Branches Garden Center's fire code battle comes close to conclusion

Branches Garden Center will replace the plastic roof material of its greenhouses and gift shop, as seen here. - Andy Hobbs/The Mirror
Branches Garden Center will replace the plastic roof material of its greenhouses and gift shop, as seen here.
— image credit: Andy Hobbs/The Mirror

After facing closure over a fire code violation, Branches Garden Center and the city are approaching a deal that will keep the business open.

The garden center, located at South 320th Street and Military Road, received an order to cease activity last month after it was determined that the plastic greenhouse roofing did not comply with fire safety standards.

Branches owners Stephen and Sharon Jensen appealed the order and faced a hearing examiner April 18.

The city delayed the hearing examiner’s decision in order to allow more time for reaching a solution that benefits both sides. A resolution is expected to be finalized early next week.

Steve Jensen said the city will give Branches “a couple of years” to install fire-retardant material — a polycarbonate hard surface — on the roofs of four greenhouses. Branches will install new roofs on its two gift shop houses by Aug. 1, Jensen said.

City spokesman Chris Carrel would neither confirm nor deny details of the resolution.

“The city and Branches have been discussing some alternative approaches to a resolution,” Carrel said. “We remain hopeful that we’re able to reach a win-win resolution.”

During the past several weeks, Jensen has been researching and talking with other greenhouse owners about their roof requirements. He said similar businesses do not face the same requirement.

“It really is a financial challenge that in reality doesn’t make a huge difference in public safety,” he said. “I realize that I’m not going to change (Federal Way’s) mind, no matter how unreasonable I think it is or what’s going on in the rest of the world.”

Jensen added: “When all is said and done, we’ll be better for it.”

The issue was first addressed in April 2009, when South King Fire and Rescue notified the city regarding fire safety code violations of Branches’ greenhouse roofing. Other building code violations at Branches, including the facility’s electrical wiring, have since been addressed.

The greenhouse roofing is the last remaining obstacle for Branches to be in full compliance with city building code as a retail business, Carrel said.

Open for nearly 18 years, the garden center sells an array of flowers, plants, trees, gifts and more. Branches was located in unincorporated King County until January 2005, when Federal Way officially annexed the land.

The city rezoned the site in February 2010, Carrel said, to allow for the retail garden center to meet zoning standards.


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