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Growth amendment faces appeal by watchdog group

By Dennis Box, The Courier-Herald

The Comprehensive Growth Plan Amendment allowing Bonney Lake to add 496 acres that was approved by the Pierce County Council on Nov. 18 will be facing an appeal by the end of the month.

A growth management watchdog group, 1000 Friends, is planning to file the appeal with the Central Puget Sound Growth Management Hearings Board.

"We're still working out the details of the appeal," Tim Trohimovich, the planning director for 1000 Friends, said. "We will be filing the last week of January. We think there is a very high probability of winning. We won a similar case in Snohomish County."

The Pierce County Council voted unanimously to allow Bonney Lake to add the land to its Urban Growth Area, which will eventually allow the city to annex it.

According to Trohimovich, the appeal will be based on three basic arguments. "First, Bonney Lake already has a large enough area to accommodate all the jobs and housing they are planning. The Growth Management Act does not allow expansion by a city into rural areas without justification," Trohimovich said. "Second, the GMA does not allow expansion into environmentally sensitive areas and third, it doesn't allow expansion into agricultural land."

At the center of the argument are 333 acres of what 1000 Friends describes as farmland, wetland and in particular, a 1.6 mile section of Fennel Creek that flows through the land.

Pierce County Councilman Shawn Bunney was a key figure in the passage of the amendment and feels strongly it is the right move at the right time for both the county and city.

"Fennel Creek is really the area that is at issue," Bunney said. "It is an environmentally sensitive area, but if it's left in no man's land then it's not part of any community. I truly see this as an unique opportunity for a city that has grown rapidly to rekindle its core community and this is the best way to help protect Fennel Creek."

Bunney is in the process of setting up a Fennel Creek oversight committee. Allen Zulauf, chairman of the Puyallup River Watershed Council, Ryan Dicks, Pierce County director of the Cascade Land Conservancy and Realtor Jim Clifford have agreed to sit on the seven-member panel. Other members will include a representative from Bonney Lake government, a landowner representative, a Pierce County representative and a local resident.

Bunney will not sit on the committee, but will provide support.

"My strategy is to put together a group to look at long-term growth and use," Bunney said. "I want to see a plan developed that makes sense and takes care of the environment."

Bunney and Bonney Lake officials have taken considerable criticism for the action, but continue to defend it as best plan for all parties.

"We would not have done this if it wasn't right," Bunney said. "We are putting a tremendous amount of time and energy into assuring the proper stewardship of this land. I wish 1000 Friends would rethink this. Bringing this area into the city is the best way to protect it. If it is left rural it will be chopped into subdivisions."

Bonney Lake Deputy Mayor Dan Swatman noted, "Everyone is interested in protecting Fennel Creek. The difference of opinion is on who would do the best job."

Mayor Bob Young said that the land squares off the cities borders and added, "it's a matter of what we think is best for our city. We are lobbying for what we think is best. For the life of me, I don't know why anyone would think we want to do something to hurt Fennel Creek. That's a treasure to us."

Dennis Box can be reached at dbox@courierherald.com

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