Save the Trees – Seattle in Court Seeking Preliminary Injunction

Threatened NW Tree Grove at Ingraham High School

A hearing is scheduled for 2:00 PM Monday, August 25, 2008 before Judge Erlick of the King County Superior Court, 516 Third Ave, Seattle in Rm W 10-60 on the Save the Trees Motion for a Preliminary Injunction and Motion to Reduce Bond.

Save the Trees is back in court today on their motion for a Preliminary Injunction to prevent the Seattle School District from cutting down 68 Douglas fir, Western Red Cedar and Pacific madrone trees on the west side of Ingraham High School before a hearing can be held in King County Superior Court to resolve the environmental impacts of the project. The temporary restraining order expires today, which means the Seattle School District could again try to cut the trees down tomorrow unless the Preliminary Injunction is granted.

As Save the Trees Attorney Keith Scully of Gendler and Mann notes in the petition to the Superior Court,

“The District’s Decision to withdraw its MUP and other permit applications
has dramatically altered the factual picture since the Hearing Examiner made her
decision. As the District has gone to great pains to demonstrate, the District
has not applied for permits…It can cut the trees without any city permits or
even finalizing construction plans. It is not bound to submit the proposal as
described to the Hearing Examiner to the City. There is thus no guarantee that
any mitigation will actually be constructed once the trees are gone, let alone
enough to compensate for the massive increase in untreated stormwater to Haller
Lake, increase in greenhouse emissions, removal of habitat, and other impacts
that will result from the District’s clearcut. Unlike most land use cases, where
the court reviews both the permits and the associated SEPA review, the District
in this matter is attempting to manipulate the City of Seattle’s review process
by cutting trees before finalizing permit plans. The necessary consequence to
the District of this course of action is that they cannot rely on hypothetical
mitigation measures to justify the determination of non-significance: unlike the
facts presented to the Hearing Examiner, the only action on the table at this
time is clear-cutting a rare collection of trees and other native species”

The Ingraham Tree Grove is comprised of a plant habitat that has been identified by the Washington State Department of Natural Resources as a rare plant community in King County. The area has also functioned as a school and community park and has been used by Ingraham High School biology and ecology classes for education purposes. While the Seattle City Council and Mayor Nickels are urging the preservation of existing trees and adding canopy to the city, the Seattle School District is going in the opposite direction.

The issue at Ingraham High School is not one of education versus trees. We can have both trees and education. The Seattle School District can build the proposed addition on the open lawn area on the North side of the School without cutting down any large trees. This is a location they have already identified and selected as a future building site in the Ingraham Master Plan. Save the Trees supports the renovation of Ingraham High School and building the new addition on the North side of the school.

By having withdrawn their construction permits and trying to just cut the grove of trees down, the Seattle School District is trying to avoid any consideration of Washington State and Seattle environmental and land use laws. They are saying the issues will be settled by the chain saw not the rule of law.

To date the environmental issues have only been evaluated by the Seattle School District which obviously has a conflict of interest. The appeal before a hearing examiner was before a hearing examiner hired by the Seattle School District. The issues have yet to reach the King County Superior Court.

The Seattle School District is playing the school yard bully and trying to prevent the normal process by which citizen’s have a right to seek redress from actions or decisions of their government which they think are wrong.

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