Words: from the City of Pierce Hearing

By Marianne Lincoln

The County Council’s Community Development Committee was the first to hear the issues raised by the Pierce Communities Coalition when they heard the county using the term, “City of Pierce.” The term referred to all the urban unincorporated county including Midland, Parkland, Spanaway, Summit, Frederickson, Elk Plain and South Hill.

These communities all have active community members who regularly testify at hearings or belong to land use boards, following land use changes or working on the community plans. They met, they wrote a letter with significant concerns and they testified at this meeting. 3 minutes certainly wasn’t long enough to explain, so many turned in written comments as well.

The joint letter was well received by the council members as it raised very valid points (link to letter). At one point during testimonies on this issue, one of the community members with lengthy land use experience responded to a councilman, “Because I an tired of training new council members.” he point was well taken. These community members have seen elected officials come and go, but the planning errors continue on and on.

Here are the highlights I could catch in my notes from the committee meeting:

Pierce County Council – Community Development Committee, June 20, 2016

Review of 2016-79 – Pertaining to Conditional Certification of Pierce County by the Puget Sound Regional Council and a schedule to promote annexations and incorporations of urban unincorporated county areas.

The hearing began with a presentation by Planning and Land Services (PALS) Director Dennis Hanberg. He noted that 5 years ago, he started working at upgrading the PALS lobby, and improving the permitting process. They had 50% turnover in building inspectors, mostly from retirements. They reformed engineering inspections, Fire Inspections, and added use of My Skype and Faceline inspections. The department does over 50,000 inspections per year.

4 contract firms help with PALS overloads. PALS has made web improvements, and the presentation of information on pending permits is available on-line.

In 2007, there were 27,000 permits granted for a value of $6.3 million.

In 2015, there were 50,000 permits issued for a value of $6.2 million.

In December 2011, the online portal was initiated. There are state regulation changes coming into place effective June 30, 2016.

Public comments:

Dan Godwin:

  • Heard rumors of the City of Pierce
  • These areas are already urban.

Councilman Talbert – There is still confusion, concern and fear of County’s intentions. The message hasn’t been effectively conveyed. It’s all I hear about right now – why is the county forcing the conversation. As we move forward…. We need to do a better job of explaining what we’re doing, why we’re doing it… ultimately this will be decided by the people who live in these communities. I think that’s an important message… . each community needs to self-determine what they are ultimately going to do.

Councilwoman McDonald – ditto what council member Talbert said. I was immediately was concerned. About … the city designation. Even though it was something for your help and reminder, it is not a good term to use. … I just want to follow up and say, … whether for external use or internal use… (it wasn’t a good idea). We will continue working with them, (communities), Park staff, transportation, LUAC Chairs (Land Use Advisory Committee). I haven’t met with the County LUAC. Members are scheduled to be appointed by the council next week. We have sent a letter to the City of Tacoma asking them to meet with the county for a joint agreement. The County has been asked for information.

PALS: Dennis Hanberg — The strategy behind this, how we do this is really important. The message is really important… At least they (LUAC’s) are talking about this. I’ve learned in just the year or so… PSRC, Comp Plan, there’s benefit here. The Parkland area is different from the area around Sprinker. Any suggestions we can get (appearing open to direction)…

Councilman Young – We need a reminder of our special obligations to these urban unincorporated areas.

PALS: Dennis Hanberg – (Regarding Pierce County) Are we urban or are we rural? (Referring to how the county should exist as rural or running as an urban area, The Growth Management Act says rural.)

2:14pm Clerk reads 2016-79

Staff: Hugh Taylor – PSRC required certification of the Pierce County Comprehensive Plan, for consistency with Vision 2040.  (Pursuant to RCW 47.80.023, RCW 47.80.022 also)

On April 28, 2016, PSRC saw issues with the Pierce County Comp Plan and issued a conditional certification. We need to achieve full certification.

Photo of slide: PSRC Ordinance 2011-36s

Photo of RCW 36.70A.110, RCW 36.70A.210, RCW 36.70A.210, RCW 36.70A.100, RCW 36.70A.040

Conditional certification could result in loss of State and Federal Funding

Approximately 25% of the existing UGA is affiliated. This is a response to conditional certification of PSRC. County needs to remove barriers, increase opportunities to complete annexations. The County has started these conversations with a number of these cities. The County will provide additional support for annexation.

