Land eyed for new homes

By Shawn Skager

The Courier-Herald

The population of Black Diamond has seen little population growth the past five years. According to census statistics, the count has remained at a little more than 3,900 people since 2000, with minor variations.

That could change soon, with the purchase of 320 acres in the southeast corner of the city by Yarrow Bay Development Company.

According to Brian Ross, managing partner for Yarrow Bay, the company has reached an agreement with the Palmer Coking Coal Company to purchase the land, known as Lawson Hill. The details are expected to be finalized this summer.

After all the details of the purchase are hammered out, development of the area is expected to commence.

“We are a residential land developer,” Ross said. “This land has a comprehensive plan designation for residential development, so we'll be putting in residential development. In total, we have about 320 acres, so depending on how much open space we have we're looking at a range from 800 to 1,200 residences.”

That will include multi-family attached residences as well as single-family homes, Ross said.

Before the development can proceed, the impact of such a large development must be considered, according to Black Diamond City Administrator Jason Paulson.

Last year, the city enacted an ordinance to deal with potential large developments.

“What we have developed is an ordinance that we call our Master Plan Development ordinance, or MPD ordinance,” Paulson said. “What that does is establish a review process and conditions of development that are applied to any large-scale development that may be proposed in the city. Whatever this project is that they might propose, there is probably a 99.9 percent chance that will trigger the process.

“Conventional development often takes place piecemeal - 5 acres here, 10 here, all done by different developers,” he continued. “There is not a great opportunity to look at their impact holistically, you look at them separately. What the master plan regulations do is cause the review to look at the entire potential development. This requires an analysis of the impact of that property in it's entirety and it's different phases.

“It says that new development cannot occur until the necessary infrastructure and services that it will require are in place. That responsibility then falls to the developer,” Paulson said.

In addition, he added the developer must complete a fiscal study on the impact to city services.

“They have to prove to the city's satisfaction that it's a net gain and not a draw to the city's existing services,” Paulson said.

“In some aspects the city may be (ready for this growth), in some it may not be, but the process will flush out any areas that may be of concern,” he continued. “That development will then not be allowed to continue until those concerns are (dealt with).

“We've known for awhile that future development is likely to occur in Black Diamond where you have these large tracts of land owned by one individual.”

Paulson said that has provided the city an opportunity to step back and formulate a plan that will minimize some of the negative aspects of development.

“We do have a bit in luxury that they don't have in someplace like Bonney Lake or Maple Valley, where you end up with all these disconnected suburbs and suddenly you're wondering, ‘why does it take me an hour just to get home,' because of traffic,” Paulson said.

Ross contends his company is dedicated to integrating into the existing community with as much public input as possible.

“One of the reasons we've been working on this for the better part of five years is that we've been learning from the city what they want us to do,” Ross said. “We'll host a number of open public study sessions. We want a development plan that is real thought out with plenty of opportunity for public input.”

Ross said while it is too early to nail down prices for the new homes expected to be built, they should be similar to those of other large developments that have gone up in southwest King County.

Ross said the development is seeking to provide a wide range of price levels, “from entry level all the way to view homes on the top of the hill.”

“We want everything from houses for kids moving out of their house for the first time who don't want to leave the area, first-time owners, to age-restricted homes for empty nesters,” he said.

Shawn Skager can be reached at

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