Federal Way owes support to Branches Garden Center | Editorial

If Branches Garden Center stays open, everyone in Federal Way wins.

The city has ordered the business to close because a plastic roof over the greenhouse fails to meet fire code.

In black and white terms, the city is right. The city is doing its job, as required by law in the service of taxpayers. Same goes with the fire district official who reported the violation.

Branches owners Stephen and Sharon Jensen appealed the order and will face a hearing examiner April 18 at City Hall. If the hearing examiner upholds the city’s order, Branches cannot continue to operate as a retail business, but would be able to operate as a wholesale business. The difference is that the public cannot enter the area where the plastic sheeting covers the roof.

The greenhouse roofing is the sole obstacle for Branches to be in full compliance with city building code as a retail business.

However, beyond the black and white, there is more truth in the gray.

Branches is located at South 320th Street and Military Road on land with a history of zoning changes. The owners argue that their plastic roof is standard for greenhouses across Washington and the nation.

At stake is more than just a business issue. It’s a quality of life issue. Garden businesses like Branches contribute to the overall beautification of Federal Way. This locally owned and operated business benefits the city’s tax coffers, work force and green culture.

Any business related to gardening is an unsung hero when pursuing a greater quality of life. Full of life themselves, gardens and plants enrich daily living by creating an opportunity to produce food, exercise, socialize and learn.

During his campaign for Federal Way mayor, Skip Priest often repeated a three-legged stool of government mantra. To paraphrase: First, you need good schools. Second, you need good roads. Third, you need strong businesses to pay for the first two. Priest has also demonstrated a commitment to a greener environment in Federal Way. Regardless of how many legs are on the stool, he is right.

The mayor cannot clap his hands and change the law himself. But with the city’s most powerful pulpit, the mayor can move this situation in a direction that benefits everyone.


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