What is the role of the citizen in the process of annexation?

How does state law protect questions around zoning & land use around the question of annexation?

State law has 8 methods for annexation… most involve citizens… (but not all).

(Councilman Talbert asked about large areas, not pocket areas) In terms of large areas, the Parkland area that could be subject to incorporation.

  1. It has to be urban
  2. Population threshold, of 3000
  3. Incorporation Process: initiation, a petition, signatures, feasibility report, BRB (Boundary Review Board) ultimately decides what makes sense, is it viable, BRB recommends not to move forward, etc.
  4. Annexation process: Parkland affiliation boundary goes out to Military Road. You can annex based on ownership, based on acreage, initiated by property owners, annexation on that scale does have to go to a vote of the people.
  5. Effect on existing zoning… how permits are processed, how vesting will occur (how application in process is handled, vested)
  6. After vote for incorporation, one of the first acts is to identify zoning (possible building moratorium) i.e. Lakewood had a temporary moratorium.
  7. Sales & use Tax: The County will ask the Legislature about pocket areas, some have no residents, completely surrounded by city – one is a bridge. The Brown’s Point area has several thousand, others are completely or nearly completely surrounded by a city. Sheriff or Police response are a problem, difficulty driving around the city to respond to the county area.
  8. Sales & Use tax tool for larger areas, have to have a population of 4,000 or 10,000 to use it.
  9. Pocket areas, mostly in UP, Bonney Lake, & Fife, most are leftovers from other incorporations.

Questions from Council, none.

Committee moved approval. McDonald moved the amendment.

Staff: Hugh Taylor, Amendment 1, on green.

Public comment on Amendment:

Roxy Giddings, Parkland – inquired regarding amendment

Councilman Young – We want to encourage our cities to go through the process, want to adjust the fees.

Cindy Beckett – Questioned initiating conversation with Cities & Town long before people of the unincorporated communities (affected) are part of the conversations.

Councilman Young – Talked about little areas near Gig Harbor where it wasn’t appropriate to add on another little city and annexation was obvious.

Main resolution 2016-79

Public comment: (paraphrased, not exact – I don’t type that fast)

Cindy Beckett – Midland

  • County did this behind our back for 2 years… we were not told, not sent notices,
  • Did a lot of research on why this happened, people kept asking the planning dept. to charge 100% of impact fees, PALS only charges 50% (of impact fees), the concurrency they fell out of has caused this whole thing. Now they have come up with this thing (2016-79). You annex these areas, incorporate these areas, these areas will lose their names & identities.
  • Doing this behind our backs, put you in violation of RCW…, someone needs to realize if you succeed with this scheme, the county will have no say whatsoever, once it (the community area) becomes a city the county is shut out.

David Artis – Midland

  • Communities are always the last to know. A systems of laws that don’t care what we care about our communities. Letter presented from PCC.
  • You need a 60% contiguous boundary to annex. We didn’t ask for annexation. (David is a) Former member of PS plan and PSM Plan.
  • Pierce Communities Coalition, community leaders put letter together last week…. This should have come to us first, to learn how we feel about it.

Dan Haire – Summit Waller

  • Community planning vs. central planning.
  • Certification by PSRC, concurrency development/infrastructure
  • Densification vs. a livable community.
  • Working to put together a comprehensive report
  • Who are our elected officials…  you or the PSRC?

Marianne Lincoln— Representing Spanaway, handed out a statement

  • History of Spanaway is as old as Steilacoom.
  • Annexation vs. incorporation, Marianne started the Spanaway incorporation in 1997 noted the BRB floundering plans by removing commercial areas of tax base
  • Also noted the contention of neighboring communities surrounding JBLM annexation by Lakewood, Reminded them JBLM issued a statement of preference to stay on even basis with all local communities.

Terry Hurd – Frederickson

  • Making the urban areas a city before the citizens have input. Are you not the citizens proper chain of representation?
  • Wells are being drawn down.
  • Failure for proper concurrent infrastructure.
  • Experiment or a distraction?
  • Today I represent Frederickson, tomorrow, will I have a voice?
  • We (PCC) came here to provide adult leadership.

