News

Transit center fight looks over

By ERICA HALL

Staff writer

Trustees for Gateway Center Retail and Federal Way Joint Venture have filed a motion in bankruptcy court seeking permission to drop an appeal against Sound Transit and the state Department of Transportation over the transit center project in Federal Way.

The request cites the cost of proceeding with the appeal and the estimated unlikelihood of Gateway Center prevailing.

U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Samuel J. Steiner is scheduled to hear the motion in August.

Because Gateway Center Retail filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in February and all its assets are tied up in court, trustees are seeking permission to drop the appeal.

Sound Transit proposes the construction of a five-story, 1,200-stall parking garage and transit center with direct-access, high-occupancy vehicle lanes to Interstate 5 on the corner of South 316th Street and 23rd Avenue South.

Gateway Center has consistently lost appeals to the environmental ruling, and last Thursday trustees threw in the towel “based on the cost of prosecuting the appeal, the lack of funds available to pay for prosecuting the appeal (and) the estimated chances of prevailing on the appeal,” according to the court document.

Trustees for Gateway Center said city assurances to mitigate traffic also contributed to their decision to drop the appeal.

Gateway Center initially appealed to Sound Transit’s hearing examiner a Federal Transit Administration and Federal Highway Administration joint environmental ruling that the project would have no significant impact on the surrounding area.

The hearing examiner ruled in favor of Sound Transit, so Gateway Center appealed that decision in King County Superior Court, where a judge also ruled in favor of Sound Transit.

Gateway Center partners contested that ruling to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which is the appeal trustees want to drop.

Hearing examiner Steve Causseaux, who heard public comment on the master land-use application June 24, said in his written decision July 17 that the application meets the city’s criteria for an essential public facility.

Causseaux’s decision “upholds our contention that the plan meets or exceeds all city codes,” Sound Transit spokesman Lee Somerstein said.

According to city code, any facility of significant public importance but difficult to site or a necessary component to a system can be designated an essential public facility and exempted from certain city codes to facilitate siting and construction.

Three buildings at the site of the transit center are scheduled to be demolished by mid-August, Somerstein said. Sound Transit has contracted with J. Harper Construction to do the demolition work.

Somerstein said Sound Transit expects to begin construction on the transit center in the first quarter of 2004.

Staff writer Erica Hall: 925-5565, ehall@fedwaymirror.com

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