Wetlands and Pierce County – can they coexist?

By Marianne Lincoln

Two developments currently in process are raising the eyebrows of planning and development watchers in the county. These are called Ally Brook and Phoebe’s Meadows. In Phoebes Meadows, the developer actually didn’t want to build as many houses (4) as PALS (Planning and Land Services) demanded he put on the parcel (10). In Ally Brook, the number of houses is severely limited and they are being built close together due to the large patch of designated wetlands on the parcel that is not in the UGA (urban growth area). In fact, Ally Brook is being build on land that is the headwaters of the salmon bearing Muck Creek. The parcel is adjacent to the Morse Preserve. Both developments present some significant challenges to the developers and PALS alike to plan the footprint very, very carefully.

I am going to suggest that if you have any heart for the beauty of our communities and the continuity of wetlands with housing, you watch these two very closely. The link to the development documents and information on hearing and those things that are approved or mitigated is here at the Online Permit Website.

Ally Brook parcel numbers are 0418201014 & 0418212028

Phoebe’s Meadows parcel number is 0319054072

Another development under watch is Corliss gravel mining permit (parcel 0419353011)on South Hill, across the street from the Emerald Ridge High School. It is part of Sunrise Development. The area has excellent gravel due to post ice age presence of drainage from Clover Creek to the Puyallup River Valley over Horse Head Falls. Note that also means there are still wetlands and a creek through this parcel to be concerned about.

One of the best ways for the public to learn about parcels and ownership is through the “Public GIS” in the online services. You can us a map to locate parcels and parcel numbers and then look at ownership using this system. Once you have the parcel numbers, you can use the online permitting system to see who and what is being proposed on that land. Often those big yellow signs quickly become illegible. This should not stop you from knowing and following as a concerned citizen. Members of your community that are on the LUAC (Land Use Advisory Committee) often are unable to talk much about their decision making due to the judicial process; it’s best if others pay attention when a development needs monitoring. There are times mitigation measures are required, but not necessarily followed. That’s where watchful citizens are at their best. PALS lays out plans, but doesn’t have an enforcement arm to hold people to their plans and promises.

Pierce County is currently holding meetings regarding the addition of 60,000 new residents in the county in the next few years. It is our job as residents of this county to make sure our public officials are doing their job to keep this county’s quality of life intact as they do so. Making sure that ‘mitigations required’ are adhered to, is a big first step.

Here are a few photos of these developments. Phoebe’s Meadows has a pond 3/4 of the year that will become a housing cul-de-sac. How does that square with you? These are decisions that are being made. Should you watch a little closer or a little more often? Pierce County does not have a person on staff with a degree in hydrology, a requirement for the delineation of wetlands. For years, they were using regular and part-time staff to decide where wetland boundaries were located. Active citizens called them on this mis-step and PALS has been under watchful eye of some caring local citizens to adhere to these Federal wetland rules in recent years. Watch, comment, stay in touch – please.

The best thing we can do is prevent future developments from flooding out residents like in Pioneer Valley, Fir Meadows or Thrift this year.





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