The Enumclaw City Council on Monday agreed to draft a letter to both the King County Council and Hancock Timber Resource Group seeking discussions over the recreational use of the White River Forest.
on the 43,000 acres in an effort to preserve it as a working forest.
Councilman Darrel Dickson made the motion for the letter after expressing his dismay at what appeared to be a lack of interest in receiving public comment on the matter. Dickson said he was told the public meeting for the County Council was to be April 29, which was then moved to April 15 and then moved to Monday, April 8.
Councilman Kyle Diercks, similarly, described the perceived disinterest in sharing the agreement timetable "unfortunate."
City Administrator Mike Thomas told the City Council the County Council didn't have the item on their agenda Monday and it was a late addition.
The terms of the agreement between Hancock and the County also outlines recreational amenities, Thomas said, but it is ultimately up to the property owner to determine how access is allowed for those amenities - whether there would be a charge.
"I don't think personally there’s much we can do to undo what has been done as of today, but I think there’s legitimate conversation with King County to talk about, 'OK let's talk about use and access related to that,'” Thomas said.
The issue of fees has given common ground for those who support the preservation ideals behind the agreement with those who are equally concerned about long-term development opportunities in and near Enumclaw.
The city has received several written statements from citizens concerned about the agreement, and several also spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting to voice their anger at having to pay to hike or horseback ride on land on which they've been doing so for decades for free.
A particular sore point was that the County was partly using taxpayer money in the form of its Parks levy to pay for the deal, so taxpayers pay double to use the land.
Beginning last year, Hancock required permits for recreational use of the land both for motorized and non-motorized access where prior to that only motorized access required permits. Prices for non-motorized access permits had initially been $75 a year for an individual, and a family permit covering the married couple and any children under age 19 and cost $150.
In 2013, Hancock announced those permit fees were reduced for $45 for an individual and $80 for a family.
The County did stay within guidelines for how the parks levy money is being used, however, Thomas said, even with this agreement.
Dickson shared his concerns that the agreement limits where the city can grow once it exceeds existing urban growth boundaries and questioned city administration over statements he'd heard that the city and county had no interest in expanding the urban growth boundary to the east.
"Did you guys talk to them ahead of time?" Dickson asked.
Thomas replied the city was notified late in the day prior to when County Executive Dow Constantine made his announcement the deal was going through. "We haven't talked to Hancock," he said. "We not participatory in this agreement."
Mayor Liz Reynolds further elaborated, "this administration has not had any discussion with regard to that," she said, positing it may have come from a different administration or era. However, the current city attorney, administration and staff have not had conversations with King County or Hancock about the Urban Growth Area line, she said.
For perspective, Councilman Glen Jensen offered the UGA boundaries were established in the early 90s and those lines can't be modified until the city's population has grown to its maximum designated number of 18,000 residents.
The city is currently at about 11,000 now, said Community Development Director Erika Shook.
She agreed with Jensen's assessment that at current growth rates, Enumclaw won't hit 15,000 until 2035.
Not Done Deal
Dickson expressed a desire to look into taking stronger action on the part of the city against the deal, but Reynolds cautioned against taking a threatening stance and instead to start with a conversation about access and access fees and to "minimize liabilities on the citizens."
"It's not a done deal until it closes escrow," he said.
For Councilman Jim Hogan, the conversation should happen - particularly with Hancock. “Speaking as taxpayer, this whole thing irritates me. ...They can tell us to take a hike; I guess we'll have to pay a fee though."
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