MUKILTEO, Wash. — A King County judge temporarily stopped logging for a Mukilteo development Friday. It's the latest development in a 13-year battle that has pitted neighbors against the developer of Frognal Estates.
The judge issued the order to have time to read up on the issue at hand. She plans to issue her final decision next week.
Opposition to the new neighborhood began in 2005. Along with the 2008 recession, the legal wrangling delayed the construction for years. It's still stuck in appeals court, but the developer was granted the permit to log nearly 17 acres anyway.
The developer stands by the safety of the project.
"We have owned this property for several decades now, and we have gone through a long process, a peer-reviewed process, that involves working with experts, thoroughly reviewed independently from us, and we have the permits to do the work we are doing currently," said Kamil Lakhani of Frognal Holdings LLC. "We have been doing thoughtfully designed community integrated projects for many years. We have an established track record in the community, and we are happy to work with resident groups to create vibrant, healthy communities."
The attorney for the Sno-King Watershed Council told Judge Barbara Linde that logging the site during the rainy season puts it at risk for landslides and other erosion issues.
There is also concern about how additional traffic will affect kids at a nearby school, along with increased stormwater into the local watershed as Picnic Creek flows directly into Puget Sound.
Earlier this week, neighbors parked their cars in the street to block crews from cutting any of the trees. The developer obtained permits to force those cars off the road, and one was even impounded. Logging began soon after.
"The whole house shook with some of the larger trees," said neighbor Steven Ourada. "The decision by the county to allow this to go forward without letting the plaintive snow seems to me rather shady in itself. There have been instances of that throughout the last 10 to 15 years of the developer not necessarily seeking to circumvent the law but certainly not above board, I believe."
Snohomish County admits the landslide danger exists but says it's minimal. They argue the developer has a right to log land that's privately owned.
A hearing before Snohomish County to determine if the planned development is consistent with code is scheduled for mid-February, and neighbors were hoping to stop logging until then.