We live in a great community, and I am always positive and enthusiastic about Federal Way’s history and potential. Sometimes that enthusiasm may get the best of me, which was the case a few days ago when I made the statement calling the proposed developments on the Industrial Realty Group property (the former Weyerhaeuser property) a positive development for our community. I was speaking in terms of job growth and investment in Federal Way.
Our city is a growing, diverse community, and, as is often the case when we grow, challenges may arise. One of the most challenging issues I face as your mayor is how to appropriately handle misinformation and speculation.
What I truly love about public process is the right of citizens to dissent and voice loudly their opinions. In America, we have perfected the right of peaceful protest, especially when we as a society disagree with something in government, business, or even in our schools.
Here locally, as I mentioned, there is a passionate discussion developing in our city over the use of the IRG property. As was reported in this paper, Orca Bay Seafood has announced plans to move their corporate headquarters to Federal Way. In order to accomplish this move, Orca Bay has partnered with Preferred Freezer to build a 239,000-square-foot facility to house their frozen product and new corporate headquarters. This has generated much speculation over what it all means. I write today to clarify my position and where we go from here.
I respect and understand the sense of ownership and attachment our residents feel toward this iconic property. Many people have enjoyed the lush beauty and open spaces for years. The Rhododendron Gardens and Bonsai Museum are treasures in our community and attract visitors from around our region. The tranquil meadows are blooming with life and are a magnificent reminder of the untouched splendor of this property. These wonderful amenities will be preserved under the ownership of IRG. No one is proposing or considering eliminating these community assets.
As your Mayor, it is my job first and foremost to ensure equal treatment under the the law and that our city follows a fair and legal process when considering an application for land use. I take seriously this responsibility, as well as listening to the concerns of our residents. This was the case when the city listened to the concerns of residents during the sale of the Weyerhaeuser property. We were asked repeatedly by North Lake residents to keep the current zoning in place and not allow a change for housing to be built.
It’s clear that there is building momentum from our residents in opposition to this facility. However, it’s important to note that this is NOT a city initiative. There is a process for private property owners to file an application for land use and we must follow it. It is the job of local government to make sure each applicant is treated equally under the law.
However, given the significance of this project and the high-profile nature of it, the City Council will hold a study session and take public comment on Sept. 1 at 7 p.m. in the Council Chambers at City Hall. This public meeting will provide an opportunity for the residents to learn about the steps we as a city must take to determine if this proposal is appropriate for the current zoning, and public comment is strongly encouraged. We will also hear a presentation from IRG on their proposals.
I occupy a unique position in our city. As someone chosen by you to represent the interests of our community, I continue to be impressed and humbled by the people who call Federal Way home and the passion our residents have for our city. As I started, I will finish: We live in a great community, and I couldn’t imagine calling another place my home.