- QCLLC filed the first lawsuit against EPC and Snohomish County , suing to remove phasing that required aquifer monitoring of the first 21 lots for two years (Phase 1). Development of Phase 2, (27 more lots of the total 48) could only occur after review of the monitoring and approval by the Hearing Examiner.
- The second lawsuit was filed by EPC against the County and QCLLC based primarily on illegal septic designs that placed drainfields too close to aquifer wetlands and other final plat problems on Phase 1 [See note below.]
The main points of the settlement:
Phasing and conservation: The settlement allows 37 lots to go forward during Phase 1. Eleven lots (lots 26-36) on the most sensitive 20 acres, will be left reserved in the southwest corner of the site for Phase 2, subject to monitoring review and further land use consideration by the Snohomish County Hearing Examiner. Phase 1 and its monthly monitoring will end two years after occupancy of the first 21 lots of the 37 lots allowed to go forward. QCLLC has also agreed to leave the 11 reserved lots available for conservation purchase with a negotiable sales price, subject to a cap.
EPC will be searching for funding for permanent protection of the reserved lots for its high conservation and water shed value - the twenty acres adjacent to the Paradise Valley Conservation Area consist of heavily timbered hillside and Bear Creek headwater wetlands and salmon streams with direct hydrologeological connections to Cross Valley Aquifer.
Higher septic standards: High-tech septic systems that provide advanced levels of treatment will be installed with developer seed money for maintenance and septic replacements in case of failure, under authority and enforcement by the Home Owner's Association.
No Pesticides: Covenants for each lot prohibit the use of halogenated pesticides and herbicides.
Improved monitoring: In addition to the well installed in the northwest portion of the site, a second monitoring well in the southwest corner will improve data collection and eliminate "battles of the experts" over the true impacts of the development on the aquifer. Good data will support good decision making by the Hearing Examiner at the end of the Phase 1 monitoring period. Additional funding is also provided for Cross Valley Water District to continue monitoring of both wells forever. These wells will help provide an early warning system for the area's water supply.
In sum, the agreement has the benefit of getting all parties out of expensive lawsuits in exchange for certain aquifer protections. Where before we had one well in the wrong place for inadequate monitoring, we now have two wells for credible scientific assessment of the development impacts, something the responsible agencies should have provided in the first place. We have increased options for conservation on the most sensitive portion of the site for a much more proactive effort. Clearly, if monitoring shows trends of severe groundwater problems, it is likely that no more than 37 lots will be allowed to be developed.
NOTE: After an email to the Governor's office, the state health department looked into Snohomish Health District's review of the QCLLC septic designs and has acknowledged that changes will have to be made of several designs, thus providing more savings from court battles.
Citizens have accomplished what the county agencies failed to do - provide a credible scientific route for aquifer protections and come to agreement with the developer.
What's next? EPC in the Community.
Laura Hartman and Neal Friedman are representing EPC as stakeholders in the Cross Valley Water District work group for updating its Comprehensive Wellhead Protection Plan. Discussions are underway with county and state agencies to improve the process to allow earlier and more thorough review of projects, to prevent just these kinds conflicts. Earlier intervention by the water district would provide useful direction to Planning staff at the county level and help the developer before heavy expenditures on engineering, etc. are made, for ultimately better projects and happier citizens.
Finally, THANK YOU for your support and involvement. The monumental community support was crucial to the success of this effort. Thanks to you this case is already showing up in discussions over long term policy improvements at the county as well as the water district and the health district.