Politics & Government

Proposed moratorium would affect former Puyallup bulb farm

A former daffodil farm that was recently entangled in a controversial rezone is back on the agenda for the Puyallup City Council’s first meeting of 2014.

The property is included in a proposed moratorium on Tuesday’s agenda that, if approved, would delay all development on and around Van Lierop Bulb Farm, which closed last May.

Council veteran John Palmer and newcomer Julie Door requested that the six-month moratorium be put on the fast track at Tuesday’s meeting. It would prohibit “processing of any and all land-use or building applications or plans” in various zones on the east side of the city, according to a memo released by the city.

With Door on his side, Palmer has at least one new ally in his ongoing fight to slow industrial development in the east Shaw Road area.

But their proposal has blind-sided a real-estate company that plans to develop the Van Lierop property. Company representatives say it violates a cooperative relationship with the city that they’ve spent years building.

The temporary ban would freeze development on the recently rezoned land parcels owned by Neil Van Lierop. It also would affect other properties in mixed-use, commercial and industrial zones near East Pioneer Avenue and Shaw Road.

Senior planner Katie Baker said about 70 acres would be affected, though additional land parcels could bring the total to about 95 acres.

Palmer said his moratorium would allow city officials to review design standards “to ensure high-quality development” of warehouses that could sprout up in the area as a result of the controversial rezone approved Nov. 12.

Opponents of the rezone say it will invite a sea of warehouses into a gateway to the city, while supporters say it is a minor zoning change and that development of the area is inevitable.

Palmer’s idea of quality development dates back to 2008. As a member of the Puyallup Planning Commission, he sought a balanced approach to developing the city’s remaining agricultural land.

The city eventually created performance and design standards, such as setbacks and building size, to conform with a mixed-use vision for the area.

The city drew a boundary for this area around properties south of East Pioneer near the Shaw Road intersection. The city intended to include Van Lierop’s land and other nearby properties once they were brought into the city, but that never happened after they were annexed in 2011.

Palmer said his proposed moratorium is not meant to reignite the rezone debate that dragged out over several months last year. Rather, it’s a chance for the city to expand the design standards over the broader area, as originally intended.

However, he said “the rezone, because it enlarged the warehouse zone, does make this a little bit more important than it was.”

Schnitzer West, a Seattle-based real-estate firm, had a deal to purchase property from Van Lierop pending approval of the rezone. The two parcels formerly had slightly different industrial zoning; the Nov. 12 rezone makes it easier for Schnitzer to develop a unified property.

Jeff Harmer, senior investment manager with Schnitzer, said his company is still under contract with Van Lierop and intends to move forward with development.

Harmer contends Palmer and Door’s proposed moratorium is an unnecessary “emergency” response to the rezone and won’t ensure the best development for the city.

“We have been working with the city since 2007 on this piece of property in particular,” he said Monday. “By putting in a moratorium, they are saying they don’t want a collaborative relationship with developers.”

Deputy city attorney Steve Kirkelie said the proposal is merely a “pause button” to carefully review how best to proceed with development.

Development Services Director Tom Utterback echoed his remarks, saying the issue is “not something we want to rush through.”