Know Your Planning Commission 1.23.13

***This series of articles are recaps of planning commission meetings.  They will run after most meetings and are written by District 3 resident, City Council candidate and Planning Commission member Chris McNutt.***

The Planning Commission is a Council appointed yet independent body of citizens who act as a vetting/advisory panel 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 January 23rd, 2013 covered one primary topic.

  1. South Hill 2030 Sub-area Plan

We were down one commissioner this week, but even so we managed to have some pretty good conversations about the dystopian future of our Regional Growth Center on the hill. We couldn’t agree on whether the human plight would be more seriously stricken by a fuel deprived wasteland surrounding a combat arena (or “thunderdome” if you will), or if we should prepare to welcome our inevitable robot overlords. In either case, there was little dissent among our shared vision of South Hill.

1.     South Hill 2030 Sub-area Plan

Associate Planner Lindsey Sehmal ventured forth with a presentation to initiate us into the mysteries of the South Hill Sub-area Plan for the year 2030. Curiously left out of the powerpoint were any references to replicants, the fact that South Hill could easily be beach front property in the impending “water world.”

The idea here is pretty simple. Using census data, growth projections and some sort of forbidden voodoo, the Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC) has determined that there will be a flood of new babies, who given time, will grow to take up more space and will want in on what we have here in Puyallup. Not just here of course. They have, with the participation of many cities, drawn lines on many maps which are suited to become the hubs of this new population.

Puyallup has two such areas and the benefits of these Regional Growth Center designations are things like grant eligibility and funding for roads and infrastructure. You might say “that’s the carrot, where is the stick?” And right you are to question money for nothing. First, these funds are mostly provided by the state (after retreating from each of our wallets), guided by the Growth Management Act (GMA) and under the administration of PSRC. I think most of the intended outcomes are desirable for our goals on South Hill, but I am cautious, especially when the city needs to match funds or man-hours for these projects. Another potential problem is when a non-critical project is prioritized over something more vital due to grant expirations. Not much of this has to do with our deliberations on the planning commission, but they are good things to keep in mind.

Our South Hill area Regional Growth Center goes from the mall in the west to Pierce College in the east.  From the old Safeway complex in the south to the Meridian Mobile Home park in the north.

Above is the first of five maps which detail the proposed zoning within the currently unadopted future land use map.  By the end of this process, we should have zoning, land use, design guidelines and developer incentives in line with our long term visioning for the hill.

This following chart is a brief overview of the changes.

One by one we went through each of these new zones to discuss the features of visions.  In the end, this meeting was focused on a few of the borders of the map where we need to make changes and which allowable use and bonus feature inclusion methods to adopt (more on this later).

This map highlights a few areas of the Regional Growth Center where the zoning or border may no longer reflect the direction taken when it was created many years ago.

The area to the north is of interest because it’s where the Meridian Mobile Home park is. It has been discussed on this site before, and since it is buffered by single family residential homes, this northern border may no longer be appropriate for inclusion within the Regional Growth Center.

Directly south of the mobile home park there is an area which is slated to remain residential zone but is intended to become more dense. We were told the landowner would like to see it become mixed use in order to open up some commercial applications with connected housing.

The highlighted area to the south west was annexed into the city after the lines had been drawn. In fact the southern line of this map is also the city limits so redrawing the lines around this small area may be a natural resolution.

The area highlighted in the south east is anomalous because it’s designated as Light Industrial, but actually contains two residential homes and a lot of trees.

My fellow commissioners and I went back and forth discussing the merits and pitfalls of each of these changes. In the end we agreed that we would like to see several scenarios and only decide on which to present to the council as our recommendation after we have some public input, especially from those who own the land now. We were told the mall owners are all on board with the changes, but many of the other stakeholders haven’t been contacted yet.

The other details we discussed were the general method for outlining the allowable uses in each zone and how to document the possible developer bonuses.

Explaining the allowable use methods breaks down into two basic options. We could either explicitly list what is allowed in each zone, or simply list what is not allowed. Ultimately I think all the commissioners agreed on listing forbidden uses as an easier way to administer the zone attributes and allow for the widest flexibility. In either case there would be administrative oversight.

We were also provided with a possible method for the administration of developer bonus incentive features. How will these incentives help with a fictitious apocalypse you ask? None of the following is in the code, but let us say the maximum building height in a given zone is six stories. A new mega-corp rolls into town and wants to build an eight story building to increase the maximum effectiveness of their trebuchets. If they were to build a moat and maybe some defensive crossbowman towers as well, they would be allowed the extra height.

Obviously this example is pure nonsense. No one could undergo the construction of an eight story building while fending off waves of zombies WITHOUT those defenses already in place.

The sample charts provided layed out two tiers for bonuses along with the rules for each of them. For example, if you want a tier two bonus you have to first include some number of tier one bonuses. I think we agreed with the method in principle, but we didn’t discuss much in the way of alternatives.

I will update you further as the plans continue to develop.

For more specific information about the meeting, please see the following list of resources.

If you have questions or concerns about this (or any other city matter) please reach out to the City Council, myself or any other Planning Commission member. Also, feel free to comment below. I’ll try my best to answer questions.

We are adjourned.

Chris McNutt
District 3 City Council Candidate
Planning Commissioner

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