ORTON JUNCTION/EAST HILL
What happened with Orton Junction?
On October 25, the Pierce County Council approved their Comprehensive Plan Amendments, including U-3a, which added about 182 acres in the Orton Junction area to Sumnerís Urban Growth Area and U-3b, which removed about 284 acres on the East Hill out of Sumnerís Urban Growth Area. The amendment package passed unanimously.
What is next now that it passed?
Two planning processes begin immediately and run simultaneously: the Joint Planning Agreement and the Planned Mixed-Use Development.
Joint Planning Agreement (JPA): This is an agreement between the City of Sumner and Pierce County. It outlines how jurisdiction will be shared during the transition of this land from the County to the City.
Planned Mixed-Use Development (PMUD): This is the overall plan for the area. It begins to lay out the streets, other infrastructure and design how this area will be complete, compact and connected within itself and to the rest of the city. The PMUD is the next planning step for adding detail to zoning. It starts to lay out things like buffers and connectivity as well as phasing of the areaís development. This plan will go through a full City public process in 2012. Watch the City website for specific dates and upcoming agendas to public meetings. Please note: procedural amendments to the PMUD code will go through the City process starting with the Planning Commission on April 5, 2012. This issue is to potentially change the process for PMUDs anywhere in Sumner, allowing for phased PMUD development as well as project-specific. This issue is not specific to Orton Junction and is different from the process described above, which will happen later in 2012.
What is the Seven Principles Agreement?
Many people, including the Pierce County Council and the Pierce County Executive, wanted to make sure this project did a lot of things at once. They asked Forterra, formerly called the Cascade Land Conservancy, to get involved and negotiate an agreement with the City of Sumner and Orton Farms LLC, one of the big landowners and developers of the Orton Junction area. This agreement became part of the proposal that passed on October 25. Among other things, it requires anyone developing land to conserve four acres of active farmland for every one acre developed within Orton Junction. Thatís four times the County requirement of buying one acre for every one acre developed. Click here to read the full Seven Principles Agreement. This agreement is quite revolutionary in that it has a city, environmental group and developer working together to both put growth where it makes sense and protect farmland and open space at the same time.
How does annexation work?
Property owner(s) start the annexation process by filing a letter of intent with the Council that represents at least 10% of the value of land in question for annexation. If/when the Council authorizes the petition, then it must be signed by owners representing at least 60% of the land value. Then, it goes to the Council for a decision.
What will go in Orton Junction?
The vision is for a planned mixed-use development that incorporates the YMCA, a MultiCare facility, retail and restaurants, an agricultural industry support program, and a mix of housing options. There is also the potential for a fire-training facility and a movie theater.
When do we get more details?
Soon! It didnít make sense to plan the area before the Pierce County Council decision. Now that the project has approval, those property owners wanting to develop will begin working with the City of Sumner on a master-planned vision for the area, also called a Planned Mixed-Use Development (PMUD).
Whatís going on with the YMCA?
The Sumner YMCA is moving forward:
Why did the City ask for this change?
For a few reasons:
Will these services compete with the restaurants and shops already in Sumner?
No. Studies showed that a lot of Sumner and east Pierce County residents are traveling into King County to buy goods and services. In fact, each year over $46 million in taxable sales goes from our area to King County. Orton Junction allows for more diversified shopping and dining experiences that currently do not exist while retaining Sumnerís historic downtown for unique, independently owned boutiques and shops. In addition, retaining and attracting more shoppers to this region will help support existing businesses.
Why not just put all of this in Sumnerís existing neighborhoods?
A large enough piece of property is not available. To put these same services in Sumnerís historic downtown or East Main neighborhoods would require displacing many current residents and/or business owners, destroying historic buildings, and forcing thousands of cars daily through residential streets.
Why not just put all of this in Sumnerís industrial area?
The purpose of Sumnerís north end is to separate important industrial and manufacturing jobs from high-traffic areas and residential housing. The 8,000 jobs currently in the north end require noisy, round-the-clock large truck traffic, all of which is not compatible with large-scale residential, shopping or recreation uses. To try to force such uses together would be endangering the YMCA, its patrons and the businesses that rely on an industrial area to serve our region. Additionally, several of the larger lots in this area already have projects identified for future development.
What are the environmental impacts of this proposal?
The City conducted an extensive environmental impact study with the input of a variety of environmental experts and organizations. You can still view the draft Environmental Impact Statement as well as the Final Environmental Impact Statement. No major adverse environmental impacts were identified. In fact, because the project puts services and housing near existing population centers, it reduces traffic congestion and air pollution from extensive driving.
Why pull the East Hill area out of Sumnerís Urban Growth Area?
The County prefers that when someone asks to add area to the Urban Growth, it removes at least that same amount. Because of Sumnerís dedication to using land efficiently, Sumner asked not only for a direct swap of acreage but to remove 100 additional acres from the urban growth area.
In the 16 years that East Hill has been in the Sumnerís urban growth area, no property owner has asked to be annexed into the City. Currently, the 284 acres contains 246 parcels, which means there are no large parcels to develop and accommodate future growth as is supposed to happen within urban growth areas. In addition, many property owners in the area clearly do not want to shoulder the extensive cost that would be required to bring City infrastructure, including water, sewer, and roads, to their area.
How can the city afford to pledge $2.5 million to build the YMCA?
Actually, the City canít afford to not support this project. The traditional model of a city-run community center puts an annual drain on the City budget. With the recent economic challenges, the City continues to find efficiencies, but any further cuts will mean drastic changes to service levels on which citizens rely. Instead of further cuts, the City is seeking to increase its income from sales tax revenue, not from individual citizens. The YMCA and Orton Junction would do just that, bringing more sales, and thus sales tax, into the City and annually better funding City services. In the long term, the pledge is small compared to the financial benefits this project will generate. This is a small investment by the City of Sumner in exchange for a wonderful facility that will serve the community. In the following years, the additional income can then go to funding City services and keeping property tax rates low.
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