Schmalz drops fight over 92nd Street Park wetland

By Nicholas Johnson | Jan 25, 2017

In spite of ongoing calls from frustrated constituents, City Council Vice President Steve Schmalz says he’ll let go of his fight to make right a wetland mitigation project at 92nd Street Park.

“The silence was pretty conclusive,” Schmalz said of his fellow councilors not seconding his motion to have planning staff figure out what it would cost to reverse course on the controversial wetland project.

“I thought I had some support on this, but that didn’t pan out. It’s apparently not a big concern for the rest of the council, though it is for many citizens.”

The city created the 6,000-square-foot wetland area at the park to mitigate, or offset, a wetland in the 10400 block of 66th Place West, allowing a home to be built there. It was the first such project under a 2012 council-approved plan.

“This was, in fact, a place people used on a regular basis,” said Schmalz. “That’s why I was so adamant about looking to restore it, because people don’t have a lot of usable green spaces here.”

In October 2016, the council voted to have all future mitigation projects approved by the council, but Schmalz said no other project appears to threaten well-used park space.

“There’s no where else in the city where this could happen again the way it did, unless you put a pond in lighthouse park or something,” he said.

Councilor Randy Lord said protecting the wetland was necessary, but its impact on the park was a surprise.

“This one caught us off guard a bit,” Lord said. “It’s not that they destroyed the park; it’s that they did the work where people didn’t really expect it.”

Community Development Director Patricia Love said staff plans to present the council with an updated project list every four years for approval.

“We did hear the frustration,” Love said, adding that staff will aim to provide greater transparency in the future.

Schmalz said, “Unless three other council members want to have a change of heart on this, the idea of restoring that area is probably dead at this point.”

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