Puyallup City Council to revisit contested piece of land

kari.plog@thenewstribune.comMay 4, 2014 

A swath of land on the eastern edge of Puyallup is back on the agenda for Tuesday’s City Council meeting, weeks before a pause in development in the area is set to expire.

Council members will take another look at development standards for land near East Pioneer Avenue and Shaw Road after the city planning commission reviewed a proposal to expand the standards to more parcels in the area.

The council also will discuss whether to extend its moratorium on processing any land-use or building plans in this same 70-acre area on the east side of the city. The moratorium expires June 5.

After a public hearing last week, the planning commission voted not to expand an overlay that would have added stringent design standards to future development in some places north of East Pioneer.

The existing overlay, located just south of the proposed expansion area, supplements development standards in business and commercial zones. It adds rules for building height, open space, parking and other design components.

Commissioners reviewed the proposal at the direction of the City Council, after a 4-3 council vote Jan. 28 that imposed the moratorium in that area. Council members John Palmer, Heather Shadko, John Hopkins and Julie Door supported calling the time-out on development plans to give the city time to review adding the new standards to nearby properties.

If the City Council ignores the planning commission’s recommendation, the additional standards could extend to an area that includes the former Van Lierop Bulb Farm, the center of a long and divisive land-use debate.

Schnitzer West — a developer that has secured a deal with property owner Neil Van Lierop to purchase the land for warehouse development — already has an active application on file with the city.

The majority of the planning commission opposed the proposed changes. But two members — Nancy Johnson and Leon Leonard — favored adding the stricter design rules to the manufacturing zone that includes the Van Lierop property.

Last week’s discussion primarily focused on that area, one of three zoning districts in the proposal.

In a public hearing prior to the vote, property owners overwhelmingly criticized the proposed new standards. They also expressed frustration with the development moratorium.

Spencer Mayes, a representative for Schnitzer West, said the standards would be inconsistent with land-use rules elsewhere in the city.

“Why is Mr. Van Lierop’s property and the adjacent properties being held to a higher standard than any other property in the city?” Mayes asked. “It just doesn’t make sense to me.”

An angry Van Lierop said he was frustrated that the city keeps “moving the goal post” on landowners.

“We’re sitting on our hands,” he said. “We can’t do anything. We feel like the city has been against us property owners for years.”

A few speakers sympathized with the effort to slow the development process.

Resident Joan Cronk urged the planning commission to recommend limits on the size of buildings and other factors.

“I think we need design standards in this area,” she said, stressing that more than 800 residents signed a petition underscoring that point.

Johnson, the planning commission member who favored some new standards, said they would help ease concerns of citizens who want to maintain a desirable “gateway” to Puyallup.

“The overlay underscores our community’s attachment to this area and also underlines the comprehensive plan goals for this area,” Johnson said. “It serves as a heads-up for developers.”

Fellow planning commission member Chris McNutt disagreed, noting that “heavy-handed” overlays make development unnecessarily cumbersome.

“Our current design standards,” McNutt said, “are adequate for these lands.”

Chairman Steve Hastings echoed those remarks.

“This puts an additional layer” of burdensome standards on those properties, he said. “I don’t like that inconsistency.”

Kari Plog: 253-597-8682

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