Woodinville residents tell King Co. Kirkland is a better place

March 28, 2023

During a town hall meeting hosted by the city of Woodinville on March 15, concerned residents told King County officials that Kirkland would be a better place than here to build a new recycling and waste transfer station.

The county wants to replace the Houghton Recycling and Waste Transfer Station in Kirkland, which serves broad swaths of both incorporated and unincorporated King County cities, including Woodinville.

Houghton’s successor could be located on parcels in the city along the 15000 block of Woodinville-Redmond Road in the south Valley Industrial District, home to many businesses and Chrysalis High School.

“The first question is, ‘Why do we think Woodinville is the best place’? We do think Woodinville is a pretty charming community, but we actually haven’t decided it’s ‘the best place’ to site our recycling and transfer station,” said Pat McLaughlin, director of King County’s Solid Waste Division. “It is part of the general area that is intended to be served by the station, and, certainly, our preliminary analysis has led us to the six parcels that are being considered.”

Mary O’Hara, project manager King County Solid Waste Division, informed residents during the town hall that the Houghton park and ride had been dropped from consideration as a NERTS site after Washington Department of Transportation said it would develop some of the parcels and sell off the others. Those actions would make the site too small for the county to built a NERTS, O’Hara said.

Woodinville City Manager Brandon Buchanan spoke during the town hall, noting the city would take on its own economic analysis of the proposed NERTS site in Woodinville. He informed the county of this back in January.

“I know the county is committed to wherever the site is located,” Buchanan said during the town hall meeting. “If Woodinville is selected, it would be our expectation that the impacts would be fully mitigated.”

Even before the public comment portion of the town hall, McLaughlin added that the county is aware of residents’ concerns that have been expressed.

“You have an incredible tourism industry here. You have lovely neighborhoods and various sorts of charm that go throughout the city,” he said. “All the impacts are meant to be understood. These are difficult facilities to site.”

McLaughlin did say “everybody likes to use” facilities like NERTS.

“You probably recognize the importance of having an essential public facility,” McLaughlin said. “Your city manager pointed out that … part of our responsibility is to mitigate those impacts. That takes a lot of different shapes and forms, and is also informed by the community.”

Annie Kolb-Nelson, communications for King County, said the county would assist businesses displaced by the building of NERTS and negotiate with them on a fair market price for their property.

“The goal would not be to put people out of work at all; it would be to find a new location for those businesses,” Kolb-Nelson said. “Again, that is a cost to factor in, and there’s going to be a lot of things that factor into the ultimate decision on which site will be the most suitable for the transfer station and cost will be one of those.”

Kimberly Ellertson, executive director of the Woodinville Chamber, called the displacement of businesses in the area “a big impact,” but also pointed to the unmoved ones that would be impacted, including the high school and a gym.

“Are these businesses in the area taken into consideration during this process?” Ellertson asked, “and along the lines when you’re mitigating impact, what are some ways?

When McLaughlin responded, in part, by saying traffic lights as a form of mitigation, some people in the room laughed. But McLaughlin used that moment to cite the county’s work to help the Algona Transfer Station.

“In some instances, (traffic lights are) very helpful,” he said, referencing the Algona Transfer station. “In that case, the city did want some traffic lights to help, as well. So, (mitigation) really can take a lot of different forms.”

After the meeting, Ellertson said she felt that county officials did not adequately answer her questions and she will continue to encourage businesses to share their feedback.

Kim Harris, co-owner of Bayernmoor Cellars told the county panel during the meeting that “wine tasting and garbage don’t even mix.” She believes the roads would be “clogged” with traffic if NERTS is built in Woodinville.

“I don’t know that we can actually handle that type of traffic and still get tourists off the freeway and into the city to spend money,” Harris said. “I also want to make the point: nobody really wants to go wine tasting when the garbage trucks keep wandering by. It’s not right.”

County officials had no response to Harris’ comments.

Zach Fogle, whose family owns Chrysalis High School, told thr county panel that NERTS would only be 92 feet away from his school. He also said the facility could hamper students’ ability to drive in and out of the school’s parking lot, since the school does not offer transportation.

Former Woodinville Mayor Gary Harris told the panel that building NERTS here would be an irresponsible business decision.

“You’re going to have to hire more drivers, have them work or overtime (or) have them work six days a week. Your cost of fuel is going to be more expensive because you’re further away from the (center) of your service area.”

After the meeting Harris, like Ellertson, said he felt the county did not answer his questions. But he did say he believed it was good for officials to hear what residents have to say.

“NERTS staff need to have their feet held to the fire. No excuses, no withholding of data, and more objective evaluations of sites,” Harris wrote in an email. “All of us in Woodinville need to be persistent in sending them our concerns regarding how this transfer station would be extremely detrimental to our peaceful tourist destination.”