News

Split council curbs 356th St. density

In a 4-to-3 vote Tuesday, the city council halted the exploration of a study that could have allowed denser housing near Southwest 356th Street.

In a discussion centered on quality of life as well as the Growth Management Act, which asks Federal Way to prepare for 40,000 more residents in coming years, the council was divided on which issue held more weight in the zone bounded by 1st Avenue South to the east, 12th Avenue Southwest to the west, Southwest 356th Street to the north and Federal Way city limits to the south.

Council members Dini Duclos, Jack Dovey and Linda Kochmar wished to proceed with the study. Duclos desired to see the process through. Dovey wanted to eliminate annual rezoning requests from this particular location. Kochmar saw the space as an opportunity to meet growth requirements imposed on Federal Way by the state.

“We are in an urban growth area,” Kochmar said. “Like it or not, we have been designated an urban growth area.”

Remaining council members Jim Ferrell, Jeanne Burbidge, Eric Faison and, with the deciding vote, Mike Park voted to retain the neighborhood’s character, listen to the public outcry against possible zoning changes and abandon the study.

“I’m not at all opposed to density,” Faison said. “I just think we need to make smart choices.”

Streamlining:

The study was proposed by Mayor Jack Dovey in response to yearly rezoning requests from individual land owners in the Southwest 356th Street area.

Before the city decides whether to implement a zoning change to an individual lot or a general location, it must evaluate how denser housing could affect traffic patterns and surface water management, among other things. The study would have evaluated the location as a whole and eliminated the need for several smaller studies each year.

“It makes more sense to go through it all at once instead of piecemeal,” Kochmar said.

Had it proceeded, the study could have opened the door to hundreds more single-family homes in the area through changes in zoning — from one single-family house per 15,000 square feet to one unit per 7,200 or 9,600 square feet. This would have allowed up to 501 more homes, said Margaret Clark, Department of Community Development senior planner.

The homes could have assisted the city in meeting its Growth Management Act requirements. However, they would have dramatically changed the neighborhood’s character.

“This is not a great area to accommodate the Growth Management Act,” Park said.

Quality of life:

Clearing large trees in this location would affect residents’ quality of life, Burbidge said.

Ferrell said he would move if he owned a home near Southwest 356th Street and the city then chose to rezone it, allowing for denser housing.

Ferrell’s opposition toward the study was also based on community input.

Approximately 75 residents spoke against the study at a March 5 public meeting and a March 18 city council meeting. A petition against the study also garnered 183 signatures from property owners.

“We asked people to give us input and we got it,” Ferrell said. “I don’t think we should waste staff time on this.”

Contact Jacinda Howard: jhoward@fedwaymirror.com or (253) 925-5565

Check it out:

Currently, the approximately 100-acre area has 410 parcels, said Margaret Clark, Department of Community Development senior planner. Of those, 197 feature a home, she said. Up to 261 more homes, for a total of 458, could presently be built in the area, Clark said.

Had the council proceeded with the study and had it led to zoning changes, up to 501 more houses (698 total) could have been built in the area, Clark said.

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