News

Coaster of controversy

By ERICA JAHN

Staff writer

A few residents at Kloshe Illahee Mobile Home Park, a quiet, 55-and-older community located just across the city line, are dreading the clacking and screaming when Enchanted Parks’ newest addition, a 75-foot wooden roller coaster, begins to thrill crowds this summer.

Marlene and Don Nau moved to Kloshe Illahee 15 years ago. They live at the end of a cul-de-sac with red rock and shrubbery landscaping, a reddish fence and yard ornaments of gulls, deer and a squirrel.

Marlene Nau said Kloshe Illahee is a well-maintained park and their neighbors are nice. She likes that they’re “close to everywhere,” including the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, which is important for them because they frequently travel.

“This was it,” she said. “I’m 70 and my husband’s 71. I don’t want to move any more.”

Standing in the street at the end of the cul-de-sac, she pointed across Enchanted Parkway behind her backyard to the wooden frame of the roller coaster rising from Enchanted Parks’ property. She and her husband are spearheading a movement to stop construction until concerned residents can meet with Six Flags, owner of the amusement park, but she said it’s been an uphill battle to find fellow park support.

They made a presentation at the Kloshe Illahee Residents Association meeting last week that “met with a great deal of hostility,” she said. “People in the upper park just don’t care. It’s either, ‘I don’t care’ or ‘I’m too old and I’m going to die before it really affects me.’ People in the upper park feel it won’t affect them at all.”

Ken Newton, president of the Kloshe Illahee Residents Association, said the majority of the park residents aren’t concerned about the roller coaster.

“Most of the people I’ve spoken with say they have no problem with it,” he said. “There may be some increase in noise, but, after all, we were all young once.”

But Nau said several of the residents living across the street from the roller coaster along Enchanted Parkway told her they are in opposition because the noise and commotion will be a nuisance during the summer and, ultimately, will cost them in property values.

“Our property values just sunk when that got to be that tall,” Nau said. “If we put up a for sale sign out front, we’d lose $25,000 off the top.”

She said she would have opposed the project from the beginning, but nobody told them the roller coaster was scheduled for construction across the street.

“How come we weren’t consulted?” she said. “It’s going to be devastating if that thing gets off the ground. We don’t feel there was proper notification or an opportunity to object,” she said.

Greg Fewins, the city’s deputy director in the community development department, said a public hearing wasn’t required for the project. A nearby neighborhood group appealed the permitting for the project initially and a hearing was scheduled, but they withdrew their appeal after they reached an agreement with Six Flags.

Once that appeal was withdrawn, the city followed its normal permitting process, running legal notices in the Mirror and mailing notices to people living within 300 feet of the site.

Nau maintains she never received a letter.

Still, Newton said Enchanted Parks representatives attended a residents association meeting last August and presented plans that included construction, traffic, noise abatement and diagrams of the roller coaster.

“We were notified,” he said.

Lenny Fruend, Enchanted Parks vice president and general manager, said Enchanted Parks has worked closely with several homeowners associations surrounding the park. “We are very sensitive to the impact a theme park can have on a community,” he said. “We want to have a positive impact.”

Six Flags’ plans for the roller coaster includes a noise abatement barrier and a screening of trees to mitigate noise and improve the appearance.

“As far as the monstrosity look of it right now, that’s because it’s under construction,” Newton said.

And as far as property values dropping, Newton said the roller coaster has little to do with the continual decline. Rather, he said, home values in the park are dropping because of a rent increase dispute with the owners of the land, Chicago-based MHC.

The Kloshe Illahee Residents Association filed suit against MHC last January to dispute the increases. Park residents own their mobile homes, but they rent the land on which they sit from MHC.

“Most of us feel Six Flags is a good neighbor. They bring a lot of revenue into the community and we certainly wouldn’t want to prevent that,” Newton said. “I think I can safely speak for the majority of the people here, the roller coaster is not the main cause or any reason that our sales have dropped. It’s the rent increases.”

King County Councilman Pete von Reichbauer, who represents the unincorporated area near Federal Way, including Kloshe Illahee, said he would encourage Six Flags managers to make communication with neighboring communities a high priority. Enchanted Parks falls within Federal Way city limits.

“I hope they reach out and communicate, and even go the extra mile,” he said. “Even if they followed all the normal milestones, given the long-term goals of Six Flags, it’d be in their interest to go the extra mile to inform neighbors and residents associations. Good neighbors means good communication.”

Fruend said he’s been in communication with Newton on a regular basis and added his company maintains an open-door policy for residents with concerns or questions about the project.

“We are always available,” he said. “All they need to do is call.”

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