Collaboration in Civic Spheres

6,000 New Homes Mean Six New Schools In Black Diamond

by Matt Rosenberg January 4th, 2011

SUMMARY: The Black Diamond City Council is poised to approve an agenda bill Jan. 6 granting final authorization to the mayor to sign a comprehensive school mitigation agreement between the city, the Enumclaw School District, and the developer of two new master planned communities which will result in 6,000 new dwelling units and require construction of six new schools, three elementary, two middle, and one high school. The developer will provide land for the schools in exchange for mitigation fee credits, but taxpayers will have to approve the issuance of public debt to pay for construction.

BACKGROUND: Following legally-required environmental analysis and public hearing, the Black Diamond City Council City in September 2010 approved two master planned developments which will result in construction of 6,000 new residential units, The Villages and Lawson Hills. Public schools in Black Diamond, a city in southeastern King County, are operated by the Enumclaw School District, which covers several municipalities in a large suburban-rural area. Under a Comprehensive School Mitigation Agreement approved by the city of Black Diamond and the Enumclaw School District, the developer, Yarrow Bay, will ensure properties are secured within the new communities for new schools that will be required to serve the new population. Yarrow Bay is ready to sign the agreement following final revisions.

KEY LINK: Agenda Bill Authorizing Mayor To Sign Comprehensive School Mitigation Agreement with Enumclaw School District and Yarrow Bay developers; Black Diamond City Council, 1/6/11.

KEY FINDINGS:

  • The two new master planned developments called The Villages and Lawson Hills will generate a substantial new population of school-age children who cannot be served at existing schools in the Black Diamond area.
  • Based on formulas predicting the number of students in various age groups who will reside in the 3,430 single-family homes and 920 apartments/town homes, there will need to be built: three new elementary schools with 450 students each; two middle schools with 550 students each; and one high school with 1,200 students.
  • To serve the new students, neighborhood schools are preferred so they can walk or bike to school and reduce transportation service needs and associated environmental impacts. Initial locations have been identified for the new schools, but may shift somewhat depending on various factors.
  • The developer Yarrow Bay will convey properties to the Enumclaw School District for construction of the needed new schools in exchange for credits against the so-called “mitigation fees” which are typically assessed in monetary form by cities on developers to compensate for the local government fiscal impacts resulting from new residential communities or units.
  • Paying for construction of the new schools will fall to taxpayers, who will be asked to support passage of school construction bond issues (the issuance of public debt to individual and institutional lenders). The city, school district and developer will “support and encourage” passage of necessary construction bond issues in the near and long-term. (Public entities cannot advocate a “yes” or “no’ vote on any ballot measure, but may provide objective information for the public, and public officials when they are “off the clock” may campaign directly).

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