Residents wait word on Gas Works SEPA

The One Reel concert series Summer Nights proposed for Gas Works Park was cancelled last spring due to objections by nearby residents. Yet, so much anger was caused by the proposal that a group of citizens have pursued legal action.

Outstanding issues

Martin Powers, the president of the Wallingford Community Council, represents the views of residents who were displeased with the city for deciding to move the concerts to Gas Works Park. Those residents raised issues on parking, noise and park access.

"The city did not plan for bringing in the concert series into the Wallingford area," Powers said. "Many residents were not even notified of the city's decision, which has caused much distress."

The group Friends of Gas Works Park sued the city on the basis that their concerns on parking, noise and access were not heard when the city decided to move the concerts to the park.

Another environmental issue was also brought to the forefront in the lawsuit: whether the land itself could handle the concert series. The process, called the State Environmental Protection Act (SEPA), is "a state policy that requires state and local agencies to consider the likely environmental consequences of a proposal before approving or denying the proposal," according to the Washington State Department of Ecology's website.

According to Seattle activist Ben Schroeter, the city did not follow these proceedings when deciding to place the concert series in Gas Works Park.

"I couldn't understand why I hadn't heard about the moving of the concert series," Schroeter said.

Impact on future park issues

An environmental fan, Schroeter phoned the Seattle parks department with his concerns. It was then that he found out that they had not done the SEPA process.

He is now considering becoming an intervener in the Friends of Gas Works Park lawsuit, to ensure that other city events go through a SEPA process, as well.

Schroeter is currently waiting to see how the city will react to the recent verdict by Judge Dean Lum. Lum concluded that because Gas Works Park sits atop toxic waste, the city would need to go through the SEPA process if it wishes to hold the concert series there in 2007.

Seattle Parks and Recreation spokesperson David Takami said, "The city will consider its remaining options in the litigation, which include raising other defenses, appealing the court's denial of the issues the city raised already and taking no further action in the case."

But according to Schroeter, the city could have avoided all of this trouble if they had simply done the SEPA review before announcing the concert series' move to Gas Works.

"If they had done an environmental review in the first place, opinions of residents around Wallingford and the park would have been known," he said. "SEPA is meant to help and should be Seattle's best friend, not their mortal enemy."

For now, all anyone can do is wait to see how the city reacts to the ruling.

"The ball is in the city's court as far as how they are to handle the issue," Powers said. "Until then, all we can do is wait."

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