This article was originally published on the Wenatchee World website on 1/3/19.
State Asks City to Reconsider Approval of Black Rock Terrace
It’s not over yet.
The final final step in approving Black Rock Terrace, an 18-home development planned for the Wenatchee Foothills, was pushed back a few weeks after the state Department of Fish and Wildlife asked the Wenatchee hearing examiner to reconsider his decision.
Fish and Wildlife officials are concerned that the development plans don’t do enough to protect mule deer habitat.
Hearing Examiner Kottkamp approved the Skyline Drive development on Dec. 14, despite strong pushback from residents. Parties of record, like Fish and Wildlife, had three weeks to formally ask him to reconsider. The state Attorney General’s Office filed Fish and Wildlife’s request on Dec. 27.
“We’ve received the request for reconsideration and it’s been forwarded to the hearing examiner for his action,” Planning Manager Stephen Neuenschwander said Wednesday. Kottkamp did not respond to an email requesting comment.
Fish and Wildlife argued that mule deer habitat mitigations planned for Black Rock Terrace are insufficient. The Black Rock site covers 13 acres of foothills next to Jacobson Preserve and is used by mule deer for winter foraging. Black Rock will be surrounded by a 6-foot fence with a one-way deer gate.
In his approval, he cited 55 findings of fact regarding development practices and 10 conclusions of law showing the legality of the project. Perhaps the most disputed point is whether the site is a critical habitat conservation area.
Fish and Wildlife says it is. The city says it’s not.
In their application, developers Steve and Tanya Tramp used a 2010 report that characterized the property as “low priority” mule deer habitat. During a public comment period, Kottkamp asked whether the Tramp’s habitat mitigations were enough to mitigate potential adverse impacts of Black Rock on mule deer.
Fish and Wildlife habitat biologist Amanda Barg wrote Kottkamp and said that the 2010 report is outdated because mule deer roam differently in the winter, primarily due to wildfires.
Winter foraging areas are protected under Wenatchee city code and another code states that foraging sites automatically must be treated as critical areas “regardless of any formal identification.”
Barg also said that the deer fence isn’t enough to offset the site’s impact on mule deer, particularly because the property itself wipes out 13 acres of habitat. To compensate for the loss of habitat, Barg suggested the Tramps enhance the surrounding habitat.
In his decision, Kottkamp dismissed Barg’s remarks saying they did not answer his question of whether the measures did enough.
Fish and Wildlife, in its Dec. 27 letter, asked Kottkamp to reconsider Barg’s recommendations, which also included:
- Landscaping materials not palatable to deer.
- Light shields to reduce glare and light.
- Require Black Rock residents to keep pets in fences and to use leashes when outside home fences.
- Signage warning motorists of deer.
- Covenants acknowledging that homeowners are responsible for costs related to human-deer conflicts.
Now that the request is in, Kottkamp has 10 working days from Dec. 27 to make a decision and then once he’s made a decision there will be another three weeks for parties to appeal.