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By ERICA HALL
The city is looking at paying about $274,000 for its share of transportation impacts for the proposed community center, senior center and swimming pool project at Celebration Park.
The transportation costs weren't part of original budget plans, officials said, but have been included in recent budget updates to the City Council and fit into the $21 million budget for the center.
According to a mitigated determination of environmental nonsignificance issued recently by the city's Community Development Department, a traffic impact analysis showed the community center would affect 17 projects on the city's Transportation Improvement Plan list.
The environmental decision gives the city the go-ahead to move forward on the project as long as the identified mitigations are conducted to protect public safety, traffic flow and the environment, officials said.
The city could make the improvements itself or pay a pro rata share of $274,311 toward the projects. Parks Department planner Betty Sanders said the city would be more likely to do the latter because it would be much more expensive to construct the projects in their entirety. A traffic signal at South 333rd Street and First Avenue South alone would cost $300,000, she said.
Meanwhile, a hearing regarding the center's encroachment into a wetland buffer at the community center project site was delayed after recent budget issues put the design process on hold.
City parks officials believed the wetland, which requires a 200-foot buffer, was a lesser category of wetland requiring only a 100-foot buffer, and planned the center's location accordingly.
When project planners went out for more in-depth site planning, they discovered the wetland was more sensitive than initially thought and that the building as designed would encroach about 100 feet into the buffer zone. The encroachment requires a hearing before an independent hearing examiner before it can be allowed.
Now that the council has given the project the green light with caveats against any more surprises and promises of careful scrutiny at the 80 percent design mark officials expect the hearing will be held Dec. 28. The hearing examiner will then have 10 days to issue a decision.
Because officials have recommended extra buffer zone adjacent to the site that will remain a sensitive area, they said they are confident the hearing examiner will allow the center as it's designed.
Despite learning recently that the project was over-budget about $6 million and several amenities would have to be cut for it to meet its $21 million budget, several people testified in support of moving forward at a council meeting earlier this month.
Kathy Franklin said she supports the "much-beleaguered, quickly shrinking" community center, and urged the council to keep it "on the front burner."
Mike Anderson urged the city to save the Kenneth Jones Pool two years ago, when King County was talking about mothballing all off the Forward Thrust pools in the county. He went on to volunteer on a community center committee, and told the council the committee worked hard to create a center that would meet varying needs in Federal Way.
"What was put forward was a well-balanced facility," he told the council. "We want to see a total quality facility. Don't take shortcuts. Work through the budget issues."
Mayor Dean McColgan said he's still supportive of the project, despite the recent setbacks, and thinks it should move forward.
"I still feel the original design, as far as the elements go, should be built for the amount budgeted," he said. "The longer you wait, the more expensive it gets. We're at the mercy of rising (construction materials) prices. Hopefully, we'll get some good bids."
Staff writer Erica Hall: 925-5565, firstname.lastname@example.org