News

Fennel Creek report to preserve corridor

By Dennis Box, The Courier-Herald

The Fennel Creek corridor continues to be a hot topic with appeals, reports and legal wrangling breaking out on all fronts.

The Fennel Creek Advisory Committee is close to completing a report evaluating the best method of protecting the environmentally sensitive area while advising on possible growth.

The Pierce County Council established the committee in February. County Councilman Shawn Bunney was instrumental in putting the seven members of the ad hoc group together.

Assisting the committee are County Council staff member Hugh Taylor, who acts as committee spokesman, and Kimberly Freeman, Pierce County planner.

A series of five meetings were originally planned for the committee beginning Feb. 26.

"We've had our initial scheduled meetings," Taylor said. "We've determined we need two or three more meeting in May. The group has made very good progress. At this point we are close to a master plan concept for the area."

The next step will be to put the plan into text and graphic form for final approval by the Committee before sending the complete report to the council.

"Essentially we are trying to preserve the corridor to the greatest possible extend possible," Taylor said. "The plan the committee is exploring is to protect some 80 percent of the acreage west of Church Lake Road and set it aside for open space. About 50 acres would be designated for residential development."

The Fennel Creek corridor, encompassing 333 acres, became a disputed issue when the Pierce County Council on Nov. 18 unanimously approved an amendment to the Comprehensive Growth Plan allowing Bonney Lake to add the land to its Urban Growth Area (UGA).

An appeal of the UGA amendment was filed in February by 1000 Friends of Washington, a growth management watchdog group, before the Central Puget Sound Growth Management Hearings Board.

The state's Department of Community, Trade and Economic Development joined 1000 Friends in the appeal with the consent of Gov. Gary Locke.

"The situation is much more complicated with the appeal being filed," Taylor said. "Hopefully, all the parties will be able to come to an agreement."

The County Council is in the process of laying out a strategy for the contested area that will satisfy the various concerns of each group.

"We are hoping that 1000 Friends and the state will recognize the great opportunity we have before us to preserve 242 acres for the region," Bunney said. "To proceed with the appeal may mean this opportunity is lost."

If the appeal before the Hearing Board moves forward a decision would be expected in August.

"The council is looking for a win-win solution and we think this plan unites the goals of the GMA (Growth Management Act)," Bunney said. "I'm looking forward to working with all parties to protect the area."

Dennis Box ca be reached at dbox@courierherald.com

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