WENATCHEE — The fate of a controversial housing development is in the hands of a Chelan County Superior Court judge.
Judge Travis Brandt heard arguments for two hours Thursday afternoon for and against Black Rock Terrace, an 18-home project proposed for the Wenatchee Foothills along the 1700 block of Skyline Drive.
Developers Steve and Tanya Tramp submitted their application in 2017 to build new homes on the 13-acre property. The development was contested by a group of residents and the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, but ultimately approved in late 2018 by the city’s hearing examiner, Andrew Kottkamp.
A request from the residents and Fish and Wildlife for Kottkamp to reconsider his decision was denied in early January. The two parties appealed to superior court.
Attorneys representing the residents, Fish and Wildlife, the city and the Tramps stated their cases Thursday afternoon.
Brandt said he would issue a decision as quickly as possible.
Much of the argument against the project centers on mule deer which frequent the foothills in the winter for food. Putting houses in their habitat disrupts that feeding.
Attorney for the residents, Allain Galbraith, argued the property is designated by the city as a critical area for mule deer habitat and that the city’s Comprehensive Plan calls for the protection of such areas.
The city’s attorney, Steve Smith, disagreed. When the Tramps submitted their plan in 2017, the city didn’t have language in its Comprehensive Plan protecting mule deer habitat or the habitat of any animals.
And while that changed in 2018 when some protections were added, the Tramps aren’t bound by the updated regulations, Smith said.
Noelle Chung, an assistant attorney general representing Fish and Wildlife, argued the plan doesn’t do enough to meet the habitat needs of mule deer.
As the Tramps were working through the application process, they were asked to add elements to their plan that mitigate for deer entering the property, like fences and one-way entrances for deer. The Tramps made those changes, but the changes aren’t enough to account for the loss in mule deer habitat, Chung said.
And like Galbraith, she contested the city’s critical areas ordinance that protects habitat areas.
The Tramp’s attorney, Kevin Bromiley, also argued that the 13-acre site accounted for a small fraction of the 16,700 acres of mule deer habitat in the Wenatchee Foothills.
“It’s not as though we’re displacing mule deer,” Bromiley said. “The mule deer are going to be fine.”