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Fennel Creek Committee to get a new lease on life

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By Dennis Box

The Courier-Herald

The Fennel Creek Advisory Committee has returned to the table after a four-month hiatus.

The committee worked from March to July last year on a master plan for 333 acres of land, known as the U-8, located on Sumner-Buckley Highway across from the Target store.

It is classified as an environmentally-sensitive area because Fennel Creek flows along its western border.

The members reached an impasse on the final details of the plan when Scott Corliss, who owns the majority of the property along with his father Harry and Michael Quigg, rejected a cluster development and a stewardship grant proposal.

Development would have been centered on about 55 acres, leaving the rest of the land untouched except for nature trails.

Corliss requested that part of the land be used for ball fields and other types of recreation. He also rejected the proposal him to contribute to a $2 million stewardship restoration grant.

County Council staff member Hugh Taylor said the ad hoc committee was to end Dec. 31, but after a meeting in mid-December members requested an extension to continue their work.

"I'm pretty confident there is still support on the council," Taylor said. "The group will be asked to look at the long-term future. What the area should look like in the future. The issues surrounding this land won't go away. It is still a vital interest to the community."

Pierce County Planning Manager Chip Vincent, who has worked closely with the committee, said the members can resolve the issues and settle on an acceptable plan.

"The committee has done a lot of work, but they ran out of time," Vincent said. "I'd love to see a proposal that allows development and protects the natural environment at the same time. For this to be resolved everybody is going to have to be open to negotiation."

Vincent noted eventually the area would likely be moved into Bonney Lake's urban growth area, or UGA, and annexed into the city.

"From the county's perspective, we are unwilling to move it into Bonney Lake's UGA until we know exactly what will happen with the land," Vincent said. "There are very unique opportunities for the area."

Taylor stated Resolution 2005-4 is on the Community Development Committee Feb. 7 agenda. If approved, the resolution should move before the council within about three weeks. The resolution will give the committee another six months of life.

Committee member Carl Halsan, who represents the Corliss interest, said ball fields were still a priority.

"I think it can be worked out," Halsan said. "But Scott hasn't changed his mind. That's where the work comes in, negotiating Scott's interest along with the sensitive part of the property. This is a good working group with smart people. We all pushed away from the table and took a breath. Now we are back at it again."

Dennis Box can be reached at dbox@courierherald.com.

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