Change proposed for Brandt property in Maple Valley
By TJ MARTINELL
Covington Reporter Reporter
September 5, 2012 · Updated 1:03 PM
A possible zoning change for a chunk of land on state Route 169 could be the next step from a bedroom community to bustling suburb for Maple Valley.
The Maple Valley City Council is considering proposed zoning changes to a 50 acre chunk of land, known as the Brandt property, located northeast of state Route 169 and Southeast 240th Way. The proposal has already drawn criticism from residents near the property who have concerns about the possible effect on traffic and the appearance of buildings which could potentially go up there.
At its Aug. 15 meeting, the Maple Valley Planning Commission voted to recommend the changes.
Currently, the property is zoned as multiple use which the owners, according to the Planning Commission’s recommendation, “have said repeatedly that they have been unable to successfully attract investors and partners and unable to market the property effectively.”
Among the Planning Commission’s recommendations is to split the property into three separate zoning or sections. The first area, approximately five acres abutting state Route 169, would be designated as parks, recreation and open space. This would allow for limited commercial and residential uses. Such a designation, according to the Planning Commission’s report, “provides a buffering of the neighborhoods from the highway.” The second area, which is 13 acres, would be designated as commercial business zoning, which allows retail ventures. This would limit a retailer’s size to no more than 100,000 square feet.
The largest portion which comes in at 36 acres, would be changed to service commercial, which would allow for offices, retail, manufacturing and vocational or educational uses. Under service commercial, the minimum height of a building would be 45 feet and the maximum height allowed 100 feet. Under multiple use, the maximum height allowed is 45 feet.
According to a memo sent by Community Development Director Ty Peterson to the City Council, the Planning Commission decided to recommend allowing for building heights up to 100 feet after also agreeing for certain conditions to be met.
Some of those conditions include requiring the structure to be on a site 10 acres or larger and increasing the landscape buffer requirements based on the additional height above 35 feet. Transpo Group performed a traffic analysis and concluded that traffic volumes would not likely change and that Level of Service (LOS) would essentially remain the same, according to Peterson’s memo.
Despite the fact that there is currently no development proposal of as yet, the possibility of 100-foot-tall buildings near their homes drew a crowd of residents of neighborhoods such as Valley Meadow at the Aug. 26 meeting. During the public comment section, many voiced either criticism of the proposal or concerns about how it would affect the area.
“I moved out in Maple Valley because of its beauty,” Rosa Allison said. “It does have a certain kind of charm. I’m not opposed to the city wanting to build as long as it’s done in a way that makes sense. We want to participate in creating a vision for Maple Valley instead of being told what your vision is. Please help us in protecting what we have.”
Others, such as Julie Benger, a Maple Valley resident of 21 years, said development is necessary in order to bring in tax revenue that can support the population.
“That community requires services the tax revenue to support those services,” Benger said. “I also want to let everybody know of my experience with Bob and Cheryl (Castagna). I just want everybody to realize his vision is that, it’s not an attempt to blow smoke. There’s no agenda. I want everybody really to take this into consideration when having this discussion.”
Dana Parnello, a former council member, said although the property is currently owned by the Brandt family, that will probably change when the property is developed. He, among others who spoke, said the city should put in a greenbelt buffer between the development and neighborhoods. He also cited the Fred Meyer, which opened in the spring, as an example of why such ordinances were needed.
“What we’re talking about is this … the developer has to maximize their return,” Parnello said. “That’s what they have to do. That’s what they should do. Whatever you put in place they are going to find the best return on their investment. We worked so hard to make sure the conditions were right so that when a Fred Meyer complex came in it would be beautiful and something we could be proud and a legacy we could feel good about. The developer did what exactly what they could do given the restrictions we put into place. I’m proud we have a certified Fred Meyer. It still borders on looking like Anytown, USA — that’s not my proudest moment.”
Mary Sanchez, who said she commutes between Maple Valley and Tacoma, received applause when she told the Planning Commission allowing 100 foot buildings could cause the city to lose its rural quality.
“When I leave work and come in the first thing I hit coming off (state Route 18) and coming through the traffic … I come into the entrance of Maple Valley,” she said. “And what a relief it is, because you see the waterfall, you see the greenery, and then you look up and if I have to see a 100-foot building sitting on the left side I might as well stay in Tacoma because that’s what it’s become.”
Bob Castagna, who represents the Brandt family, stated that resident’s concerns, while legitimate, are not necessarily related to what was discussed.
“I’ve heard a lot of speakers here tonight,” Castagna said. “I think most of their concerns can and should be mitigated, but now’s not the time to mitigate those concerns. You don’t have a project. We’re talking about a comprehensive plan amendment at this stage in the game. There are two more steps before we have a proposal in front of us. When there is a proposal I will be the first one there to make sure it’s done right.”
Castagna said he hopes to ultimately have an employment center with an apprenticeship training program on the property.
“It can be accomplished,” Castagna said. “Why don’t we work together to do it?”
Jane Watkins, who served on the city’s Economic Development Committee, warned if the city didn’t bring in more businesses, eventually property owners will be hit with higher taxes to pay for services.
“I understand the concerns other residents in my neighborhood have,” Watkins said. “One thing people don’t realize is plans have been put in place. It takes months, years for zoning to be changed, for developers to come in and for us to become a city that does want people to do the right thing and have wages that are economically available. This is not the time to determine what the plan for the property is.”
Contact Covington Reporter Reporter TJ Martinell at email@example.com or 425-432-1209 ext. 5052.