Apparently, there is more of a hold on the Environmental Impact Statement process for the SoDo arena than to what had been previously alluded.
Chris Daniels of KING5 gets confirmation that the process, which has anecdotally been referred to as "slowed down considerably," has stalled while awaiting further information from Chris Hansen's WSA Properties group. The Seattle Department of Planning and Development says that it is expecting some key analytical information from Hansen and cannot proceed on the process until it is received.
"The final EIS likely won't be available any earlier than the end of summer," says Bryan Stevens, of DPD. "We've asked for some updates on the traffic analysis, location of parking during event days, and examples for how impacts could be mitigated along South Holgate Street."
It is presumed that the NHL is quick to offer an expansion franchise to Seattle, but that it has been awaiting clarification on the arena process before making any sort of official declaration, award, or even acknowledgement of alleged discussions and negotiations with three groups vying for the new franchise ownership. This delay continues to put any movement towards an Emerald City NHL team on hold.
The Draft EIS was released last August, after the environmental and economic analysis kicked off in November 2012, following the agreement to a Memorandum of Understanding between Hansen, the city of Seattle, and King County the month prior. The expectation was that the final statement would be released within the normal 12-14 month window that such analyses take place, dating it sometime toward the end of 2013. After the NBA denied the relocation and sale of the Sacramento Kings to Hansen in May 2013, the arena development process slowed down, and the date for the expected release and publication of the Final EIS was pushed back on a number of occasions.
Most recently, the FEIS was expected to be released later this month. According to Stevens at DPD, that has changed:
Stevens also acknowledges that the time line has changed. "The schedule is an estimate based on how quickly we receive information from the applicant. While we did state a final EIS could have been ready at the end of the month, that date has been pushed back based on the need for additional information."
Stevens states that the "ball is in the applicant's court," meaning that the speed with which the EIS process continues is entirely on Hansen right now. It is unclear why the group has held up supplying this information to DPD, though we can speculate that some of this might have to do with figuring out all of the pieces involved in an NHL-first approach toward the arena.
Daniels points out:
Sources close to the Hansen group have also suggested, in the past few weeks, that they can easily provide the answers and speed up the time line. Hansen has been unavailable for comment. It is likely that the final EIS will also face a legal challenge from a least one group opposed to the construction of an Arena.
It is quite possible that the information being asked of Hansen simply hasn't been completed yet. It seems most likely, though, that this is a calculated stall. Whatever the reason, we are in an indefinite holding pattern.
UPDATE: Our pal Art Thiel at Sportspress Northwest offers further color, including the fact that the information needed by URS Corp., the firm hired to perform the analysis, was requested by the city in a letter to WSA Properties dated January 14, 2014. It was expected that the information would be supplied by early February.
In addition, Thiel's article spotlights the amount of time believed left on the EIS process once the information from WSA has been provided:
“In short, it looks like it would take 16 weeks (4 months) to get the draft FEIS together,” [vice president of environmental services for URS, Katy] Chaney wrote, “and then maybe another month for a final camera-ready review and printing – again this schedule would start once we have the missing information.”
So far, comment has not been provided by anyone inside Hansen's camp.
In other interesting news, Don Levin -- previously involved in a budding attempt to fund and build an arena in Bellevue to attract an NHL club, and was believed to be one of the three alleged NHL Seattle ownership contenders -- has dropped his efforts.