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Homeless encampment near Woodinville moved for ‘the most King County reason’

The King County Department of Permitting and Environmental Review kept a homeless camp from locating at a church because of wetland mitigation concerns. (Ron Upshaw/KIRO Radio)

The homeless crisis in Seattle caused the mayor to declare a state of emergency, but, apparently, in King County, it still takes a backseat to wetland preservation.

A homeless encampment in Woodinville sponsored by Blessed Teresa of Calcutta Catholic Church had been providing care for Camp Unity Eastside in a nearby park called Cold Creek Natural Area. These types of homeless camps have traditionally been hosted by churches and stay on church property, according to The Woodinville Weekly, but that wasn’t the case for this camp “because the newly-built church is still undergoing inspections of the wetlands and frontage road.”

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At a recent Woodinville community meeting, an official from the King County Department of Permitting and Environmental Review said the church had nearly $250,000 in wetland monitoring bonds and maintenance defect bonds, the Weekly reported. However, the department ultimately decided to forego the normal process wetland mitigation process in order to let them move from the park to the church. KIRO Radio’s Ron Upshaw said he’s been through the DPER’s process in the past, and it’s beyond the scope of reasonability.

“If you’ve ever dealt with these wetlands people, it is insane what they make you do,” he said.

Upshaw also noted the irony in the entire situation, seeing as the department of permitting is the same department that bent its own rules to let the encampment be placed on the Cold Creek Natural Area, the first time a homeless encampment has been allowed to stay on public property in unincorporated King County, according to the Weekly.

“It’s the same department that said, ‘Go to the state park because it’s a state of emergency, but you can’t come across the street because the wetland’s quarter-of-a-million dollars has not been released yet,” Upshaw said.

Upshaw, who lives in Woodinville, called the rationale “the most King County reason” the encampment couldn’t be located on the more expansive church lot.

“I just love the logic that we’re in a state of emergency, but save the wetlands first and then maybe move the people over,” he said.

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