City seeks solutions for Smokey Point park

ARLINGTON City officials are negotiating with property owners to determine whether a small forest with some big trees in the heart of Smokey Point could become a city park.

"It's on hold until we tie up some loose ends," said City Administrator Allen Johnson.

Currently owned by the Smokey Point Mall property owners association, the 1.2 acres have been designated green space since the first strip mall in the area was developed by Ralph and Mary Ann Monty, of Ramo Realty, in the 1970s.

"We've been wanting to see that become a park ever since we developed the area," said Mary Ann Monty.

"It's always been meant to be a green area."

Ralph Monty is concerned, however, that the city wants to use it for storm water retention.

"We had to bring in a lot of landfill when we developed the area," Ralph Monty said.

A few years ago some drug users were using the area and the city did some superficial clean-up, but the situation persists, according to some of the nearby property owners.

"We would like to see a park there," said Nick Damianidis, owner of Olympic Pizza, who describes himself as the longest living member of the property association.

"My parents hired Ramo to build our building in 1977," Damianidis said, adding that the property owners have all agreed that the property should be transferred to the city for a public park.

"It's been a retreat for drug users in recent years. We want it to be cleaned up for a park that everybody can use," he said that he thought the transfer of ownership was pretty much a done deal, except for a few hoops of bureaucracy.

"Things take time when you work with the city," he acknowledged.

He has heard that there were some storm water issues around the new building, Centerpoint, that was built this year.

"I've been to every meeting and I am still at a lost," Damianidis said he doesn't really understand the issues.

"Nathan would have all the answers about that," he added.

The developer of Centerpoint, an attractive three-story building directly across Smokey Point Drive from Olympic Pizza, Chapman said he is disappointed that the proposal to deed over the land is on hold.

"This area does have some drainage issues," Chapman said. "The water table is very close to the surface. All of the properties here need work on their drainage systems, if only some basic maintenance."

He said his project tried to go above and beyond legal requirements to help solve some of those drainage issues, admitting that some pavement was laid too low.

"My qualilfied engineer has built a system that handles storm water for a 100-year event," Chapman said they used inventive measures to accommodate storm water run off, including pervious pavement and special soil tested for good drainage.

"I believe our project helps contribute to solving drainage issues in the area."

The proposal to transfer the 1.2 acres to the city for a park was originally presented to City Council at the March 10 workshop. It then moved forward for a vote at the March 17 regularly scheduled meeting. Facing questions from the Council, it was tabled for the next workshop and then was pulled off that workshop agenda at the last minute.

The proposal included using the proposed park to help absorb water in a 100-year flood incident.

"It would only hold water in very extreme cases," said the city's public works director, Len Olive.

The proposal also included a variance on the city's sign code to allow for a taller than regular sign to identify those business that have suffered from the C-curbing on 172nd Street.

"Those businesses deserve a little help," said Mayor Margaret Larson at the first workshop.

Perhaps the strongest opponent to the project, City Councilwoman Marilyn Oertle said it's not the sign code or the storm water issues that she has a problem with.

"I just don't think the tax payers should have to pay to fix one person's problem," Oertle said.

"I think the project would cost the city too much money and would benefit just the most immediate businesses and property owners," she added that she felt the property association should maintain the property for their own use, since there is limited access to the open space.

"I don't think there is enough public access to really serve the whole community."

Another Council member, Chris Raezer agreed that there were a lot of unanswered questions.

"Obviously we need a park in Smokey Point," Raezer said.

"I don't know what they need for storm water retention, and if it [that property] will provide what is necessary."

While the city administrator, Johnson said that either way -- a park or left natural, the area will serve the property owners for storm water retention. Chapman also noted that Lowe's Hero Park, south across 172nd Street from the Smokey Point Mall, also serves as storm retention area at the same time as being a public park.

In the meantime, the city is seeking a solution to the storm water issue through Chapman and the property association while another adjacent property owner, the Stillaguamish Tribe has expressed a verbal agreement to help provide public access possibly even with some parking.

Arlington's new community development director, David Kuhl, believes the open space will become a park eventually.

"We are working with the developer to have him cover the cost to remove 12 - 18 inches while protecting the tree roots," Kuhl said.

"I believe that will solve the problems of storm water while opening the space for public use."

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