What will Sumner look like in the next few decades?
The city held an open house last week to show the public its town center plan.
In Sumner, the town center is north of Thompson Street, east of Valley Avenue, west of Wood Avenue and south of Zehnder Street. It includes downtown Main Street, the former Red Apple Market lot, Pierce County Library, City Hall, the train station and a portion of White River.
Most changes in the plan include an increase in height limits of buildings and housing density, meant to accommodate for future growth and provide alternative housing options that are currently not available in Sumner that could attract millennials and seniors.
The plan includes an increase in height limits of buildings and housing density meant to accommodate for future growth and provide alternative housing options that are currently not available in Sumner.
At the same time, Community Development Director Ryan Windish said the city is keeping conscious of maintaining Sumner’s “small town” charm.
“Our plan is really going to reflect Sumner’s character (rather than) impact it in a negative way,” Windish said.
In October, more than 200 people attended an open house to provide feedback to the city on the plan. They drew on a map where they wouldn’t mind seeing higher buildings.
“I was surprised that the community seemed as comfortable with the jump in height as they were,” Windish said.
Using the feedback, the city created an “alternative 2” plan, which shows that on average, Sumner residents wouldn’t mind seeing four- to six-story buildings in commercial/mixed zone areas. The plan restricts height to three- to four-story buildings along West Main Street. Housing ranges from eight dwelling units per acre to 112 dwelling units per acre. The plan also shows possible park or green space areas along White River.
City planners then made some changes to the “alternative 2” plan, which became the “alternative 1” plan. The “alternative 1” plan is more flexible, leaving the door open for developers, according to the city. Housing ranges from 12 dwelling units per acre to 112 units per acre. Height in commercial/mixed-use zone ranges from four to six stories depending on location.
Housing ranges from 12 dwelling units per acre to 112 units per acre. Height in commercial/mixed-use zone ranges from four to six stories depending on location
“The big modification is that we took the single family components out of the town center plan and increased the height limits and the numbers of (housing units) you can put into that location,” senior planner Eric Mendenhall said.
As far as what the buildings will look like, most residents said they wanted traditional-style buildings — lots of brick, Windish said.
But at the Feb. 15 meeting, some residents weren’t too happy about the tall buildings on the renderings they were seeing.
Sumner resident Michelle Allen lives across the street from where the Red Apple Market once stood. On a rendering made by the city, her house faces a four-story building.
“I think that looks horrible,” she said at the open house, close to tears. “It would ruin our view of everything.”
I think that looks horrible. It would ruin our view of everything.
Michelle Allen, Sumner resident
Allen said she bought her house two years ago because she loved Sumner and its small-town feel. While she understands the area is growing, she said it shouldn’t be at the expense of existing residents.
Couple Justin and Joleen Jones attended the open house and had a different view of the Town Center Plan. As business owners of a civil engineering and land use planning company who will move into their new Sumner house in the fall, they said they’re excited about the direction the city is taking with zoning.
“(Sumner) is a small community with great bones,” Joleen said. “They’re developer-friendly.”
(Sumner) is a small community with great bones. They’re developer-friendly.
Joleen Jones, Sumner business owner and future Sumner resident
Those who attended the open house were invited to fill out a survey that the city will take into consideration moving forward. The town center plan is expected to wrap up in September, Windish said.
Before that time, the plan will be sent to the Planning Commission and City Council for review. A public hearing is planned for June.
“This isn’t going to happen tomorrow but it will happen over time and that’s what we’re looking at — we’re looking into future thinking, ‘Okay, what do we want this part of town to look like? What do we want the town center plan to become 20, 30 years from now?’” Mendenhall said.