***This is a recap of the planning commission meeting. It will run after each of their meetings. It is written by District 3 resident and Planning Commission Member Chris McNutt.***
The Planning Commission is a Council appointed yet independent body of citizens who act as a vetting/advisory organization for land use and zoning to the City Council. The following is a personal account and may not reflect the opinions of other Planning Commission members.
The meeting on the evening of August 8th, 2012 centered around two primary topics.
- An update to the WSU Master Plan
- Updates to some privately initiated and city initiated zoning and Comprehensive Plan text amendments
We were presented with updates and progress on the WSU (Go Cougs) Master Plan application by Sr. Planner Ron Buckholt, followed by a presentation from Dr. John Stark, Director of the Puyallup Campus and the Ecotoxicology Program. You may remember when we addressed this topic before.
One of the documents in our packet had a list of items the various departments in the city asked WSU to complete or comply with. Most of them have already been dealt with, but others are still pending. Ron went through each of these with us. The remaining outstanding items are as follows:
- Conducting a neighborhood meeting;
- Detail compliance for a shoreline public access trail;
- Provide a contour map of a specific slope on the grounds;
- Detail the use of a portion of the land zoned RS-10/RS-35;
- Various clarifying statements; and
- Provide details about a possible secondary access driveway
Many of the completed hurdles and those listed above may be viewed in detail in the documents made available here.
Dr. Stark then took to the podium to present some of WSU’s vision for the facility and to stress the unique challenges they face with this process. Part of what makes this Master Plan so challenging is the Master Plan process is designed for businesses and must be adapted for WSU. A business looking to expand has a business plan, financial mechanisms and a definitive timeline. WSU has a wish list and goals. If they don’t receive funding nothing will happen. They could literally have to wait 100 years for a project to be funded, so this type of detailed advanced planning could lose some of its intended effectiveness.
All their plans and goals seem great and a huge asset to our community and even the country but there are unique challenges. For example, they received an $800,000 grant to upgrade the building and equipment tasked with toxicology and salmon research. This money would refurbish the building, provide a much better use of space and outfit the labs with new equipment which would allow for the expansion of research into other types of animals. By city code though, any project over $150,000 requires an investment into the adjacent sidewalks and roads. They have some pretty large borders and the estimates we were given was that the city mandated upgrades would cost between $5 and $10 million. Getting an $800,000 grant went from a huge windfall and benefit to a nightmare of red tape requirements.
While I’m confident that the city will make it work and find a solution, I’m sure it’s a despairingly frustrating process when your business model (higher education) falls so far outside what the ordinances were designed for (businesses).
I don’t have the date and time yet, but there will be a public hearing on the WSU Master Plan. I hope the city will announce it soon, and I’ll try to do so as well, but please come out and speak up about how important this campus and their programs are to our community.
The second topic revolved around some proposed zoning changes and Comprehensive Plan text amendments.
Lindey Sehmel began by presenting us with a follow up on two privately initiated zoning updates and four city zoning updates. Lindsey will be taking over for some of Katie Baker’s tasks because she will be out on maternity leave until after Thanksgiving. We all wish Katie and her new baby well!
… and now, back to the “action.”
The first of the privately initiated amendments is for the land located across the street from the Puyallup Fair entrance next to Cattin’s Restaurant where a nursing home used to be located.
The land owner is interested in changing the land use designation from Pedestrian Oriented Commercial (POC) to Auto Oriented Commercial (AOC) and the zone from Central Business District (CBD) to General Commercial (GC). From what I understand, years ago they had compelled the city to change the land use from AOC to POC and the zoning from GC to CBD. At the time they had a buyer for the property with a specific project in mind, but then the “economy happened,” as many famous economists have said, and the project fell through. Now years later the lot sits vacant and they wish to change the classifications back in order to make it more commercially appealing.
The second privately initiated amendment is for the Meridian Mobile Home Park near the top of Meridian St S.
The property owner wishes to change the land use designation from Moderate Density Residential (MDR) to High Density Residential (HDR) and the zoning from Medium Density Multi-Family Residential (RM-10) to High Density Multi-Family Residential (RM-20).
You can see why we prefer to use all the initializations and acronyms.
I’m unclear on the complete motivation for the change. We had previously heard about needing to offset some of the costs involved in installing sewer lines, and if they had a more occupants, they could split the costs more easily. There was also mention of possible Sr Housing or some other high density type dwelling, but these plans remain largely tentative or unknown to me.
As Commissioner Leon Leonard pointed out, rezoning this land would effectively decrease the number of available low cost housing options, which we are certainly in need of. Also of concern is the 40 families who would be forced to move if new development were to come in.
There will be a public hearing on September 12th in the council chambers where people can voice their opinions on all the amendments. If you have a stake in this or a concern, please come out and speak up. You will be heard.
The last four land use/zoning changes discussed are of city owned land and mostly to clean up some zones which are out of date or need to be changed due to acquisitions.
- 1002 14th St SW; 7.8 acres/2 parcels; Wetland restoration and Meeker Creek buffer
- 1023 11th St SW; 11.02 acres/9 parcels; Silver Creek restoration site
- 1605 23rd Ave SW; 5.68 acres/2 parcels; Dead Man’s Pond (wetland and buffer), one SFR
- 1243 27th St SE; 8.63 acres/2 parcels; Wetland and buffer
The city wishes to change the land use from Low Density Residential (LDR) or Public Facilities (PF) to Open Space/Public Parks (OS/PP) and changing the zoning from Single Family Residential (RS-08 or RS-10) to Public Facilities (PF). These all seem fine to me but I would interested in seeing what the public comments are and if I’m missing something.
The proposed text amendments revolve around the Community Character Element and the Environmental Element of the Comprehensive Plan.
Currently the historic preservation elements to the Community Character Element focus solely on the downtown, but there are other areas with viable historic significance so the city would like to extend these opportunities to the entire city.
The Environmental Element changes are to clarify some of the Shoreline Master Program policies, establish new policies for the urban forestry initiative and update some of the policies related to the NPDES (National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System) stormwater permit, the rain garden program, and use of the low impact stormwater systems.
During “other commission business” I asked when we were due to tackle the potential zoning amendments in regards to the City Council’s moratorium on halfway houses and was told it would be at the next meeting which is on August 22nd at 7:00 PM in the council chambers and is open to the public.
We are adjourned.Chris McNutt District 3 Planning Commissioner