News

No business rezones in the 'hood

By ERICA JAHN

Staff writer

Two businesses that sought a rezone under Federal Way’s comprehensive plan amendment process were dealt a minor blow March 18 when the City Council decided against granting their requests.

Neighbors living near Pat’s Plumbing and Vilma’s Signs opposed rezoning the area to allow for neighborhood businesses or commercial businesses, saying such a change would allow current businesses to expand and new ones to come into the quiet neighborhood behind Steel Lake.

Council members agreed.

“I recognize the dilemma that’s faced by Pat’s Plumbing and Vilma’s Signs, and it’s faced by all non-conforming businesses in our community,” Councilman Eric Faison said.

Next year, he said, the city will analyze the neighborhood business and commercial business zoning criteria to figure out where site-specific requests, like those submitted by Pat’s Plumbing and Vilma’s Signs, fit in the city’s comprehensive plan.

Councilman Dean McColgan said the decision before the council was a difficult one.

“The businesses concerned here are good, upstanding members of the community,” he said. “They are businesses that just want to be conforming. We need to promote businesses that want to grow, employ more people and conform.”

He added he still believes there is room to compromise.

Newton Bruington, who lives near the businesses, said the neighborhood was never opposed to the businesses.

“We were opposed to the expansion of the businesses,” he said. “I think the decision of the council affirms that. Business is important to our community, but they’re also protecting our residential neighborhood.”

Tim Hickel, an attorney for Vilma Stewart, owner of Vilma’s Signs, said they were disappointed in the decision.

“As happens in these situations, at least in the testimony tonight, facts tend to go out the window,” he said, adding Vilma’s Signs couldn’t expand because of being bordered by Interstate 5 and Military Road.

“We’re a little bit discouraged in a sense because Faison said don’t get your hopes up,” Hickel said. “I hope they do try to work toward resolution.”

Wayne Carlson, an urban planner for AHBL, a civil and structural engineering firm based in Tacoma representing Pat’s Plumbing, said they, too, were disappointed with the testimony neighbors gave the council.

“I’m disappointed by the gutter tactics,” he said. “They threw everything against the wall to see what would stick.”

For example, he said, residents used a mistake on the application — in which the businesses said they had sewer service when they’re actually on septic — as proof of “lies and deceit.”

“It was just an honest mistake,” he said, adding sewer service is “completely irrelevant to the issue.”

Councilman Mike Park said he understood the plight of the business owners because he owned a non-conforming business in Seattle 20 years ago.

“At the same time, I clearly hear the residents’ issues,” he said.

Staff writer Erica Jahn: 925-5565, ejahn@fedwaymirror.com

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