David  Friscia – Graham

  • For the last 6 years, they could fund those needs.
  • The last attempt at the Plan the county failed with the PALS to align vision 2030 to Vision 2040 schedule
  • Graham had all these land use goals and standards, I would ask the Council to change its approach, people who make inquiries about the City of Pierce… go directly to me
  • Citizens, use districts,
  • Understand what the funding needs are to bring these communities to a point they are functional

Yvonne Marshall – Frederickson
(not audible)

John Marshall – Frederickson

  • Incorporations: Lakewood, UP, Edgewood… then South Hill failed, the Spanaway/Gateway failed then Frederickson tried… we were told we would be safe from attempts by other areas trying to incorporate us for at least 5 years
  • Now there are 25,000 in Frederickson… that put billions in the county coffers.  I think we are pretty important.
  • Can’t understand why this year you are kicking us to the curb.
  • Everything was fine as long as there was out of control development
  • Less development = less revenues… impacts the county
  • I don’t want to become White Center.

Yolanda Markle  – North Clover Creek Collins

  • County never comes to our meeting,
  • They built an apartment building with 500 units (in a rural area), slammed into our community.
  • No place for those people to go, not sufficient roads, now higher crime…
  • The aquifer, we need to do something about that.
  • Thanks, I hope the City of Pierce is going in the toilet.

Richard Thurston – Frederickson

  • Member of first LUAC, in his 3rd term on LUAC.
  • Respectfully requests that PALS had always termed it the City of Pierce, a monolithic entity that absorbs all of the area in the unincorporated UGA area – and that is wrong.
  • The average citizen doesn’t know all about this stuff.
  • 1999, we (Pierce County) were a wholly owned subsidiary of the building industry.
  • I’m getting tired of it
  • We need a change of attitude from the top down in PALS
  • We need the county council to push them (PALS) to talk to the community.
  • You can’t get a degree in rural planning, everything is Urban planning
  • You’ve got to talk to the people, you have to listen

Councilman Young verbally visioning Mr. Hanberg riding a bicycle to meetings.

Roxy Giddings – Parkland,

  • Was on the first land use plan in mid-1970’s.
  • We really have to look out.
  • Put off tomorrows vote, put this on the table. (table it)

Bill Giddings – Parkland

  • Lived in parkland since 1962, less than 2 blocks from Garfield St & 1 block from PLU.
  • On original P-S Plan.
  • Well aware of the requirements for incorporation
  • Really regret the personal connection to that.
  • I did not have a role in the incorporations.

Jim Akers – Summit Waller

  • Live here since 1990,
  • Has 2 business, brought from King County…
  • Moved because I could not stand the traffic in Renton.
  • I do not see a comprehensive transportation plan.
  • I can tell you from a business persons perspective, the importance of transportation planning
  • Not much growth area left in Tacoma…
  • if we don’t have light rail going East & South, we will have businesses leaving this area.
  • Look at Sumner, Graham, Bonney Lake, … its going to create chaos.
  • Table the program until you can create a comprehensive transportation plan that covers the entire area… then look at annexation and incorporation and then it will work.

Bud Rehberg – Elk Plain/Graham

  • Noted some unrest in regards to what’s proposed.
  • I have several years working on the community plan, a lot of it is not (in) there now.
  • He learned about the county: “Do not trust us, watch us and make sure we tow the line”
  • There is a problem with how things are being administered now. They do not involve enough of the community.
  • It’s up to you.

Dave Barnes – life long resident, Naches Trail (Pierce College)

  • Transportation, in his 20’s moved away because of miles to walk to the bus.
  • Lost friends to drugs, alcohol, gangs, no opportunity to get out of here to work, to have things to do.

Councilman Young (Chair) – Closed comments. Asked staff about public notification.

Staff: Hugh Taylor:

  • City of Pierce, Community Plan Updates, in regards to this resolution… PSRC – ask it not be conditionally certified… there was opposition from citizens for full certification.
  • [Editor note, the citizens in attendance know how far out of compliance the county has been for years!]
  • They have 500 citizens on an email distribution list, for meeting notifications
  • Pierce County residents don’t show up at the PSRC…  letters, etc.

