by: David Ham Updated:
SEATTLE, Wash. - A group of business owners along Westlake Avenue North has filed a lawsuit against Seattle that is blocking the approval of the city's nearly half-billion-dollar Bike Master Plan.
Seattle Department of Transportation forwarded the plan to city council for approval last year.
"Just to hold up the entire thing seems kinda overkill," said bicyclist Lisa Enns.
The Westlake Stakeholders Group was formed by a group of business owners and residents who argue the city should have ordered State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) reviews for every bike lane that's being proposed in the 20-year vision for bicyclists in the city.
Josh Brower, attorney for the Westlake Stakeholders Group, says adding more than a hundred miles of bicycle lanes across the city will have a significant environmental impact. Brower believes the Master Bike Plan should undergo the same environmental checkpoints as big highway and rail projects.
Business owners and residents along Westlake Avenue North argue a cycle track would take away many of the 1,200 parking spots along about a mile-and-a-half stretch.
"For us as a business owner, it's gonna make it really difficult for our clients to come and park if they drive from other areas of town. It's gonna be a mess," said Leslie Hubbard, who owns a fitness and yoga studio called the Seattle Changing Room.
She is not a part of the lawsuit but agrees the city should have called for SEPA reviews for this project.
"Businesses are already there. We're here thriving, and then to not study of how it would make it a disaster or the repercussions of what it would do," said Hubbard.
The Cascade Bicycle Club argues business owners are not being reasonable by holding up a plan that has been in the works for years.
"It feels like: Why did they go nuclear? Why did you go all the way to lawsuit instead of, 'Here, Let's talk about it. Talk specifically about Westlake,' " said Elizabeth Kiker, executive director of the Cascade Bicycle Club.
The Cascade Bicycle Club argues that the cycle track along Westlake Avenue North was already in the works and not a part of the Bike Master Plan.
But Sierra Hansen, from the Westlake Stakeholders Group, argues the plan includes changes to Westlake's bike lane that change it from an off-street path to a cycle track that has a dedicated barrier to separate it from cars.
SDOT says there aren't any designs for what the bike lanes would look like on Westlake yet.
A hearing examiner is expected to make a decision on the appeal on Mar. 5.
The City Council cannot vote on adopting the Bike Master Plan until the lawsuit is settled.
Council member Tom Rasmussen said, "essentially we can continue to receive comments and recommendations from the public, but the Committee and the Council cannot act on the BMP until the legal issues are resolved which is unlikely to be before March 5. The schedule for the Council’s action on the BMP update will depend on the result of the Hearing Examiner proceeding."
"What that means for the public is that there may be at least a month to provide comments to the City Council.
"I would recommend that all who want to comment on the BMP get them in to the City Council within the next 30 days because we will want to have time to review the recommendations. Once we receive the go-ahead to proceed with deliberations and adoption of the BMP update we will do so in a timely manner," Rasmussen added.