Pierce County — not the city of Puyallup — will be the lead agency over the Knutson Farms Industrial Park project, a Thurston County judge ruled at a Sept. 22 hearing.
The ruling, which came after a case was filed in May by the city of Puyallup, will allow Pierce County to move forward with the 162-acre project. The project includes construction of seven buildings on 3 million square feet of warehouse space.
Puyallup officials, claiming the scale of the project would cause negative traffic and environmental impacts to the city, intervened on the county’s plan by filing an appeal for jurisdiction over the project in attempt to conduct a more in-depth environmental review.
Puyallup argued that thousands of trucks would be using Puyallup roads to reach the project area, and because it’s close to the Puyallup River, hurt the habitat of threatened and endangered fish species, including Chinook salmon and steelhead trout. While the proposed warehouse land lies outside of city limits, it is within Puyallup’s urban growth boundaries. Puyallup claimed it had jurisdiction because it has agency over sewer and stormwater areas.
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But Thurston County Superior Judge Chris Lanese said that those issues were not sufficient enough to take over as lead agency of the project.
“The judge in essence said that the city for this purpose is not an agency with jurisdiction,” Assistant City Manager Steve Kirkelie said.
The judge in essence said that the city for this purpose is not an agency with jurisdiction.
Steve Kirkelie, Puyallup assistant city manager
Margaret Archer, the attorney representing both Knutson Farms Inc. and Running Bear Development Partners LLC, said that the ruling was significant for Pierce County.
“We think the county has been taking its job very seriously ... and we think it’s really important for them have (the lead agency) responsibility,” Archer said. “My clients’ intention is to move forward with the county’s process.”
Now, attorneys for both sides will put together a written order to be taken to the judge for final review. Permits need to be issued before any construction can start.
While Puyallup lost the jurisdiction battle, Kirkelie said the city’s environmental review appeal will move forward, and city officials will get the chance to ask the Pierce County Hearing Examiner questions about the county’s review.
“We believed that there needed to be a review that involved the public in a greater way,” Kirkelie said.
We believed that there needed to be a review that involved the public in a greater way.
Steve Kirkelie, assistant city manager
“A lot of Puyallup residents are interested in that they would like that opportunity for greater public involvement,” added Puyallup Public Affairs Officer Brenda Fritsvold.
Archer said that there has been many opportunities for both Puyallup and community members to be involved and share their thoughts and concerns over the public. She added that her clients would be willing to sit down and discuss concerns with city officials, but that previous attempts to reach out to the city have not been fruitful.
Deputy Mayor John Palmer said that the impacts to Puyallup have not been addressed and that they need to be.
“This is just one step in a multi-step process,” Palmer said.
The city and county are now waiting to address the environmental reviews made on the property through the legal process.
“The city will at that point have to have make some decision on what they’ll do next,” Kirkelie said.
The proposed industrial park is east of Shaw Road, south of East Main Avenue, west of the Puyallup River and north of East Pioneer Avenue.