Sean Gaffney (PALS Advanced Planning):

  • Community Plan Update, our plan in 2016, Here are the issues the communities, citizens, LUAC’s have brought forward.
  • There may be no change if that’s what the LUAC’s recommended.

Councilman Talbert – A number who testified made reference to passage of this issue. In a sense, this is what is required of us as a result of this (conditional) certification. Hearing on Monday, passed on Tuesday, difficult, not only be aware of, but to be engaged.  Citizens asked if we had an opportunity to set this off a little.

Councilman Young – if the will of the committee is to go past that line, I’m not sure what the trigger is … if we cross that line.

Staff: Hugh Taylor: The county was given very little time (by the PSRC) the deadline was June 2016. That’s what driving it. There is obviously risk involved, particularly in transportation funding

First week of July… GM Policy Board Meeting… this process in general and what it is doing to our communities. By doing it this way we are stifling public input.

It feels like it would be fairly extreme to find us out of compliance (since they gave a short timeline)

Staff: Hugh Taylor – It’s just the risk of loss of funding. It’s important the county’s citizens show up at the PSRC policy meeting.

Staff: Dan Cardwell — Comp Plan Updates, community Plan updates, all in progress through summer… need to have more community outreach… Bring these people together, engage… come up with a resolution for the rest of this year…  This resolution just lets the PSRC know we intend to get moving.

Councilman Roach – Who holds the power? I came to council from the State House of Reps. There are a lot of things that took this ability out of our hands. Is it okay for people who are elected from different counties telling Pierce County what to do? I certainly don’t appreciate it. … I think that’s the debate we have had… King/Snohomish/Kitsap dictation to Pierce County.  There are 1000’s of citizens fighting for property rights. Find out next time PSRC is meeting… everyone in this room plus friends attend that meeting…

We should not just be doing something when you don’t know what’s happening. People ae busy, they have kids in school, jobs, they’re in traffic… This is exactly what happened to Shoreline, 400 people came (to PSRC). Hold it over until we can get some results.

Councilwoman McDonald – The Council is between a rock and a hard spot. (She voted no on Bethel High School.) Locally elected officials are beholden to Regional Council people. The tail is wagging dog We are being punished by people not (in this county).

Referring to the letter: PCC – points are extremely valid. I read your letter and don’t see anything (I disagree with.) PCC is unanimous in its position. (We should) “Not venture onto the slope of central planning” At some point, and we did try hard, this is the last step in a process we have done for the PSRC…  We can work through this with the PSRC, this council has done everything we can do at this time.

Councilman Richardson – I understand this afternoon (is committee) it will be a decision of the full council. We could pass it on the 28th, we do have some time we can take … I come from an area that is incorporated… We had a little fratricide in our own county. That resulted in conditional certification.

Richardson, Talbert, Cardwell, Taylor argued against conditional certification of the Comp Plan at PSRC.

Staff: Hugh Taylor — Conditions from PSRC

1) Create a growth strategy

2) Continue to work to affiliate the unincorporated areas to annexation or incorporation.

What happens when someone wants to… (incorporate)?

There are 3 projects:

  1. Reconstruction of 2.17 million Kapowsin Hwy
  2. $778,500 for issues, regarding solving transportation
  3. Preservation project on Filmore Dr. (Wollochet Dr.)

Councilman Young – Everything brought up (in the letter) are good growth management principles. We need to make sure your communities look like what you want them to look like… You have one representative here, that’s why cities are more appropriate because all representatives are from your community. We are going to plan to do things we already are supposed to be doing. Pierce County is a poster child, allowing a lot of sprawl development that causes problems in the development.

Councilman Richardson – I will be chairing tomorrow, Res 2016-79 will be moved to the following Tuesday. (June 28, 2016)

The committee passed the motion: Forward without recommendation, to move to following week. To not vote on it tomorrow.


One Comment Add yours

  1. Kelly Johnson says:

    Marianne, thank you so much for keeping us informed. You’re doing a great job and service.
    Kelly Johnson, Parkland

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