Neighborhoods could see funeral homes, storage

Federal Way’s business “neighborhoods” could be opening up to new kinds of businesses in the not-too-distant future.

After months of review and discussion by the city Planning Commission and the City Council’s Land-Use and Transportation Committee, the council has taken steps toward approving the Neighborhood Business (BN) zoning to include self-service storage facilities and funeral homes.

There are 14 BN zones comprising about 110 acres. About 70 percent of the land in the zones is occupied by retail stores and restaurants, followed by gas stations (11 percent), offices (10 percent) and single family homes (7 percent). About 18 percent of the land in all the BN zones is vacant.

Existing allowed uses in the Neighborhood Business zone include office, retail, restaurants, taverns, day cares, group homes, civic facilities, public utilities, churches, gas and service stations, schools and multi-family housing. Federal Way’s BN zones also allow fast food restaurants, health clubs, entertainment retail and garages.

The issue to add additional uses went before the council in October 2003, when a local charitable organization asked if its property could be developed as a self-service storage facility.

The organization’s representatives said the group had put its four-acre property at Southwest 356th Street and 21st Avenue Southwest on the market several times over the previous decade and no one was interested in it except for a developer who wanted to build self-service storage.

Some council members at the time were opposed to the proposal, saying BN zoning was intended for businesses that residents of a particular area would walk to and spend time in, like restaurants, drycleaners or coffee shops.

But others argued neighborhood self-storage facilities might be great for Federal Way residents who live in apartment complexes with limited storage. Rather than having to cross town to get the Christmas decorations or put away the barbecue grill, they could simply drive down the street.

After some debate, the Council directed staff to include the issue in the 2004 comprehensive plan amendment process. Staff later recommended the issue be included in the city planning division’s review of the BN zone as part of its 2004 work program.

The result of their work is the proposal before the council, which would allow well-designed facilities that don’t detract from the scale and orientation of local neighborhoods. According to the proposal, the self-service storage facilities would be limited in size to three acres and must meet certain design guidelines. The code includes on-site parking for one rental truck no larger than 12,000 pounds gross vehicle weight rating for those loading or unloading their stuff.

In addition to self-service storage facilities, the BN zones are expect to include funeral homes — an item which came to city officials’ attention in 2004, when the council received a request from the Bonney-Watson funeral home to build a memory garden at its existing business location at Southwest 312th Street and Dash Point Road.

Because the Bonney Watson funeral home pre-dated city incorporation, it was allowed to continue operations at the site as a non-conforming use, but it can’t expand without approval through the comprehensive plan amendment process.

Staff writer Erica Hall: 925-5565,

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