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Magnolia neighbors debate future of Fort Lawton

Neighbors in Magnolia are sounding off about a plan to house the homeless in one of Seattle's most popular parks.

Neighbors in Magnolia are sounding off about a plan to house the homeless in one of Seattle's most popular parks. The area in question is part of the Fort Lawton Army Reserve Center in Discovery Park.

The city is considering a redevelopment plan that seeks to turn Fort Lawton into a liveable community, by building up to 235 units of housing for homeless seniors and low-income families.

The plan includes 85 units for homeless seniors, 75 to 100 units of affordable rental housing, and up to 50 units of affordable ownership housing.

Neighbors successfully stopped a similar redevelopment plan for Fort Lawton back in 2008. They say they're ready to push back once again if needed, and packed a community meeting on Monday evening to voice their opinions.

Some said they have concerns about hosting the homeless in their community.

"There must be a transparent vetting process and regular monitoring of those who would live here," one resident said. "Please ensure that those individuals with known drug or alcohol dependency, known sex offenders, and people with a known history of mental illness or known violent criminals are not allowed to live here."

Others said they don't think Fort Lawton needs to be redeveloped at all, citing concerns about impacts to wildlife habitats and the tranquility that visitors to Discovery Park have come to enjoy.

"We don't need development. We need open space, tranquility, and a place for the restoration of nature," said another resident, when he got his turn at the microphone.

Still others are asking the City of Seattle to consider different options besides housing.

"Certainly housing is a community need, but based on the enrollment and capacity challenges throughout the city at the elementary, middle, and high school levels, another community need is schools. So what a once in a lifetime opportunity to use this amazing property to create a school and educate our kids in an environmental way," said Cynthia Dold, a Magnolia parent and homeowner.

She believes the boarded up buildings at Fort Lawton could be retrofitted and re-used if the city opted to put a school in that location.

An online petition in support of that proposal has more than 500 signatures.

Neighbors also expressed extreme frustration when they were asked to provide written public comments at Monday's meeting.

At one point, the crowd demanded a microphone for people to speak openly at the meeting. City officials eventually handed over the microphone and listened to what those in attendance had to say.

A second public meeting on Fort Lawton redevelopment will take place June 21 at 6:30 p.m. It will be held at the Magnolia Community Center at 2550 34th Avenue West.

The city is currently considering a request to extend the public comment period on this issue by an additional 45 days. The public comment period is slated to end on June 26.

But city representatives stressed that it's still very early in the planning process and there will be other opportunities for neighbors to offer feedback. A final plan isn't expected to go before Seattle City Council until summer of 2018.

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