Thursday, January 06, 2005


So I wanted to do a little more research about my home neighborhood, up on the East Hill near Panther Lake, but events are moving faster than I am. We've been here seven years, which almost qualifies us as "old-timers", a status which grants the benefit of whining that things are all going to heck as the universe changes around us.

Back in the way, way early days, the East Hill had a lot of trees on it, which were felled for lumber and the farms moved in. You can see from aerial photography that there are still patches of earlier forest spotting the top of the hill. Our house is in one of those spots (just south and west of the big cross-shaped building that is a school). The land behind us was a farm with a lot of wetland, which, according to our long-term neighbor, meant it was used to dump old cars and washing machines. The original farmhouse was just down the road, where there is now a retaining pond, but was destroyed after a drug raid (more on this as I find out about it). Then the Elementary school built on the swampy land behind, but left our little neck of forest relatively intact.

I'm giving all this background to show that land is continually changing in use, and just because it was a certain way, that is no guarentee that its going to stay in that state. When we moved up here we used to joke that if you go down Benson Road and turn right, you're in housing developments, and if you turn left, you're in farms. We're in the farms (cows on the way to work, roosters in the morning, llamas nearby), with developments kept at bay by Panther Lake itself to some degree.

So in the past few years the new developments have jumped Benson and a lot of new developments are going up around us. Big houses on dinky, dinky lots. The first warning usually is the "attack of the big white signs". These are the declarations of land development, and accompanied by mailings from King County to the locals showing what the developers are planning on doing. Often these signs stay up for years as the various developers get around to filling things in, so the big signs serve as a form of trauma counselling - Things are going to change - just so you know. There are currently three new housing developments within walking distance (only one shows up on this photo), and more coming. Still, we have this little patch of wooded ground (The back third of our property is brush), and the neighbors also have shady lawns as well with old trees.

But the property just on the other side of our western neighbor - that's had an interesting change. This is a long, narrow strip of 1.6 acres (about twice ours), with the house tucked way back on the property line. You can't see it unless you know its there. On Christmas Day the backhoes and plows moved in and started stripping away the forest on the forward two-thirds of the property, mostly cottonwoods but some pine and cedar as well. All this happened very suddenly, and without the giant white sign.

Then the letter came - they are planning on putting 9 family homes on that lot. Quick math says we are looking at tiny, tiny lots. All of this has a "dead-of-night" vibe to it, since the trees are already down and one more patch of earth in the Panther Lake area has been overtaken by the developer's plow before the paperwork catches up.

Here comes the neighborhood,