Issues and information about the Hill proposed development plan

Relevant Municipal Code

At the heart of the matter is Municipal Code 16.18.080A, which specifies the conditions that need to be met in order to qualify for “Reasonable Use Exemption” from the rules governing developments in or near sensitive areas. The criteria include:

  • “Application of sensitive areas requirements would deny all reasonable use of the property,”
  • “There is no other reasonable use with less impact on the sensitive area,”
  • “Any alteration to the sensitive area or associated buffer shall be the minimum necessary to allow for reasonable use of the property.”

Does the current Hill proposal meet these criteria? The code also stipulates that

  • “threat to the public health, safety, or welfare, on or off the proposed site” must be considered, and that the proposed development “is consistent with the general purposes of this chapter and the comprehensive plan.”

Specifically, can we be sure that there will be no impact on the environment and safety of the people and wild life, at the site, and downstream (including salmon that regularly use McAleer Creek for spawning, for which the proposed building site is one of the headwaters)? Is the delineation of the wetlands area accurate? Is it true that the land surrounding the pond is not wetland? Is it true that lot #3 is not a wetland even though it is submerged in water a substantial portion of the time every winter? What would be the impact of increased water discharged daily through the drain field (the water will originate from the City water source, and therefore is in addition to the water currently received by the stream from rainfall). Is the proposed mitigation (which consists of planting trees) sufficient to offset the encroachment and reduction of the wetland and stream buffers? Will the storm water drainage system be able to offset the increased impervious areas and keep the runoff during the winter to a minimum, and provide a reliable supply of water in the summer? Will the water flow pattern around the proposed houses increase erosion and silting? What would be the impact of people living there on the quality of water entering the wetlands — what about lawn chemicals, insecticides, moss treatment, or car washing? Is the land in which the septic drain field and the pipes that carry sewage to it stable, under heavy rainfall, snowmelt, or earthquake? What would be the impact of the septic field failure at this site?

Information about the project:

  • The Foundation’s final summary, submitted on Dec. 29, 1999

  • The letter that Mr. Hill’s attorney, Richard Stephens, submitted, summarizing his argument that the city must grant exemption from its environmental regulations so that Mr. Hill can encroach the wetlands and stream buffers. We must submit our rebuttal by January 5. Please let us know if you have any suggestions by sending us email at

  • A map of the area, which also indicates the streams and wetlands that would be affected by the proposal (please note that not all streams and wetlands are shown. With the Foundation’s assistance, the City is in the process of updating this map).

  • A map of the erosion hazard areas. The entire Hill property is within the areas designated by the City as erosion hazard.

  • The specific location of the property, showing that it’s a part of the largely undeveloped 28th/30th Avenue corridor with two wetlands that serve as the headwaters of Brookside Creek and Hillside Creek, both of which are major tributaries of McAleer Creek, an officially recognized Chinook habitat (Chinook is listed in this area as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act).

  • Some photos of the property.

  • A schematic of Mr. Hill’s proposed land use.

  • The Foundation’s letter appealing the SEPA determination.

  • The Foundation’s written argument for a reversal of the SEPA determination.

  • The Foundation’s written argument for the variance hearing.

  • Washington State Dept. of Fish and Wildlife biologist’s letter, urging the city to not allow exemption from its environmental regulations to develop the property as proposed.

  • Washington State Dept. of Ecology senior wetlands specialist’s letter, saying that the storm water system cannot be located within the wetlands and their buffers, and that the mitigation plan must be approved by the Dept. of Ecology.

  • The Foundation’s Nov. 20 letter to Mr. and Mrs. Hill, requesting permission for access to the property in order to provide scientific evidence that the Board of Adjustment required.

The following are documents filed by Mr. Hill in support of his application. If you have any comments on them, such as the accuracy of statements about the site, as well as the scientific findings used in support of the application, please let us know by sending email to

  • Mr. Hill’s statement of why he thinks his proposal qualifies for the “reasonable use” exemption from the City’s sensitive area regulations.

  • Dr. Washington’s statement that Brookside Creek, for which the proposed building site is the headwaters, is “unusable habitat for any salmonid species,” and that the proposed development could enhance the stream and wetland.

  • Wetland Delineation and Mitigation Report, prepared by B&A Inc.

  • Data forms from the Wetland Delineation and Mitigation Report, prepared by B&A Inc.

  • Storm water drainage plan by Tietze and Associates.

  • The proposed septic system, which will pump all raw sewage and waste water from each of the four houses, and pump it up the hill, to the other side of the pond, where the septic drain field will be located.