[The Community Development Committee meeting, can be accessed by dialing 252-215-8782 or use the zoom app. The Web ID is 928 4334 3887.]
[See updated meeting dates below.]
The Community Development Committee of the Pierce County Council is currently reviewing the County Planning Department’s Community Plan changes for Parkland, Spanaway, Midland, Frederickson, South Hill, Summit, Waller (Mid-County Plan), and a bit of Elk Plain (Graham). Originally called the City of Pierce, it was redesignated Centers and Corridors after considerable citizen complaints about the county not having a right to build a new city in an unincorporated area. The right of incorporation lies within a group of residents on the proposed area.
Since this Centers and Corridors plan was first devised, citizen leaders in each of these communities have spoken out about it. They banded together and formed Pierce Communities Coalition to discuss it in detail together, because honestly, lots of citizens cannot stomach planning details and meetings. (Do you?) Together, they spent a large chunk of personal money to have Tom Ballard do an official study about the whole idea. Mr. Ballard is an engineer and former Pierce County Public Works Director.
It is very important to understand that the people who speak out about plans for developments are not against development. These are the people who actually live in the communities affected. They understand growth must happen. They know and follow the updates to rules of planning. They want to see their community livable and affordable. If they are speaking out, one or the other is out of balance.
Well-funded groups that speak out on County Planning issues represent large associations of people who profit from development, like the Realtors and the Master Builders Association or they may be the builders or engineers creating the development. Environmental groups regularly speak out as well. They may flip flop between support for resources and support for mass transit to get people out of cars. Those folks often fall on the side of high density development in urban areas and no development in rural zones. The environmental groups regularly speak out against road improvements in the interest of forcing people into buses and trains.
When citizens take the time to speak out, they represent the affected community, they taxpayers and the voters that live in those areas and those living in or near finished developments with woefully inadequate infrastructure. What they speak of as problems are real and greatly affect quality of life or offend reality in infrastructure support.
Missing from the public presentations in these council meetings are mayors and planning officials from local cities. Having attended Pierce County Regional Council meetings where local cities participate, I have personally heard several mayors complain that they are willing to take more growth, but Pierce County is planning most all of the allotted growth in the unincorporated areas. Let me say that again, there is a target number of needed housing unit growth and the cities are complaining the county is hoarding it for the UNINCORPOATED urban designated county areas. The Growth Management Act says to put it in cities where the infrastructure exists, but that is NOT what the county is doing.
That growth projection last year was 60,000 housing units needed by 2040. That number is to be spread between cities and unincorporated areas. During the hearing at the Community Development Committee September 23, the Realtors and county staff were batting around the number 94,000 in population increase. The increase will make the area inside Centers and Corridors larger than the City of Tacoma. Consider that is Tacoma’s equivalent population with 20% of the roads infrastructure, less than 10% of the sewer infrastructure, 30% of the comparable police staffing, and then there are parks, hospitals, classrooms, libraries and more that are sorely lacking.
The people standing up for their communities are not angry radicals. They are people who have worked tirelessly for years or lifetimes as volunteers on community plans, land use advisory committees and actually live in the affected areas.
Listening to the Master Builders, the Realtors, the Contractors, the Environmentalists that want to prevent us from having space to park our cars, not one of them gave their addresses. They need to give the locations of where they live. This is not about their money. This is about our lives. Just because they own the land, or harassed another elderly resident into selling their land to them (yes, I have examples), they do not have the RIGHT to build in a way that destroys our community. They should wait for the infrastructure or make their money building LESS houses per acre.
It was encouraging to hear some environmental testimony about a supplemental EIS (environmental impact statement). SEPA and EIS seemed to sneak by most everyone on this whole process.
It takes over a year for a new house to be reflected as a property with improvements on the tax rolls. In other words, the first year’s taxes are for a vacant lot. When builders complain about impact fees, that is what they are making up for. No one should buy the woah-is-me bit they put on. Roads, schools, fire departments, libraries, parks, police, administrative offices all are impacted by the increased population that first year, without the taxes coming in to support them.
The County Planning Commission actually paid for a study which showed the high rise housing levels proposed were not affordable for the wages available to most employees in the urban unincorporated area. So another factor in all this is, where are these 94,000 new people supposed to be employed?
September 23, the County Council’s Community Development Committee held a hearing on the Mid-County and Parkland-Spanaway-Midland Plans. On September 30, they will hear the South Hill and Frederickson Plan changes at 9:30 a.m. They will all be held to October 5 for a final committee hearing and amendments. Then the plans will be sent to the full council. Once at the full council, it is likely too late for changes or to reverse the course of anything.
Amendments have the best chance of changing some of the forward momentum. It has been said many times that the lack of transit makes these plans unreasonable from a traffic standpoint. That is seriously true. There already are not enough roads for the residents currently living in the area. With the additional density, and no transit, the entire urban unincorporated area will be gridlocked completely. Another issue is the lack of arterials moving north and south of Clover Creek. In the eight miles between Pacific Avenue and Meridian, there are only three, Waller, Canyon and Woodland.
Have you seen any red flags yet? I hope so. Please call, write or email your county council person’s office. Better yet, email them all. That way they cannot hide the level on contact they are receiving from residents. Do it for yourself, your neighbors and the cost of your auto and fire insurance. Then make sure you ask the person you are voting for on the council about this.
[ Other meetings:
The Frederickson Land Use Advisory meeting on Monday Sept. 28th at 7PM. You can access the meeting by dialing 253-215-8782 or Login by using the zoom app on you phone. The Web. ID is 984 3840 0471 and the Passcode is 940012.
The Pierce County Council regular Tuesday meeting on Sept. 29th at 3PM. You can access the meeting by dialing 253-215-8782 or Login by using the zoom app on your phone. The Web ID is 976 6178 7423.]
The Community Development Committee is currently reviewing the last of the item on the agenda,. They did not finish on October 19, so they have continues to October 22 at 2:30 p.m. to finish the agenda.
October 27 at the regular County Council Meeting at 3:00 p.m. is the date set for final passage of these major zoning changes to South Pierce County. Ignore this process at your peril.