Back in the March 13 entry to this journal, I mentioned the fact that Renton (Motto: "We're that cluster of old buildings you pass to get to the IKEA") had the largest heronry (nesting site for great blue herons), in King County. And I mentioned that developers wanted to put up a housing development real close to it, which might have a detrimental effect on said herons.
So the city of Renton (Motto: "You know Fry's Electronics? We're near that") scheduled a hearing on the matter, and, after shifting the date three or seven times, finally met, and the hearing examiner, after hearing both sides, recommended to the city that they at least procure an Environmental Impact Statement before proceeding and breaking ground.
City Council of Renton (Motto: "You pass through us on the way to the real shopping center in Tukwilla") then held a meeting on 8 November (Here's the link for the minutes in pdf format). At this meeting they chose to overrule their own hearing examiner's ruling and press on. Further, they ammended the examiner's findings to cast doubt on the conservationists' case. The logic they put forward is that the burden of proof lay with the heron-supporters, and after the council modified the findings and ignored the recommendations, insufficient proof existed to stand in the way of development.
Yeah, it makes my head hurt, too. It was a 4-3 vote, and the minority entered their own dissenting opinion into the record, (Why have a hearing if you're going to ignore your own examiner? Why is the burden of proof on the conservationists instead of the developers?) During the comments section, the overwhelming number of audience members, politely as possible, told the city council they were crazy.
Of course, nothing is ever in stone, so now this will likely move to the courts, but I think the City Council has really dropped the ball on this. I mean, here's a reason for people to come to Renton in the first place, and they want to mess with it? Instead of pretending they're not going to chase the birds off, they should inaugerate "Heron Days" in March to draw people into the downtown area and run shuttles out to the nesting site. Heron Parade! Heron Pagent! Special Heron Discounts! This sounds pretty wild, but I've been up in Skaggit Valley, in little towns like Concrete, where the highways are clogged with people pulled over just to watch an lone eagle sitting in a tree across the river. And we just caught a similar break.
And the biggest predator of great blue herons? Bald eagles. More herons = more eagles. Take THAT, Skaggit Valley!
And if the herons move on, you know, then you can still build. Its not like the land is going anywhere. Though looking at that bluff they want to build on, I can't be 100% sure on that, either
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