Business

I-5 commercial zone dropped from annexation plan

By ERICA HALL

Staff writer

The Federal Way Planning Commission decided against designating a parcel east of Interstate 5 and South 320th Street a freeway commercial zone after residents and the property owner said they didn’t want it.

Still, commission members thought the zone was a good idea the city should keep for future developers.

On April 21, the Planning Commission held the last of a twice-continued public hearing to hear comments on land use recommendations for the potential annexation area, located east of Interstate 5 from South 272nd to the Pierce County line.

Late last year, the city finished an analysis of the potential annexation area to determine what levels of services, like police, fire, sidewalks and road maintenance, King County currently provides and how much money and work it would take to bring the area up to city standards if residents there voted to annex.

City staff also made a preliminary land use plan with zoning designations so people living in the potential annexation area who might be interesting in annexing to the city would be able to see how the city would zone their area.

While the land use plan will be used as a tool for the city if the areas vote to annex, King County officials have said they don’t intend to adopt the city’s designations as long as the area remains unincorporated.

Planning Commission chairman John Caulfield also reiterated the city isn’t pursuing annexation. In order to annex, residents living in the annexation area have to file a petition and then vote.

After city staff made their initial land use and zoning recommendations, three property owners — Richard and Louise Davis, Lee Rabie and Jerry Jackson — requested that their properties be designated for a zone other than what staff suggested.

The planning commission on March 7 heard the first round of public testimony on the recommendations. Commissioners agreed to continue the hearing twice to allow more public comment and to gather more information themselves. On April 21, the commission decided on recommendations, which they sent to the city’s Land Use and Transportation Committee for further review.

If the areas ever annex into the city, the commission recommended the Davis property, located in the 30600 block of Military Road South, be zoned neighborhood business.

The Planning Commission was divided on the Rabie property, located at the southwest corner of South 288th Street east of I-5.

Three of the commissioners were concerned the neighborhood business zoning wouldn’t allow the owner to build the mini-storage units he wants to put on his property.

But other commissioners said they didn’t want to zone the parcel for commercial business, where mini-storage units are allowed, because they didn’t want to open the door for all of the allowed commercial uses in the mostly residential area.

By default on a tie vote, commissioners recommended zoning it neighborhood business.

City staffs’ suggestion to designate the Jackson property a freeway commercial zone generated the most public response from residents living nearby, who harbored concerns about the negative impact a large commercial development would impart to the area.

The freeway commercial zone would allow uses like auto or recreational vehicle dealerships, furniture or electronics stores, movie theaters, and other similar uses.

The Planning Commission ultimately decided against the zone for the Jackson property, but had a hard time deciding how the property should be zoned. In the end, they decided to recommend the city zone the area similarly to how King County divided it: office park on the south side and residential to the north.

In the meantime, Jackson, represented by project manager Steve McNey, is working with King County to get a rezone that would allow him to build a grocery store on the property.

McNey, who did some public relations work for Councilman Jim Ferrell during his recent campaign for the Federal Way City Council, told the Planning Commission they didn’t ask for the freeway commercial zone.

“The freeway zoning was at best a compromise,” he said, adding the owner really wanted a business commercial zone, which would allow him to build a grocery store.

But city code prohibits a commercial business zone for areas that would compete with already established commercial areas in Federal Way.

McNey argued the grocery store wouldn’t compete with anything in downtown Federal Way. Their market would be the residential areas east of Interstate 5, he said.

He said a grocery store, with a coffee shop and other services, like a drycleaner, would be a benefit to the surrounding neighborhoods. It would keep people from having to drive into congested downtown Federal Way and would give the area a better sense of community. “Let us put something there that is good for the community,” he said.

Gary Anderson, who lives near the Jackson property, said that was the first he’d heard of a grocery store. He said if neighboring property owners could get “a commitment there wouldn’t be a car dealership in that area, we’d have a change of heart.”

Although the Planning Commission decided the Jackson property wasn’t a good fit for a freeway commercial zone, commissioners thought having a freeway commercial zone option in the city was a good idea.

They made a recommendation to the Land Use and Transportation Committee to keep the zoning designation available for future developers who might be interested in requesting it. The Land Use committee is expected to discuss the zone at its next meeting, scheduled for May 3.

Staff writer Erica Hall: 925-5565, ehall@fedwaymirror.com

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