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Transit center appeal in court

By ERICA JAHN

Staff writer

A dispute over a transit center and parking garage proposed for downtown Federal Way is in King County Superior Court.

Business owners in Gateway Center filed the appeal last month after hearing examiner Greg Smith ruled in favor of Sound TransitŽ’s finding that a five-story, 1,200-stall structure downtown wonŽ’t have a significant environmental impact.

Ž“WeŽ’re still plowing ahead,Ž” Gateway Center president Dan Casey said. Ž“There are some substantial shortfalls in the finding that this project has no significant impact.Ž”

Sound Transit coordinated with the Federal Transit Administration, the Federal Highway Administration and the state Department of Transportation to prepare an environmental assessment of the project.

On March 6, the Federal Transit Administration and the Federal Highway Administration issued the environmental assessment and, based on that assessment, a finding that essentially states Sound TransitŽ’s project wonŽ’t have a significant impact on the environment in downtown Federal Way.

Gateway Center business owners appealed the finding in May. Casey said they want Sound Transit to study the potential impacts of alternative sites.

Business owners and some residents living in proximity to the site have expressed concern that the parking garage and transit center will add to congestion downtown and will add to the noise and pollution from commuters and buses driving to the center.

Ž“Our beef is, technically and common sensically, this is going to have an impact,Ž” Casey said.

The appeal went to Smith, a hearing examiner and attorney for the city of Spokane, who in June upheld Sound TransitŽ’s environmental ruling. Smith is one of many hearing examiners on a roster Sound Transit calls upon to hear appeals and settle disputes.

Casey said business owners would have preferred an independent hearing examiner. Ž“We view that almost as an internal administrative office,Ž” he said. Ž“The hearing examiner was chosen solely by Sound Transit and paid solely by Sound Transit.Ž”

While the Gateway Center appeal winds its way through Superior Court, Casey said Gateway Center tenants will begin looking at whether federal laws requiring a study of alternative locations would apply to the project since it receives federal funding.

Construction of the transit center and parking garage wonŽ’t begin until the court makes a decision on the appeal.

Sound Transit spokesman Lee Somerstein declined to comment on the specifics of the appeal because itŽ’s pending litigation, but said the agency is confident in the outcome.

Ž“We prevailed at the administrative level and we expect to prevail at the court level,Ž” he said.

Staff writer Erica Jahn can be reached at 925-5565 and ejahn@fedwaymirror.com

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