Tiny community of Black Diamond divided over big development




Posted on August 3, 2012 at 7:08 PM

Updated Tuesday, Aug 7 at 9:22 AM

It would be the largest planned community in King County history and could quadruple the population in the tiny town of Black Diamond, but not everyone is thrilled about the idea of a growth spurt.

On Friday residents went to court to challenge an environmental review of the plan.

They asked a judge to throw out a hearing examiner’s determination that the project’s environmental review is adequate.

Residents in the community say it’s a unique place with a small town sensibility. The community hasn’t grown much in the last 100 years, although city leaders approved growth several decades ago.

A Kirkland-based developer wants to wake up the sleeping town with thousands of homes and a million square feet of commercial development. They would be high density “urban villages” similar to communities in Issaquah and Renton.

Black Diamond residents like Bob Edelman say it’s too much, too soon. 

“We're talking about a town of roughly 4,000 people and turning that into a town of 16,000-20,000 people,” he said.

Developer Brian Ross said he understands their concerns.

“Our vision is to lift Black Diamond up and build a city and plan it holistically,” said Ross.

Ross said they are using smart planning on the project.

“We want to create a place that people want to live so we're planning parks, fire stations,” he said.

The city council approved the project last year.  A few months later, several council members were tossed out of office.

Residents say traffic and the environment are some of the top concerns.

Cindy Wheeler worries the projects will hurt the environment around her home.

“It’s very big and its impact is destructive,” said Wheeler.

Business owner Todd Hulbert said he has mixed emotions.  “Businesswise it would be very good,” he said

Hulbert runs the bookstore and admits there's a price to pay for prosperity.

“These little communities are dying everywhere and I think it's really sad,” said Hulbert.

King County Judge Patrick Oishi said he needed time to evaluate the evidence before deciding whether a hearing examiner’s review of the environmental report was adequate.  He did not set a date for his decision.

YarrowBay said it hopes to break ground on the first phase of the development next spring.