Stalemate over Talus project | Five hour meeting sends issue to city council

In what could be an unprecedented event for the Urban Village Development Commission, the May 6 meeting that started at 8 p.m. and ended at 1 a.m. concluded in a stalemate.

In what could be an unprecedented event for the Urban Village Development Commission, the May 6 meeting that started at 8 p.m. and ended at 1 a.m. concluded in a stalemate.

The discussion was a continuation of the April 15 meeting, regarding the last buildable parcels in the Talus Urban Village. Two parcels, 8 and 9, were recommended for approval by the commission, but parcel 7 was tabled until this meeting.

It’s a very unpopular plat, with homeowner’s deeply concerned about drainage, landslides, steep slopes, precarious retaining walls and deforestation. The room was filled with Talus Homeowner’s waiting for their chance to speak, in what was supposed to be a two-hour meeting.

Instead, Lucy Sloman, land development manager for the city, and the applicant, Triad Associates, took until 10:30 p.m. to make their presentations to the commission, explaining modifications they made to the plat, to appease Talus homeowner’s concerns.

Four modifications were made to the original proposal by Triad. Two large water tanks will be moved to a higher elevation so people who purchase in Parcel 7 have better water pressure. The tanks will be shielded by trees on three sides and where the tanks used to be will be landscaped.

The eastern retaining wall, which is the biggest concern to homeowners, will be reduced by 10-feet so that at its highest point it is 39-feet. The northern end of the road will terminate in a driveway, but the right-of-way could be extended to the lot’s northern property line. In the April 15 meeting, concerns about the large retaining wall brought up the issue of the wall behind Fred Meyer and Home Depot. When that wall was built, this portion of Issaquah was still part of unincorporated King County, and it was the county that designed, reviewed, permitted and constructed it. It is failing.

“That wall would not be duplicated in Talus today,” said city engineer Dan Ervin.

Questions of who would pay for maintenance and replacement costs if the eastern wall should fail, indicated that it would rest on the shoulders of the Talus Residential Association through by a “surcharge,” or a raise in dues. Representing the TRA board, Bruce Bailey said they are not anti-development, but he was sorry TRIAD bought a parcel with a 40 percent grade. He said the board and residents don’t want the responsibility of an 800-foot long behemoth of a wall.

“To say we have trepidation is an understatement,” Bailey said. “I’ve walked the area. It’s like a triple black-diamond if you’re skiing. Parcel 7 doesn’t fit the spirit of the neighborhood.”

It was brought up that the HOA doesn’t even have the money to fix the fountain as you enter Talus, so they don’t want the extra burden of the wall. The HOA’s 2014 budget doesn’t include any money for wall replacement, and there are several throughout Talus. Since Talus is steep, and this is the highest parcel, retaining walls are used to accommodate grade changes. The city and the applicant said the proposed walls in parcel 7, “as modified are within the range of acceptance.”

Another concern is a dead-end road, ending at a lot. Fire trucks will have to back around in a hammer head to get out. Eventually the condition was added that TRIAD must “explore redesigning the northern terminus of road ‘A’ to eliminate or reduce the dead-end portion. Options include moving drive ‘C’ to the north or adding a cul-de-sac which doesn’t meet fire service standards.”

Talus resident, Lisa Milkowski said the applicant and commission were still not addressing potential for flooding and landslides.

“Models don’t account for real-life situations,” she said. “You have to believe the residents, we’re telling you real-life stuff, we’re not presenting a model. We have no drainage.”

Milkowski brought up the YouTube video of a mudslide in Talus three years ago. Engineer Ted Schepper with Terra Associates said the YouTube video is from what he called a “blowout” resulting from material being pushed out by water, but eventually diminishing. The audience didn’t really care what it’s called — it happened.

Sloman mentioned the 460 acres, which were preserved in the original development agreement, 388 acres of Native Growth Protection Area south of Tibbetts Creek and 71 acres of open space between development parcels. Ken Koningsmark, who was involved with Talus from the start, said the developer did not want to give that property away — they wanted $15 million for it. What they got instead was commercial space in Talus, which is another problem now for the HOA (see related story on page 3).

The city now owns the 388 acres. Karen Porterfield, another Talus resident, found it ingenuous that the city and builder were allowed two and one-half hours to plead their case, and the public was being held to limit their remarks to three-minutes each, and were not allowed time for rebuttal. Many echoed her concerns as well as additional concerns about steep street grades, traffic, and an inequitable HOA arrangement with the commercial interests having more votes than the individual homeowners.

Commissioner Jim Kieburtz said even though the HOA is not in their purview, it wasn’t in their character to ignore the situation. Chairman Geoffrey Walker disagreed, saying they shouldn’t go down that path.

In the end, a motion was made, but no commissioner would second the motion. They were polled individually and in the end agreed to move it forward with five new conditions, but no specific recommendation to the council. Kieburtz, Walker and Michael Beard abstained, while Erik Olson, Chantal Stevens, Scott McKillop and Karl Leigh voted to move it to council.