A Seattle attorney and advocate for liberal causes says the proposed SoDo basketball/hockey arena would violate environmental law if the city and county sign a memorandum of agreement with developer Chris Hansen ahead of a study of impacts by the $490 million project.
In a letter sent to public officials Friday, Peter Goldman said it will be a violation of the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) if a review is not conducted before the MOU is signed.
“SEPA is a stop, look and listen law,” Goldman, a Seattle resident, told the Seattle Times. “Where in the MOU have they reserved the right to protect the public interest if you find something that requires mitigation, something that could be prevented?”
The city claims it has directly addressed the issue in section 21 of the MOU, according to Aaron Pickus, spokesman for Seattle mayor Mike McGinn.
"Section 21 clearly states that there will be no commitment of public financing until SEPA is complete," Pickus wrote in an email. He said the timeline begins with a vote on the MOU. If approved, the project must go through various permitting and land processes, including SEPA.
After SEPA is completed and an NBA team acquired, a third-party assessment will set a price for the land, which will be purchased by the city. That will be the first large commitment of public dollars to the project.
Goldman runs the Washington Forest Law Center, a non-profit, public interest law firm that offers legal services to protect forests and the environment.
In other arena news, a public hearing, this one combining the county and city councils, is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Thursday at city hall.