Puyallup a step closer to freezing development on east side of city

City Council votes 4-3 in favor of proposed moratorium; final action to be taken next week

Staff writerJanuary 7, 2014 

The Puyallup City Council voted 4-3 Tuesday night to temporarily freeze development on the east side of the city.

A standing-room-only crowd offered remarks both for and against the proposed moratorium affecting development on and around the former Van Lierop Bulb Farm.

Property owners dominated the citizen comment period. They urged the council to let them move forward with their building plans and work collaboratively with the city to ensure quality growth.

Other residents, however, said the best way to do that is to push the pause button on development plans. 

In the end, council members narrowly voted against landowners and approved the moratorium.

Councilwoman Heather Shadko, in the first meeting of her first term, voted in favor of the proposal along with council members John Palmer, John Hopkins and fellow newcomer Julie Door. Newly appointed Mayor John Knutsen voted against it, along with fellow council members Tom Swanson and Steve Vermillion.

The action would put a four-month hold on “processing of any and all land-use or building applications or plans” in various zones near East Pioneer Avenue and Shaw Road. The moratorium still requires a second reading at the council's next meeting on Jan. 14.

Palmer and Door requested the proposal be added to Tuesday’s agenda. Both said the effort would give the city time to consider design and performance standards to ensure high-quality development in the area.

About 70 acres located in mixed-use, commercial and industrial zones would be affected. One of several affected properties is former daffodil farmland that was recently mixed up in a controversial industrial rezone debate; supporters categorized the change as minor and opponents said it will invite a sea of warehouses into a gateway to the city.

That rezone was approved on Nov. 12.

Property owner Neil Van Lierop sat in the audience with his wife, Lore, before Tuesday’s vote. 

The 76-year-old said he has aged ten years waiting for the city to give him the opportunity to sell his land and retire.

“I’m starting to get a little gray,” he told The News Tribune before the vote.

His wife echoed his concerns, saying the proposed moratorium further delays the retirement they are due.

“We are land rich and cash poor,” Lore Van Lierop said.

Representatives from Schnitzer West, a Seattle-based real estate firm that plans to develop the Van Lierop property, said they were blind-sided by the moratorium proposal. Schnitzer had a deal to purchase the land based on the rezone that was approved less than two months ago.

Jeff Harmer, senior investment manager with Schnitzer, urged the council Tuesday night to work collaboratively with landowners and developers as opposed to “working adversely” against them.

Lance Odermat, another property owner in the affected area, agreed. He said working with landowners would fulfill the city’s goals and also promote economic development.

“We’re happy to work with you,” Odermat said, “we just hope that you work with us.”

Supporters, both council members and residents, said there is no harm in delaying development to give the issue proper review.

“I know that this land will be developed, but I’d like to see some standards set to ensure quality development,” said resident Joan Cronk.

Hopkins emphasized the moratorium would merely slow the process.

“The pause button is very different than the stop button,” he said.

Still, Vermillion said enough time has been spent deliberating what type of standards should be applied to the east Shaw Road area.

“This has been going on since 2004. It is now 2014,” he said. “What is the gestation period of this? How long does it take to refine and design standards?”

Kari Plog: 253-597-8682
Follow Kari on Twitter: @KariPlog

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