Meridian Banks housing development in Kent out of courts but still on hold

A controversial housing development along Lake Meridian in Kent that stalled in the courts for years no longer remains tied up in any disputes between the developer and the city.

Developer Bill Floten

Developer Bill Floten

A controversial housing development along Lake Meridian in Kent that stalled in the courts for years no longer remains tied up in any disputes between the developer and the city.

Developer Bill Floten has yet to file any further plans with the city beyond his revised preliminary plat or subdivision plan filed last fall.

Floten initially submitted subdivision plans to the city seven years ago for 27 homes that started all of the controversy as neighbors objected to six homes planned for wetlands along the shore in the northwest corner of the popular lake surrounded by homes and a city park.

“All litigation, hearing examiner appeals, etc… at this time are over and done,” said City Attorney Tom Brubaker in an email. “It is up to Mr. Floten to go ahead and construct his improvements.”

So far, Floten has yet to take any further steps toward building the homes.

“We have not heard anything from the applicant regarding status or future plans,” said city planner Erin George in an email. “No permits beyond the preliminary plat have been submitted yet.”

Floten and his attorney Bill Williamson fought for years in an attempt to get approval for six of the homes to be built close to the shore before city hearing examiners and a King County Superior Court judge backed the city's conditions to require compliance with wetland regulations.

Voicemail messages left for Floten and Williamson by the Kent News were not returned.

Floten also wanted a further extension of his deadline to file a final plat or subdivision application but City Hearing Examiner Kimberly Allen in February upheld the deadline of Oct. 15, 2015. Floten wanted the seven-year period to build the homes to start in 2011 with his revised preliminary plat rather than the original preliminary plat approved in 2007.

Floten did receive a one-year extension from the City Council and a two-year extension from the Legislature, which extended the preliminary plat period to seven years from five years.

Michelle McDowell, who lives on the lake and fought against the six homes proposed for the wetlands area, said she hasn't heard of any plans for construction to start.

“That's sad,” said McDowell, who objected to the homes on the wetlands but not the development itself. “The homes could've been built in the beginning if they (the developers) had gone along with the rules and watched the wetland. That was at the height of the economy. They could've been built and gone. I don't know why they fought that.”

City officials approved the Meridian Banks preliminary plat in October 2007 with a condition that required compliance with wetland regulations. The hearing examiner ruled Floten must prove he will take steps to mitigate the impact on wetlands as required under the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA). Those steps had not been taken. The state policy requires local agencies to consider the likely environmental consequences of a proposal before approving or denying the proposal.

King County Superior Court Judge Kimberley Prochnau ruled in 2008 that “Floten failed to prove that the hearing examiner's denial of Floten's SEPA was clearly erroneous.”

Floten claimed wetlands do not exist on the property. But Prochnau wrote that documents and testimony showed the proposed development would impact wetlands.

During his argument before Prochnau, Williamson, the attorney, said the shoreline property features “wet lawns, not wetlands.”

After losing further appeals, Floten finally revised the layout to accommodate the wetlands. City officials approved that plat in October 2011.

“The revised layout is still 27 lots, but everything shifted north a bit to accommodate the wetland and buffer (which is located along the lake shore),” George said. “There are still six waterfront lots, but they got deeper to accommodate the wetland and buffer (which will be protected in a sensitive area easement across the lots).”

The next steps for Floten, if he chooses to take them, are to submit civil construction (engineering) plans, a shoreline substantial development permit and the final plat application, George said. Once civil plans and the shoreline permit are issued, and the final plat is found to comply with city standards, the final plat goes to the City Council for approval.

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