THE CITY OF Shoreline sent the friends of Thornton Creek a parade of cement trucks for Earth Day. Construction crews were back at work April 22 on the site where Aegis Assisted Living is determined to build a retirement home on the banks of the salmon stream, in defiance of neighbors' lawsuits. So Tim and Patty Crawford, who halted the development through a court victory last year (see "Battle Creek," Jan. 31) have filed yet another suit (their third) against Aegis and the city to stop the hammers. They and a crowd of neighbors and environmentalists protested at the site last week, getting the attention of state Rep. Maralyn Chase, D-Shoreline. Subsequently, Chase put the Shoreline City Council on notice that she's investigating Aegis' project.
Aegis' response to the Crawfords and other outraged residents is: Bring it on. Although King County Superior Court Judge John Erlick ruled that Aegis' original design trampled all over environmental regulations protecting fish habitat (and reprimanded the city staff who approved it), Aegis says that the order doesn't apply to a portion of its project, a 40,000-square-foot building located away from the site's judicially protected wetland.
But the Crawfords, who live upstream from Aegis' site, still have plenty of stream to fight over. Aegis' 4.5-acre site is bisected by one channel of Thornton Creek and bordered on the east by another branch of the stream. Originally, Aegis proposed restoring salmon habitat along the latter branch, referred to as the northern tributary, as a trade-off for building closer to the stream in the middle of its property. Shoreline city staff members were all for it.
Now, neither Aegis nor the city acknowledges that the northern tribu- tary is a stream at all. They say they don't have to, since Judge Erlick didn't rule on the northern tributary, and they say the company can legally build right on top of it. Shoreline Planning and Development Department director Timothy Stewart says Aegis has complied with the judge's order to protect the stream in the middle of its property and is not legally constrained from building next to the northern tributary. Stewart says the city has no legal grounds on which to refuse a permit to Aegis. "We are attempting to meet the intent, spirit, and letter of the [city] ordinances both as they apply to environmental protection and the protection of private property rights," says Stewart.
But the Crawfords contend otherwise in court. They point to evidence that they say proves that the northern tributary is also a salmon-bearing stream. A Washington state Department of Fish and Wildlife scientist who inspected the northern tributary reported that it contained a steady flow with pools deep enough to shelter salmon. And earlier this year, a Superior Court judge ruled against a home proposed just upstream from the Aegis site, declaring Thornton Creek a salmon stream. Even Shoreline and Aegis agree that Thornton Creek contains fish just downstream from Aegis' project. But Aegis points out that no fish have ever been spotted in the northern tributary.
The Crawfords' lawyer, Claudia Newman, says the city is violating the public trust by allowing the project to continue while the status of the northern tributary is at issue in court. "The city has absolutely no respect for the fact that their own citizens have an appeal [pending]," says Newman.