The Puyallup Planning Commission voted 3-2 Wednesday night to deny a rezone application by local developer Schnitzer West.
The action came after a public hearing, which was extended from a July 10 meeting, on a proposed rezone that drew strong opposition from residents and a majority of the commissioners.
Schnitzer secured a contract with former daffodil bulb farmer Neil Van Lierop to buy 13 acres of former farmland for industrial development near Shaw Road; the deal is pending action from the city.
Commission chairman Steve Hastings and vice chairman Chris McNutt were absent from the City Council chambers during the vote after choosing to recuse themselves from the process. The decision stemmed from their participation in a controversial closed-door meeting that included the applicant back in June.
Many residents expressed concern that Schnitzer was proposing to change the zoning in an area that was carefully planned back in 2008, when the city annexed a large portion of land based off a strategic mixed-use vision.
Some said the city needs to plan for the future and avoid inviting a "sea of warehouses" into the what is now scarce open space.
"This is one of the last decent pieces of property left for the people of this community," resident Merv Swanson said.
Some of the commissioners echoed those concerns.
"It is clear tonight that the community has a deep emotional attachment to this area," said commissioner Nancy Johnson, who voted to deny the land-use application.
Commissioner Aaron Couch, who opposed denying the application, said the zoning in the area has already ensured it will be developed regardless of Wednesday's vote.
"It will still be developed," he said. "It won't be open space."
Tom Utterback, Puyallup's development services director, said the City Council will review the Planning Commission's recommendation at its meeting Sept. 3.
City Council member Steve Vermillion, who was in attendance for the commission's vote, said the council makes the call on the rezoning issue. Council members will review the information, but that doesn't necessarily mean they must follow the recommendation, he said.
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