News

Unwanted freeway zone tossed

By ERICA HALL

Staff writer

The proposed freeway commercial zone in Federal Way met its demise at the City Council meeting Tuesday, ending the discussion about whether to create such a zone for future development.

The would have allowed auto dealerships and rentals, recreational vehicle dealers, furniture or home electronics stores, amusement parks or theaters and driving ranges, among other things, in areas with direct access from Interstate 5.

Councilman Jack Dovey, who opposed the zoning, said most of the uses allowed in freeway commercial already are allowed in the commercial business zone.

"This zoning is less advantageous than (commercial business) zoning, and there are more limitations. You get a bigger sign. That's about the only difference," he said. "We're taking too much time on something that's not needed today."

Councilwoman Jeanne Burbidge was the lone council member in support of the zone.

"I believe this proposed category offers some advantages to the city that cannot be achieved in other ways," she said.

During a recent zoning project for the potential annexation area, city officials suggested applying the freeway commercial zone to property owned by Jerry Jackson. The land is located east of I-5 near South 320th Street. Neighbors protested, saying the residential, quiet character of the neighborhood would be ruined by a car dealership.

Steve McNey, project manager at All-American Inc., which is representing the Jackson property, told the council earlier its owner isn't interested in an auto dealership and didn't necessarily want the freeway commercial zone, anyway. He said Jackson has requested commercial business zoning so he can build a neighborhood market and associated retail stores on the site.

Some neighbors said they liked the idea of a nearby market, where they could shop without taking crowded South 320th into downtown Federal Way.

"I'm happy to see a neighborhood business type of use," said Thomas Barnes, who's owned his South 316th Street property 20 years. "I'm happy to see that potential so residents don't have to cross I-5."

But Carla LaStella, who lives off South 314th Place, said she's against a grocery store on the Jackson property.

"My biggest concern is using our neighborhood as the main access to get to these retail stores," she said. "It's nice having something that close, I agree. But if you're going to put something back there, we need another road."

McNey said All-American has presented the council with "precautionary measures to protect the neighborhood."

"This property is a perfect use for a grocery store," he said. "It's great for other retail uses, as well."

He said All-American envisions building the market so it abuts 32nd Avenue South –– which is scheduled to become a four-lane road during future Weyerhaeuser improvements –– and adding parking toward the inside portion of the development so that it would be concealed.

A coffee shop would be in another building, and a smaller retail development, like a cleaners and a restaurant, might be in another building. "It's not necessarily a strip mall," he said.

All-American could develop park-like uses on other areas of the site to serve as buffers between the development and the neighborhoods. McNey said the developers are considering park benches and trails, among other things.

Though the council decided against the freeway commercial zone, it's still deliberating All-American's request to zone the property commercial business. In addition, council members are reviewing requests from two other property owners to have their parcels designated something other than the city's recommendations.

The council will hold one more public hearing June 15 before making final decisions on the requests.

The city's potential-annexation area plan is a guide for residents and city officials if people living in the potential annexation area decide to annex into the city. None of the sub-area plan will go into effect unless residents vote to annex, officials said.

The city has scheduled elections for three of the areas –– Redondo East, North Lake and Southwest Parkway. All three are council-initiated elections, though Councilman Eric Faison said North Lake and Parkway initiation efforts are under the request of residents living there.

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

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