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Mayor rejects comp plan, zoning changes

By Shawn Skager

The Courier-Herald

Outgoing Buckley Mayor John Blanusa fired a parting shot last week with a twin veto of two city ordinances - one adopting the city's new comprehensive plan and the other adopting new zoning to the city's municipal code.

On Nov. 22, members of the City Council unanimously approved the comprehensive plan, which is mandated by state law.

Blanusa, who will be replaced by Councilwoman Pat Johnson Jan. 1, cited six reasons for sending the ordinances back to the council for reconsideration. All of the reasons dealt with residential zone densities.

According to Blanusa, the new comp plan and zoning regulations will hurt the character of the Buckley community by packing too many houses close together, affecting both transportation in the city and creating a greater burden on existing rate payers.

Johnson contends that Blanusa's veto will hurt the residents of Buckley in the long run.

“I was surprised because I really don't think he understands the ramifications of what he has done,” Johnson said. “We're under a state mandate to get the comprehensive plan done. And they gave us a deadline of Dec. 1. By vetoing it on Nov. 30, it didn't give the council time to go in and fix it. Now there is good possibility that we will not be eligible for the low-interest loans to upgrade the sewer plant.”

According to Johnson, the city had secured a 1 percent loan to improve the sewer treatment plant.

“That's gone now, and we're going to have go in and get a new loan at a higher interest rate,” she said.

Also at issue for Blanusa was the zoning densities laid out by the new comprehensive plan, which has been in the works for more than two years.

The new zoning regulations call for residential zones with minimum lot sizes of 6,000, 8,000 and 20,000 square feet.

At 6,000, the city of Buckley will allow seven houses per acre.

“Ten years ago, when we laid out the streets, we had a good cross-section of people (helping),” Blanusa said. “The mayor-elect (Pat Johnson) was there and I'm not sure what she thinks now, but my mind hasn't changed.”

Blanusa said the city initially chose to keep lot sizes large, with a maximum of four houses per acre, to preserve the small town character of the city.

“That's what I thought was best for the town and my mind hasn't changed. Why should we make something for someone who doesn't even live in Buckley, but wants to tell us what to do?” Blanusa asked. “If you remember what I said a long time ago, they're hammering at the gates of Buckley and they want the people of Buckley to spend all this money to make it ready for them to come in here and pillage the city. That's what it's all about.

“They want to zone high density, at six lots per acre,” Blanusa said. “At the time, we figured lots that come out to four houses or less on an acre. Six isn't going to do the city of Buckley any good.”

Blanusa also cited rate increases in the city, including sewer, natural gas and water, which he said are beneficial to developers, not residents.

“They're coming in,” he said. “Let them buy their way in. If we make it too easy for developers, we're going to become just like Bonney Lake, South Hill and Federal Way.”

Johnson said because the council originally passed the comprehensive plan ordinance unanimously, she expected them to overturn the veto.

“I don't think he realizes what he has done,” Johnson said. “I don't think there was any spite, I just don't think that he understood what he was doing. He could have passed the comp plan and vetoed the zoning regulations. He is just making it very difficult for the council to keep the costs down. He's hurting the very people he wanted to help, by keeping the costs high.”

Council members were expected to address the mayor's veto at their regularly scheduled council meeting Tuesday night. Results were unavailable at press time.

Shawn Skager can be reached at sskager@courierherald.com.

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