Summary of review process for lacrosse field project in Big Finn Hill Park

Kirkland Youth Lacrosse (KYL) wants to convert an unimproved field in Big Finn Hill Park, now used for soccer practice in the dry months of the year, into an all season lacrosse pitch with lights for nighttime use. KYL’s proposal has been supported by some residents of Finn Hill and opposed by others. DCNA has not taken a position on the matter, other than to raise questions about certain aspects of the field’s likely impact on neighbors at night and on surface water drainage. (See below.) However, DCNA has urged both KYL and the relevant governmental authorities to conduct the approval process for the project in a manner that is open to public comment.

The field is in a park owned and operated by King County, which itself is located in an area that was annexed by the City of Kirkland on June 1, 2011. As a result, sorting out the processes for reviewing the paperwork necessary for this project has been somewhat challenging. The County and the City have had to negotiate a division of responsibilities between themselves, so the decision-making path was not clearly prescribed until recently.

Based on discussions with County and City representatives, DCNA believes that the following is an accurate summary of the approvals that KYL must receive before it can break ground on its proposed lacrosse field project in Big Finn Hill Park:

Grading Permit: KYL filed an application for a grading permit with King County in May, shortly before Finn Hill was annexed by Kirkland. The application was required because KYL intends to remove existing sod and replace it with a substrate of sand (for drainage) and a top layer of artificial turf for the field’s playing surface. Any grading permit will be issued by the City of Kirkland because Big Finn Hill Park is now within the City’s boundaries and, under the terms of the annexation interlocal agreement with the County, Kirkland will assume responsibility for inspecting the field to ensure compliance with any permit conditions. However, because the permit application was submitted before annexation, Kirkland will base its decision on recommendations made by King County’s Department of Development and Environmental Services (DDES), applying King County regulations. A public hearing on the permit application is not part of the process for approval of a grading permit. Kirkland’s decision on the permit will be made once the County forwards its analysis, which is expected to occur shortly. DCNA does not know what appeal process is available to those who oppose the issuance of a permit.

Environmental Checklist: Kirkland Youth Lacrosse filed responses to a state-mandated environmental checklist with King County Parks at the time it filed for a grading permit. King County Parks issued a tentative finding that the project would not have significant impact on the environment. (A finding of non-significance exempts the project sponsor from having to prepare a full environment impact report.) King County Parks also invited comments on its tentative determination. Park neighbors and DCNA both submitted filings (and others may have as well) raising questions about the sufficiency of the Kirkland Youth Lacrosse checklist response. In brief, DCNA questioned whether Kirkland Youth Lacrosse had adequately addressed the impact of field lights and night-time activities on neighbors and the need to restore certain drainage systems into which the field’s runoff would flow. As with the grading permit, the City of Kirkland will make a determination on whether the lacrosse field project will have a significant impact. The City’s determination will be based on the file that King County Parks has created. Regardless of the type of determination that is made, there will be an appeal period (and in some cases an opportunity for further comment) to follow. In Kirkland, an appeal is heard by the City’s Hearing Examiner.

Use Agreement: KYL and King County Parks will execute an agreement setting forth the terms on which KYL may use the field. This agreement is expected to contain conditions dealing with such issues as frequency of use, hours of use, noise abatement, traffic control, and security measures. King County Parks will presumably establish similar conditions for all users of the field. KYL and King County Parks plan to draft the agreement this month and, assuming that the grading permit and environmental checklist proceed as planned, hope to submit the proposed agreement to one of the King County Council’s committees in September. (DCNA is still attempting to ascertain which committee will review the agreement.) If the committee approves the document, it will then be forwarded to full Council for final acceptance. DCNA understands that both the committee and the Council will accept public comment at the sessions during which they will review the agreement.

DCNA will continue to monitor the progress of governmental analysis of the lacrosse field project and will post updates to this website as DCNA learns of them. If you have questions or comments in the meantime, please let us hear from you.

Here are contacts in King County and the City of Kirkland who can provide additional information about the approval process:

T.J. Davis, King County Parks: tj.davis@kingcounty.gov; 206-263-6214
Nancy Cox, City of Kirkland Planning and Community Development: ncox@kirklandwa.gov; 425-587-3228

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