Increased housing demand is reviving plans for a massive new housing development south of Bonney Lake that’s been on pause for nine years.
If the development is completely built out according to preliminary plans, it could add more than 3,000 dwelling units to a forested area adjacent to Bonney Lake and the state’s largest mixed use residential development, Tehaleh. It also could put additional pressure on roads not designed to handle such density.
The site’s potential developer, Tarragon Development of Seattle, has asked Pierce County to resume negotiations over a proposed development agreement for the property. Those negotiations were suspended in 2007 after the mortgage crisis smothered housing demand and left potential homeowners without easy access to home mortgages.
Tim Farrell, Tarragon’s director of development, said the company wants to reopen its exploration of creating a planned unit development on the 465 acres bordered by 198th Avenue East on the west, 214th Avenue East on the east, 131st Street Court East on the north and an unnamed forest road just north of Cascadia Boulevard on the south.
Tarragon’s portfolio of major developments includes Kent Station, Sunrise Village in South Hill, Lakeland Hills in Auburn and big industrial warehouse developments in Sumner.
Tarragon is prepared to agree to the provisions of an ordinance approved by the Pierce County Council in 2007 setting preliminary conditions for the master planned community plus any updated conditions negotiated this year, said Farrell.
“We’d like to memorialize those conditions so that we can begin moving forward,” he said.
The square tract is owned by a limited liability corporation, named Plateau 465 for the property’s acreage and location on the Bonney Lake plateau. The managing entity is Sumner’s Investco Financial Corp. The land and the adjacent Tehaleh development were once large timber-growing tracts. .
A single, hilly two-lane road, 198th Avenue East, separates Plateau 465 from Tehaleh. It is the only way to and from the developing land.
Dan Cardwell, Pierce County Planning and Land Services Department senior planner, said the development conditions imposed by the county nine years ago are likely to remain the same in any new development agreement.
Those conditions include:
▪ A limit on the number of market rate housing units that can be built on the land, 2,968, plus an additional 135 units of low-income housing.
▪ Both single-family and multi-family dwellings.
▪ Low-income housing units available at reduced prices to households earning 50 to 80 percent of the Pierce County median income. The county’s median household income was $59,711 in 2014, the latest year for which the information is available.
▪ The development will include a minimum of 23.3 acres of parks including 10.3 acres of linear parks, likely forested hiking trails and 12 acres of neighborhood parks. The land was logged in 2011, according to Farrell, but forested buffer areas were left, criss-crossing the acreage and buffering the land from the adjoining arterial. The land in many places offers horizon-filling views of Mount Rainier and the Cascade foothills.
▪ A landscaped or forested area 50 feet wide will buffer the new development from 198th Avenue East.
▪ Plateau 465 will donate 15.6 acres of land adjacent to land already owned by Pierce County on the north side of the development for use as a regional park. The developer will be required to donate $2.5 million to the county to help develop that 80-acre regional park.
▪ Other monetary contributions required of the developer will likely include $1 million to help pay for a transportation mitigation plan, $3 million for the Pierce County Conservation Futures Fund and $2 million for Pierce County’s 2060 Housing Fund.
That transportation network is of most concern to Bonney Lake, Pierce County and area residents. In meetings with Tehaleh developer Newland Communities, the Bonney Lake City Council has expressed its worry about increasing congestion in the area.
State Route 410, the single major road connecting the Bonney Lake plateau to the Puyallup Valley below, is frequently crowded with workers commuting to jobs in the urban cities of Tacoma and Seattle. There is no bus service in the developing areas in question.
At a recent Pierce County Council committee meeting, Council Chairman Doug Richardson warned that the road network will have to be improved significantly to handle the influx of new residents.
Pierce County Councilman Dan Roach said the road network is the most obvious need if future development is to continue. Both Plateau 465 and Tehaleh are in Roach’s council district. Tehaleh is currently asking Pierce County to raise the number of homes allowed to be built there from 5,900 to 9,200. About 600 homes have been built so far in that master-planned community.
Rob Jenkins, senior planner for Pierce County, said much of the future development of Tehaleh will depend on how soon the transportation network can handle more capacity.
The preliminary agreement for Plateau 465 proposes setting a limit at 1,900 dwelling units unless the transportation situation is greatly improved.
Newland has promised a new connection between 198th Avenue East and South Prairie Road, which it is funding, will be finished by the end of April. Part of that road has been complete for more than a year. A short section and an intersection remain to be done.
In the longer run, the area needs at least one more arterial connecting the development to the larger towns to the west, including Puyallup, Sumner and Tacoma. Newland is already studying how to build that new connection. Who will share the costs of that road remains undecided.
The major developers on the Bonney Lake Peninsula formed a transportation coalition before the recession to jointly plan how to improve access to their new developments, but the coalition never finished its work.
Scott Jones, Newland Communities vice president, said Monday that the Tehaleh developer and Tarragon have been in frequent communication about how to coordinate their building.
Tehaleh is supposed to become an employment center itself, with offices and retailers located within the development to reduce commuting and to provide jobs for area residents. At this early development stage, however, only a private club for residents, a coffee shop, an elementary school and construction work provide jobs within the development.
The Plateau 465 site will be largely residential if Tarragon decides to move forward with construction, said Farrell. The project may have a few retail spaces, but no major offices are planned.
In any case, even if Tarragon moves forward with Plateau 465, it could be two years or more before construction begins. The development would need to work its way through the environmental, transportation and land use planning process before construction commences, said Hugh Taylor, Pierce County senior legislative analyst.
John Gillie: 253-597-8663