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State Rejects Pierce County Bid to Move Urban Growth Boundary

The Growth Management Hearings Board voted down a Sumner project, citing concern for agricultural resource land.

 

Editor's Note: A similar request by .

The Washington State Growth Management Hearings Board voted against Sumner's Orton Junction project on July 9, citing concern over the loss of the area's agricultural resource land.

If upheld, the decision could halt plans for Sumner's extensive mixed-use development, which would add an additional 182 acres to the city's Urban Growth Area (UGA) that would include a YMCA, housing and shopping in the area generally south of SR 410, bordered on the east by Elhi Hill.

The Sumner City Council and Pierce County Council , after much debate and testimony from the community. was filed against the project by Futurewise and Friends of Pierce County. Bonney Lake also appealed the project in March after an agreement with Sumner for more sewer capacity.

Pierce County Executive Pat McCarthy and District 1 representative Dan Roach issued the following joint statement on the GMHB decision:

"We are disappointed in the board's decision. At the county's request, Forterra (formerly Cascade Land Conservancy) helped craft an agreement that represents a model solution to the conflict between growth and preservation. It would protect hundreds of acres of fertile farmland by creating a 'green wall' to curb further growth in the valley, while also providing jobs and services. We will finish a thorough analysis of the 137-page decision before deciding our next step."

Sumner leaders believe the GMHB "has made a mistake," according to a city press release. The city plans to appeal the decision.

“We will appeal this decision because we believe it is fully consistent with the goals and requirements of the Growth Management Act,” said Community Development Director Paul Rogerson. “Orton Junction reduces Sumner’s future size by 100 acres, directly combatting sprawl; it permanently protects over 500 acres of farmland and open space; it puts complete, compact and connected development next to existing freeway interchanges where urban services are readily available; and it creates thousands of much-needed jobs.” 

Within Orton Junction's Seven Principles Agreement, the development would permanently protect over 500 acres of farmland and open space, which planners argue benefits the preservation of farmland far more than what would be lost.

“This decision is attempting to jeopardize the best farmland protection package that Pierce County had ever seen,” said Sumner Mayor Dave Enslow. “Orton Junction would use private dollars, not taxes, to permanently protect over 500 acres of farmland in our valley. Instead, this decision opens that land back up to the possibility of being developed into housing. It just doesn’t make much sense.”

The city of Sumner has raised over $7 million for the Orton Junction YMCA and six acres of land has been donated for the project. BCRA Architects has already been hired to complete the design of the proposed 50,000 to 70,000 square foot facility.

"We remain committed to the Orton Junction project and bringing a Y to Sumner," said Michelle LaRue, communications spokeswoman for the YMCA of Pierce and Kitsap Counties.

LaRue said that the YMCA fully supports Sumner's appeal of the GMHB decision.

"We believe the City of Sumner Council and Pierce County Council were right in voting in favor of this project," said Bob Ecklund, YMCA president and CEO. "We will continue to work with the City of Sumner as they navigate the appeal process."

The proposed YMCA would include an art center, swimming pool, teen late night program and Friends and Servants, a program that mentors troubled youth by helping them learn farming practices.

“People need jobs now and healthy recreation right here in Pierce County,” said Enslow. “Orton Junction would use this area to grow not only produce but also strong, multi-generational families. We believe our children are worth it.” 

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Click "Keep Me Posted" for the latest developments on this story. We have requested documents from the GMHB and will share them as soon as they are available.

Annie Archer (Editor) July 11, 2012 at 04:23 PM
Will this decision influence the King County Council in the Woodinville case? What do you think?
Lauren Padgett (Editor) July 11, 2012 at 08:53 PM
It's been an interesting debate in Sumner -- the loss of agricultural farmland or the expansion of the city's business core? For county planners, city leaders AND community members who care about their communities, it's a very tough call.
Al Taylor July 11, 2012 at 10:24 PM
Lauren, does Sumner have open area within its current city limits as does Woodinville? Woodinville currently has unbuilt properties as well as many vacant storefronts so annexing GMA protected farmland does not have much of a case for expanding its commercial core. Woodinville's situation appears to be driven more by greed than need.
Lauren Padgett (Editor) July 12, 2012 at 03:58 PM
Yup. There is land within Sumner's current UGA that has not been developed, and there are many vacant storefronts on Main Street. Sumner was actually going to do a land swap with this project -- leave the land already in the city's UGA alone and trade it for this parcel, which is owned by Pierce County. The crux of the project would be a YMCA, which is the main reason many in town want this -- there is a need for a youth center. The YMCA and city have argued that there are no parcels in town that would accommodate a facility of the size they want, and part of the farmland was donated to the project by the developer. I don't think I can say Sumner's project is about greed, but it is about extending the downtown core into a new development. People are furious that the development would pave agricultural farmland.
Ron Olson July 13, 2012 at 01:14 AM
Woodinville property owners on the EAST side of 140th/148th Avenue NE have been interested in annexation to Woodinville for a long time. City staff has been aware of this, and even discussed the issue....without including Woodinville councilmembers in the discussion. Woodinville staff is moving forward with UGB adjustment assistance for 17 properties that would ruin the very best agricultural, scenic, environmentally sensitive land in the area...and they do this knowing full well that there are perfectly suited properties that could support tourist development all along the east side of the valley. Woodinville city staff is too chummy with some local real estate developers and the result is that Woodinville taxpayers are getting the shaft, pristine land will be destroyed, existing Woodinville taxpayers are being left in the dust, and Woodinville is just another hole in the wall city where political power and greed eat at the very heart of the many good citizens that live here.

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