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Evolving business scene key to city plans

Economic development will be the focus of Maple Valley’s comprehensive plan update that will officially begin this month.

The plan is updated every seven years, with the next update due in mid 2015. It was originally adopted in late 1999 and was last updated in 2008.

“We’re starting now so we have a full 18 months to get on top of it,” said city Senior Planner Matt Torpey.

The plan is divided into several sections: land use, capital facilities and public services, housing, environmental quality, parks and recreation, transportation, and utilities.

Some of those sections have been updated over the past year, including the transportation and the parks and recreation plans.

Economic development has several considerations and goals like land use and bringing living wage jobs to the city, Torpey said.

Last year the city hired a consultant, the International Economic Development Council, to study the city and “provide an economic recommendation,” according to Torpey.

The study looked at the current and potential economic development of Maple Valley.

The recommendation presented in the study was to focus on development at the North end of the city as a more immediate area of economic development with an eye on long term projects and partnerships in the Donut Hole and keeping the Legacy Site for a future community centerpiece project.

The report considered the city’s strengths, opportunities, weaknesses and threats to economic development.

Among the strengths presented were the City Council’s support of development, City Manager David Johnston’s experience with economic development in other cities, the creation of the city’s Economic Development Committee, the city’s AA+ bond rating and the lower cost of land and development in the city, to name a few.

Weaknesses the report cited were the city’s reactive approach, not having a city staff member whose job is solely economic development, not having a specific development plan in place, the city’s location on the edge of King County, and traffic congestion on state Route 169, among others.

Some of the opportunities identified were building or strengthening partnerships with local and regional partners, growing the role of the Economic Development Committee, supporting the Tahoma School District’s regional learning center vision, and changing zoning to attract businesses.

Threats to economic development included competition with other cities for development, split opinion on development by Maple Valley residents, the city’s need for new revenue sources to maintain the city’s reserve requirement, and the likelihood that traffic would increase with development.

The report recommended that the city continue and grow relationships with business partners as well as start new partnerships to assist with development.

The city will be hosting a town hall ice cream social at 6:30 p.m. at Lake Wilderness Lodge on April 23 to talk about the comprehensive plan and what residents would like to see.

Some of the things Torpey noted that are on the city’s radar are where development could still occur in the city, the possibility of increasing allowable building heights and the construction of more apartment options for residents.

“Currently the city of Maple Valley has no areas where somebody could come in and develop apartment buildings,” Torpey said. “Because we have heard a need from citizens and developers who want to build multi-family properties that is something that is worth considering.”

Torpey said that after the town hall meeting the city will continue working with the city Planning Commission who will make a recommendation to the city council late this year or early next year on the revised plan.

 

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