the Port of Seattle's decision to forgo an environmental review for the first phase of their 3,000 tree-cutting plan.

The Port will cut down nearly 3,000 trees in the upcoming three or so years. But the Port determined that for the first part of the plan, where they will cut down nearly 1,200 trees on Port property, they will not need an environmental review to proceed with the cuttings. (However, future phases will need environmental reviews, Port officials have stated in the past.)

But the question was brought up in Tuesday's council meeting by Councilmember Peter Kwon.

“The Port will not conduct an environmental study, but they will cut down 1,200 trees,” he said. This plan should require an environmental study, despite what SEPA (the Port's environmental review group) has determined. Therefore a motion to appeal might be warranted, he said. The deadline to appeal the decision is this Friday, which doesn’t give the council much time, he warned.

The city manger discussed how the question is legitimate: has SEPA done enough to throw away the environmental study for phase one of the plan?

It will be the city’s burden to prove that not enough work was done.

Council members talked about SEPA’s strengths and weaknesses.

“Are we spinning our wheels if we appeal?” Councilmember Tony Anderson asked. The city manager said he didn’t know whether the city should appeal the decision.

“I think we should appeal the decision", Councilmember Kathryn Campbell said. The residents will say, “Why didn’t you stand up for us?”

“We need to hold [the Port's to the fire,” she said.

Anderson then agreed that the council should file an appeal.

An appeal will be filed.

On Monday, October 10, the Port of Seattle will hold a meeting about the tree-removal plan at the SeaTac Community Center.

Rest of the meeting:

Up first, the public testimony section featured emotional thoughts about a variety of subjects.

A resident representing the Duwamish Southside Rotary Club club gave notice about a fundraiser that he and a group of residents are planning on hosting. It will be at the botanical garden. “The event will include wine and beer tasting,” he said. “Our hope is that we can get your approval.” The group supports the the city’s efforts to curb drinking in public spaces, he said, however this fundraiser would raise money for many of the activities the club provides, which includes support to SeaTac public schools.

“We believe the event we’re planning will attract [people from all around the greater Seattle,” and therefore the group would like a permit to serve alcohol.

Another testifier talked about ST3 issues, regarding public transportation. He thanked the council for their immediate response to his concerns. He also congratulated the council for approving the hydroplane event, saying he enjoyed the event. “Keep it going, guys,” he said.

“I’d like to speak on the critical areas ordinance,” another resident said, regarding legislation about a pending environmental program. “I’m frustrated, completely frustrated. There is not one of us in the room that would oppose cleaning the environment, but sometimes we go too far and lose the forest for the trees,” he said.

The resident said the program attracts “kids out of school” who have “personal bias” and allegedly vote for the Green Party. “They want to cut down 3,000 trees and at the same time, want to cut down a tree in their backyard and not be fined.”

Sit down and read the legislation, be advised the council, before you vote for it, he said. “Stand up to the plate,” he said.

Another resident talked about the Port’s tree-cutting project. “The removal of trees is becoming of increasing concern to our members,” she said about her group. “Of course, everyone knows about the environmental benefit of trees, but I want to stress that trees have cultural significance. I hope you can work with the Port,” and ultimately not have to cut down nearly 3,000 trees.

Next on the agenda was a presentation, the “National Recovery Month Proclamation” by Mayor Michael Siefkes and the King County community outreach coordinator, Erwin James.

The presentation thanked the council for its support of community recovery. Presenters talked about how providing hope, societal acceptance and eliminating discrimination is crucial in helping people recover.

“Thank you for acknowledging and celebrating 'National Recover Month 2016',” one of the presenters said.

Siefkes read the proclamation.

Next on the agenda was a presentation by the Sound Cities Association (SCA), by SCA executive director, Deanna Dawson. She asked the council whether they would be willing to be part of the association.

“I’m a recovering city official, and I appreciate all the work you do,” she began. “We represent over 30 cities here in King County. What we do is provide leadership through education to create livable communities.”

The association ensures that the smaller cities in King County have fair representation.

"One of our past board presidents said ‘if you’re not at the table, you might be on the menu.’ Unless we have a voice as cities, we might get run over by Seattle or Bellevue,” she said.

The organization provides advocacy to larger cities.

“If the cities don’t work together, Seattle runs us over,” she said. “SCA helps gives those cities a voice.”

Campbell thanked Dawson for her work.

Kwon asked what role does the association serve. Dawson said that the concerns of the cities are brought to the awareness of King County officials making decisions. “It gives the cities a trump card, essentially,” she said. “We can drive county policy.”

One policy of the recent past, she said for example, was Seattle-centric, and didn’t recognize the needs of smaller cities. But through SCA’s work, the city heard the point of view of the cities and changed their approach. She said SCA doesn’t normally work on state issues.

Kwon asked if there is a record of policies that are supported by SCA. Dawson said they are, and can usually be found on their website. “If you would like to see a list of all those, our staff can send those to you, as well,” she said.

The Mayor asked if SCA has a position on ST3, and Dawson said no. She said different cities have their own opinions.

The next item was a quarterly public safety statistics presentation, by Deputy Chief Brian Wiwel.

There was a drowning at Angle Lake, which was the one of the only noteworthy items. Wiwel said it was great so many bystanders knew CPR and were able to save the child.

Kwon noted the city's fire rating insurance improvement, and thanked Wiwel for his involvement in that.

The council committee meeting times was next discussed. Scheduling changes in ad hoc or special committees were debated. Consistency of meetings is important, council members agreed. But members were also cognizant of scheduling meetings so that the public can attend, as well as regular council members. Processing audio of meetings was also brought into the conversation.

“It’s a good idea to record the meetings, but is there a cost difference between video and audio recordings?” Anderson asked.

Short answer, yes, city staff responded. Video is more expensive than audio. But recordings can’t be accessible in the website forever because they will take up too much space; instead they will be archived.

Next was the investigation of the city manager. A memo laid out a proposal that there be a process for the city manager.

But Councilmember Rick Forscher jumped in, saying that discussing the memo now might be detrimental. However, he was answered by the manager that the item will still be discussed in study session, and is not up for legislative action at this time.

Campbell said she was not comfortable with this, but the complaint was made and so it needs to be addressed.

Next on the agenda: the new candidates to city positions who were recently interviewed were qualified but were not suited for SeaTac, the city manager said.

The Angle Lake racing event went over well, but the council will still need to determine whether the amendment they put in place will be permanent.

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