Opinion: Letter to the Editor: Fix Botched Land Use Decisions

Opinion: Letter to the Editor: Fix Botched Land Use Decisions

The city's handling of the Karig Estates project is considered by many to have been a botched planning and civic engagement process. However, the Karig ravine, forest, and natural channel stream are not yet destroyed and are awaiting a 60-day, from Jan. 20, 2018 Council decision, no construction appeal period. It is hoped that the city will right its errors by revisiting key land use issues.

In particular, the recommendations of the 2004 Open Space Steering Committee Report to Council of "properties that should be closely examined as candidates for open space acquisition" says pretty much everything that opponents of this planning debacle have maintained all along — some 14 years later. Maddeningly, all are key facts which the city from 2017 to present stubbornly contested.

No one is faulting the city for not having the Open Space funds to buy the Karig property, even if it were realistically for sale. What is at fault here is the city's rejection of the basic environmental facts of the Karig property — and facts that the city tried its best to manipulate and dismiss. None of these complaints are personal against anyone nor are they about what the city legally can and cannot do, but rather attitudes and values.

One such fact — that the city installed a "storm drain system [in the Karig ravine] to reduce storm water ponding" — so obviously proves the ravine to be an intermittent stream that it is astounding why TES staff's insistence to the contrary at the Jan. 20, 2018 council hearing wasn't met with complete incredulity. The intermittent stream issue was key because if the Karig waterway was indeed declared an intermittent stream, which it certainly is, then by ordinance no development would have been allowed there. In other words, two of the four buildings would not be allowed. Once again, development interests over environmental protections and concerns.

The city-installed infrastructure in the ravine also raises questions concerning legality. Does the city install expensive infrastructure on private property that is later to be tossed away for development interests? And does it not mean that if the city spent public monies on storm drain infrastructure on private land, that staff in fact believed it to be necessarily related to enhancing an intermittent stream?

The answers to these questions should reveal that the council was misled on Jan. 20, 2018 by TES staff in their insistence that no intermittent stream occurs on the Karig property. The city's installing storm drains in a "historically natural channel intermittent stream" (TES) would likely only have been done if there was such a stream to modify. There would be no need to drain a non-waterway.

There are only three choices of what to call the Karig channel: perennial, intermittent, and not a stream. Installing drains to reduce areas of ponding is textbook proof that the channel is an intermittent stream, regardless of how one argues the semantics. What TES staff basically told council on Jan. 20 regarding the nature of the stream is the complete opposite of this. In other words, regular stormwater and groundwater movement in a channel, at a minimum, is the definition of an intermittent stream, if not constant enough to qualify as a perennial stream, but it can never be considered a non-waterway.

And if the city's installation of stormwater drains in the Karig natural channel creates a public easement on grounds that the site is a public stream channel, then the city should be held responsible for not protecting its investment and the stream by allowing development to later completely destroy the channel.

C. Dara