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Group appeals library plans' lack of cultural recognition

The Cedar River Library - File Photo.
The Cedar River Library
— image credit: File Photo.

The citizens’ group Save the Cedar River Library…Again! has filed an appeal over the lack of cultural and historical mitigation plans as part of the environmental review on the library construction project.

Last Friday, the group filed a letter appealing the City of Renton’s plans to mitigate impacts to the environment during the construction of the library over the Cedar River.

A public hearing on both the site plan and the appeal is scheduled for July 30.

David Keyes, Beth Asher and Nicola Robinson, members of the citizen group, filed the appeal.

“We want the new library, make no mistake,” said Asher. “And we want it on the site and we want it to go forward like gangbusters. But by the same token, the library we have does have cultural and historical aspects to it.”

Those aspects were ignored in the city’s state environmental protection act (SEPA) environmental review report submitted to the state, she said.

“And the fact that the determination came back saying it doesn’t, kinda threw everybody,” Asher said. “We went ‘whoa.’ We’d like it documented before it’s destroyed. There are features inside that are historic that should be preserved and of course the pattern of use is the cultural aspect.”

Specifically, the group wants the current entrance on the pedestrian bridge recognized and preserved as the major cultural element of the library. There isn’t a lot of confidence from the the group that the project team will keep such elements, as the King County Library System officials have been called “very adversarial” and “residents were not listened to,” according to Asher in previous exchanges with KCLS.

“So what we want to do is just spike the guns and go, ‘Hey, we’re totally for the new library,’” said Asher. “’We’re totally for moving it forward; we just want recognition for what is there now as culturally and historically significant.”

The city is 42 days into the 120 days given to go through the permitting process, about a third of the way through. A pubic hearing was scheduled for July 9 to go over plans thus far. However, the filing of the appeal letter on the final day of the appeal period delayed the hearing.

City of Renton officials have proposed a new public hearing date of 10 a.m., July 30, in Council Chanmbers.

“I don’t think it was a surprise,” she said. “They’ve been involved and asking a lot of questions. We always expect that there’s a possibility of an appeal until the appeal period ends. Anybody has a right to appeal.”

The group is asking the library project team submit a full environmental impact statement that addresses the state environmental protection agency elements of the environmental impact, “fully and accurately” the letter states. Or, the group asks for “the project, as proposed, be modified to directly address and mitigate its likely significant environmental impacts on these same elements of the environment.”

There was no political strategy behind submitting the appeal on the last day of the comment period, Keyes said.

The citizens’ group was only trying to be careful about whether they were going to file or not, how they filed and there was the July 4 holiday ahead of the due date to contend with, he said.

“It’s a group decision and it was a group decision with a lot of specific expert input,” Keyes said. “So we didn’t take that lightly and it takes awhile to put that together.”

Keyes and Asher both made comments during the public comment period of Monday night’s council meeting. Any comments made during that time will not be a part of the official record for the appeal process. Both Asher and Keyes said they still wanted the public at Monday’s meeting and the viewing audience to the TV broadcast of the meeting to be aware of the issues.

They’re not trying to throw down a gauntlet, they’re asking for issues that were completely omitted from the SEPA checklist to be address, Keyes said in his statements to the council.

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