Bonney Lake to drop Orton Junction appeal in exchange for increased wastewater treatment plant capacity

The agreement came after a 30-minute executive session and was approved 5-2 with Deputy Mayor Dan Swatman and Councilmember Tom Watson voting against the measure, due to their opposition to dropping the appeal.

The Bonney Lake City Council Tuesday night approved an agreement with the city of Sumner that will provide for the expansion of the joint Wastewater Treatment Facility in exchange for Bonney Lake dropping its appeal of Sumner’s Orton Junction UGA expansion.

The agreement came after a 30-minute executive session and was approved 5-2 with Deputy Mayor Dan Swatman and Councilmember Tom Watson voting against the measure, due to their opposition to dropping the appeal.

The expansion will provide an additional 2.3 million gallons per day of treatment.

According to the agreement, the city of Bonney Lake will retain the rights to an additional 1.6 million gallons per day of treatment capacity and pay for a percentage of the project matching that amount.

The expansion project is expected to cost approximately $10 million.

According to Bonney Lake officials the new deal will provide their city with the treatment it needs through 2062. Bonney Lake will end up using approximately 70 percent of the plant’s total capacity.

The sticking point in the agreement for Swatman and Watson was the section that calls for Bonney Lake to drop their appeal of the controversial Orton Junction project, located at the base of Elhi Hill.

The project would convert more than 125 acres into a multi-purpose development consisting primarily of commercially developable land. It would also house Sumner’s planned YMCA facility.

Much of the land is presently designated agricultural resource land and an agreement was struck to zone the land commercial in exchange for each acre of farmland developed to be replaced by four acres of conservation easement properties.

The Pierce County council this past fall approved the Urban Growth Area expansion allowing Sumner to bring the land into the city, despite advice to the opposite from staff, which indicated that Sumner had plenty of commercial land available for development.

Bonney Lake immediately voted to appeal because they viewed the project as a threat to their own development plans.

Deputy Mayor Dan Swatman praised the sewer side of the agreement with Sumner, but voted against the plan because the city would have to drop their appeal.

“We’re basically, in my mind, saying we’re for sale,” Swatman said, calling Orton the “wrong place, wrong time.”

“It’s just the wrong development,” he said.

Swatman said the deal cut by the city makes them just as bad as the county council, which seemed to go around the Growth Management Act rules to approve the project.

“That’s not the way I want to do business,” he said.

Mayor Neil Johnson said he was not part of the negotiating team and could not say if Bonney Lake’s dropping their appeal was suggested by Sumner or Bonney Lake, but called it a “value trade” that was good for both cities, though he understands the concerns voiced by Swatman and Watson.

“Hopefully Orton Junction will not impact Bonney Lake,” he said.


Check back Wednesday for more on this developing story.

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