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New housing development clears hurdles - and lots of trees
On acreage overlooking Southwest Campus Drive, there’s construction activity that Federal Way residents have awaited for nearly eight years.
Quadrant Homes is constructing Wynstone, a 45-lot housing development proposed in 2003 by Brad Plemmons Enterprises of Auburn. The development is at Southwest Campus Drive and 10th Avenue South. The land has changed hands a few times over the years. Quadrant bought it from First Citizens Bank and Trust Company in December, and reinvigorated the plan to build Wynstone in January.
Quadrant is doing what its predecessors were unable to do — build homes. Two houses are being built and a handful of vacant lots bear “sold” signs.
City officials are happy to see activity at the site.
“I’m pleased that it is getting developed,” said Federal Way City Councilwoman Jeanne Burbidge. “I’m anticipating they are doing a good job building the homes.”
Quadrant has had success building in Federal Way, especially the West Campus area. Quadrant finished its last subdivision in the city roughly four years ago, said Mark Gray, executive vice president and chief operating officer.
“We have been looking for an opportunity like this to re-enter the marketplace there,” Gray said.
Wynstone homes will adhere to Quadrant’s Built Your Way brand, which gives homeowners a say in the amenities they prefer. Buyers choose their lot and work closely with Quadrant to customize their home. Construction takes about 54 days.
“Ordering a home from us, you get to see it be built every day and you’re a part of the process,” Gray said.
All homes will range from 2,000 to 3,000 square feet and will feature Energy Star products. Some homes will be built into the slope and offer views, Gray said. Home prices will start in the high $200,000s.
“This is the beginning of a fundamental shift in Quadrant Homes’ approach to the marketplace,” Gray said. “Wynstone is the latest example.”
It’s difficult to say how long it will take to place homes on all the lots, Gray said. Because the homes are custom-built, construction begins after a buyer is identified. Gray is optimistic about Wynstone.
“We think that the brisk sales activity so far is a recognition of how unique and well-located this community is,” he said.
The Wynstone property has a long and complicated history. The land consists of two parcels — a southern 8.4-acre piece and a northern 5-acre chunk. The southern parcel is zoned single family, allowing up to one unit per 7,200 square feet. The northern parcel is zoned multi-family, allowing up to one unit per 2,400 square feet. Brad Plemmons Enterprises requested, in December 2004, to modify a 1990 concomitant zoning agreement that applied to the northern parcel. This was granted, allowing for construction of single family homes on the northern parcel.
Brad Plemmons Enterprises submitted a preliminary plat plan for Wynstone in June 2003. The plan outlined basic details of the neighborhood, such as the location of roads, and how the project met environmental requirements and city codes.
A landscape and tree replacement plan, dated January 2004, outlined an intention to retain 36 significant trees and replant 54 Douglas Firs. This aligned with city code, which required developers to retain or replace 25 percent of a property’s significant trees. This code has since changed to encourage more tree retention.
By the time the plat plan reached a hearing examiner in December 2004, the landscaping plan proposed retaining 43 percent (155) of the 360 significant trees, according to a Dec. 7, 2004, city staff report to the hearing examiner. The property had a total of 630 significant trees; 270 were located in future right-of-way and utility areas and were not subject to the tree retention standards, according to the report. The preliminary plat plan was approved by the Federal Way City Council in January 2005.
In April 2005, a new landowner, Gig Harbor-based Michael Kerschner and Wynstone Properties LLC, made the city aware that it had applied with the state for a Class Four Forest Practices permit for the property, according to city records. This permit is required for the removal of 5,000 board feet — the equivalent of approximately one load on a log truck — or more of timber, according to King County’s Development and Environmental Services website.
In June 2005, Wynstone Properties submitted an engineering plan. Engineering plans generally provide details about curbing, utilities, landscaping and more. Usually, the company that submits the plan clears, grades and builds roads, retention ponds, etc., in preparation for further development. The city requested a revised landscaping plan before it would approve the engineering plan.
Meanwhile, a letter dated June 16, 2005, from the city to Kerschner acknowledges Wynstone Properties’ forest practices permit application with the state. The letter also references the city’s Land Surface Modification provisions and states that Federal Way does not plan to appeal the permit. It is unclear the extent of clearing Wynstone Properties planned to do with the permit. It is also unclear whether the city’s letter was actually sent to Wynstone Properties; it is not signed by city staff or Kerschner.
According to city records, Wynstone Properties was given authorization to proceed with engineering plans in Oct. 2006, after a revised landscape plan was submitted. The updated landscaping plan was given approval by a city planner in August 2007, according to city records. The plan is similar in scope to that included in Plemmons’ preliminary plat plan. Typically, engineering and landscape plans are not reviewed by city council members.
In February 2008, a final plat plan was submitted by Wynstone Properties. It was approved by the city in October of that year. At some point the land was cleared. A large model home was built on one lot. But construction ended there, leaving the land absent of homes and largely stripped of trees.
Neither Plemmons nor Kerschner could be reached for comment.
A lesson learned
The circumstances of the Wynstone land have caused several complaints to the city.
“I expect most of it had to do with the clearing,” Burbidge said.
The council was not aware that Wynstone Properties had applied for a state-issued forest practices permit and planned to remove so many trees, she said. Clearing of the land took council members by surprise, she said.
“Not everyone was aware that the city didn’t have a role in that,” Burbidge said. “The city did not approve of that clearing in any fashion. We had no voice in that.”
Construction on the site is refreshing, but “it won’t replace the lovely forest that was there before,” Burbidge said.