Council solidifies bid to condemn land

Federal Way City Council members decided recently to condemn and acquire portions of several properties near 356th Street despite continued protest from property owners.

The city plans to turn the area into a regional stormwater detention facility.

But first Federal Way will have to prove to a judge that condemning the properties and turning the area into a regional stormwater facility will provide a benefit to a larger number of people.

If the court agrees, a portion of each property up to the 320-foot elevation will become city property.

The city is not condemning whole parcels or any buildings in this action, Assistant City Manager Derek Matheson said.

The city already successfully condemned one of the properties in court. The parcel, owned by Roy Parke, was located in the center of the depression the city plans to use for its facility.

Parke still disputes the action, but in April 2000, King County Superior Court Judge Richard Eadie ruled that the city’s condemnation of Parke’s property for a regional detention facility was valid.

Parke and other property owners argued before the council on Dec. 18 that the condemnation action was unfounded.

“There’s been no water in the depression in four-and-a-half years,” said Parke, who sued the city for flooding in 1997. “There has been record-setting rain in the last couple weeks, but no water on my property. Why?”

Meanwhile, a neighbor’s property is flooded. Patricia Owen wrote the council that she never had flooding on her property until the Madrona Meadows development was built nearby.

City Public Works Director Cary Roe said regardless of where it comes from, water from about 350 acres of land surrounding the depression is deposited there.

“It is a fact that the water does eventually get to the property. It doesn’t occur at the same time, but that water does get to the closed depression,” he said.

The best way to manage the stormwater run-off, he added, is to create the regional stormwater facility. “The problems in the closed depression are present today ... and they’ll get worse.”

City staff have negotiated purchase prices with five of the landowners in the area. It is seeking to condemn portions of five other properties.

The council agreed on Dec. 18 to work separately with one of the remaining property-owners, Robert Wilson. The only portion of Wilson’s property that falls within the 320-foot boundary is a septic field.

Roe told the council on Dec. 18 that Wilson and the city are close to reaching an agreement on how to move the septic field.

Even though the city is moving forward with the legal action, officials will continue negotiation attempts with the rest of the property owners.

“Clearly, the city understands creating a regional stormwater facility is an emotional issue,” Roe said. “The city’s worked hard to find common ground.”

Outgoing Mayor Mike Park assured property owners the council decision to start legal proceedings to condemn the properties doesn’t make anything final. “Tonight’s adoption is the beginning of a process,” he said on Dec. 18. “If property owners disagree, they have the opportunity to appeal.”

Property owner Charles Connon, who has lived in the depression about 12 years, wasn’t reassured.

“We don’t feel,” he said, “we’re getting a fair hearing.”

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