Puyallup Council declines to extend moratorium on land

Staff writerMay 8, 2014 

Retired farmer Neil Van Lierop has sat on the sidelines for 10 years watching Puyallup officials and residents dispute the use of his land in the eastern part of the city.

He told The News Tribune before this week’s Puyallup City Council meeting that he has grown a lot more gray hair waiting for a resolution.

Van Lierop now must wait at least a few more weeks for some answers.

The council Tuesday revisited a contested area of land that includes the former Van Lierop Bulb Farm near Shaw Road and East Pioneer Avenue.

Council members discussed adding development standards to the property — rules for building heights, open space and parking, among other things — but they didn’t take action.

A vote is expected May 20 on the proposal that would affect some land parcels north of East Pioneer.

The city’s planning commission recently opposed the proposal, while two members favored adding the new standards to the manufacturing zone that includes the Van Lierop property.

Developer Schnitzer West already has completed an application to build a warehouse on the land.

The planning commission reviewed the proposed changes at the direction of the City Council, which enacted a four-month moratorium Jan. 28 that paused development plans in a 70-acre swath of land in the area.

The council decided Tuesday not to consider an extension on the moratorium, which expires June 5. Councilman John Palmer, who proposed forgoing the extension, said the council should stick to its original timeline. The rest of the council agreed.

Despite a large crowd at Tuesday’s meeting, few spoke about the proposed development standards. But supporters on both sides of the issue applauded during some council member remarks.

Councilman John Palmer said he favored additional standards in the manufacturing zone, emphasizing that the current zoning standards are “pretty thin.”

“It warrants some additional attention,” he said.

Fellow council member Heather Shadko agreed. She asked staff to be mindful of the growing trail system in the area as they draft a final ordinance. She told The News Tribune that she doesn’t want future development to create any hazards for future trails.

“We want to make sure that they aren’t an afterthought,” Shadko said.

Councilman Tom Swanson disagreed with adding any new standards. He said he opposes “spot zoning,” or forcing a single property owner to adhere to stricter rules than others have to follow.

He stressed that no matter how many restrictions the city enacts in that area, industrial development is inevitable on adjacent land located outside the city limits.

“If we had design standards there, it would only be on one side of the street,” Swanson said.

Councilman Steve Vermillion expressed frustration with what he called a “four-member control” of council issues, which resulted in the moratorium that interfered with meaningful dialogue between the city and Schnitzer West.

“I’m not impressed that three council members were left in the dark” about the moratorium, Vermillion said, adding that Schnitzer was forced to submit a preliminary plan to avoid losing rights to the Van Lierop property.

Mayor John Knutsen agreed, saying that some council members have been too deeply involved in city development planning.

“I’m deeply concerned that we have council members who think they are still on the planning commission,” he said.

Kari Plog: 253-597-8682

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