By Marianne Lincoln
Why in the world would Pierce County want to take over the control of the Health Department in the middle of a pandemic?
First, ask yourself, what was the most major change to the county land use code signed this year? (A: Centers and Corridors) When did the County Executive sign it? (A; Dec. 2, 2020) What bill was introduced just before the Executive signed that big land use legislation called Centers and Corridors? (A: The pull out of TPCHD, Dec. 1, 2020) Has your light bulb come on? Timing is an interesting clue, isn’t it?
In order to put 25 units per acre within one quarter mile either side of four major roads over a sole source aquifer, the county needs to make sure the developers can put in sewers. It is unlikely the Health Department will permit enough septic capacity. Right now, only Parkland has a full grid of sewers. If you have lived in Pierce County long enough, you will remember the strife of the Parkland homeowners that were forced to pay for sewers to cross their street frontage. The current land owners were given what was basically an additional property tax to pay annually to cover the sewer. If they did not pay, they were eventually forced to sell and that sewer assessment was taken from their equity. The reason given for the sewers was water table contamination for shallow wells in the area. Houses with wells were added to water companies and (well) water rights were given up.
Hang on, because the county is coming for your wallet if you live in an area that will need sewer. The first up will be Parkland Spanaway because of High Capacity Transit (BRT). Of particular concern will be Lake Park in Spanaway. Right now Spanaway has a sewer line down B Street. Have you wondered why no one had bought the Little Park property? Probably because a buyer could not afford the sewer that needs to be extended from B Street to the property. You see, the Little Park was told by the Health Department they had to spend a massive amount of money to improve their septic system. They chose to close and sell instead. (I’m sure ADA and some other improvements were needed too.)
From Pacific Avenue to Park Avenue, the only way to start the development Pierce County has now assigned, will be to get the sewers over there. The most cost effective way is to claim everyone with a property in the area will have to pay for sewer, to spread out the cost. It will improve water quality and help Spanaway Lake will surely be another rallying cry. In fact, that would be true. But all those small homes likely have families that cannot afford the cost of a sewer extension across their frontage. They will pay dearly to hold onto their properties. More likely, they will sell and those big shiny new 4 to 5 story buildings can be built.
Speculation? Maybe. The truth is, this has been done before quite effectively. Builders want to build and this year has seen their ability to get permit approvals slow significantly. Builders, developers and real estate agents are by far, the greatest contributors to political campaigns. Go to the Public Disclosure Commission and look up your county elected officials. It’s easy to do.
So to highlight where local folks may have to be concerned, here are some current sewer maps, with yellow highlights over the areas with freshly minted zoning for high density. If you live in a single family dwelling in any of these areas, get a piggy bank and start saving, you’re going to need the funds.
[Editor Note: This is not to make small of the impact this will have during a pandemic. That impact will surely make the process of testing, treating and vaccinating people more difficult. It is the opinion of this editorial staff that the County Executive is seeking something else as the hidden priority. I suspect the North Canyon Road extension is another need to control environmental review.]