WENATCHEE — A Chelan County judge says crucial steps were not followed when the city of Wenatchee approved a controversial housing development in the midst of mule deer habitat.
Superior Court Judge Travis Brandt ruled last week that Blackrock Terrace, a 17-homesite neighborhood planned for the Wenatchee Foothills, must conduct scientific site analysis of how its new construction might disrupt local mule deer populations.
The decision, in a suit brought by 12 neighbors of the proposed 13-acre development, overturns a finding by Wenatchee’s hearing examiner that Blackrock Terrace had met all requirements to move forward.
Brandt wrote in his Oct. 3 ruling that Blackrock developers Steven and Tanya Tramp “did not comply with the provisions of the City of Wenatchee’s Critical Areas Ordinance.” That ordinance demands developers conduct scientific surveys when their projects might affect a designated conservation area.
Both the citizen plaintiffs and the state Department of Fish and Wildlife argued that Blackrock infringed on winter mule deer range, and that hearing examiner Andrew Kottkamp erred in approving the new neighborhood without careful scientific review. Fish and Wildlife estimated the project would remove more than 10 acres of winter forage used by the Mission Creek deer herd.
Fish and Wildlife filed its own parallel lawsuit the same week as the Blackrock neighbors, arguing the project does not properly mitigate the habitat loss. That case has yet to be heard by a judge. Any loss could be offset by such methods as developing new rangeland, the department says.
Brandt’s decision forces the case back to the hearing examiner, who must assess it with the Critical Areas Ordinance in mind. The Blackrock developers have an option to appeal.