City council comes to compromise on Eastown sewers

The Bonney Lake City Council appears to have reached a consensus that will bring sewers to the Eastown section of the city.

The council next month is expected to pass a trio of ordinances that should lead to an agreement for the city to partner with landowners to develop a “backbone” sewer system, as well as change the rules regarding septic systems in the region, following a discussion of the matters during the Nov. 21 workshop meeting.

The decision comes two months after the council voted down a utility latecomers agreement with Eastown landowners, who formed a corporation in hopes of partnering with the city to put pipes in the ground, allowing them a better chance to develop or sell their property.

The new agreement is one worked out by Deputy Mayor Dan Swatman, who supported the ULA and Councilman Randy McKibbin, who did not.

Swatman called the package a “three-legged stool” and a “compromise” that recognizes the city’s role infrastructure improvements, while still placing the majority of the cost on developers.

“We understand the city has a part to play,” Swatman said. “We’re trying to go from bare ground up to somebody who’s actually going to build something.”

The first ordinance in the package would revive the ULA, presumably with the LLC form,ed by the Eastown landowners, who Swatman said have indicated they are still interested. The new agreement, however, will be for a $2 million “backbone” system instead of the $4 million full system originally discussed.

The landowner contribution will be 5 percent, as per city law.

The use of a ULA should allow both the city and landowners to recoup their investment as developers build and hook in to the system over the next 20 years.

However, the resolution of the council states a partners “desired, but not required,” indicating the city plans to go ahead with or without the LLC.

The other major part of the Eastown plan is a resolution that would allow the use of septic systems in Eastown, presently illegal under the city code.

Right now, any change of use in Eastown requires that the building be hooked to the city’s sewer system, which is a problem for areas located at the far end of Eastown, well away from any connection to the sewers and therefore cost prohibitive.

The amendment would allow commercial buildings changing use to continue using the existing septic system, provided the change does not exceed the present system’s capacity.

In addition to the changes, the city of Bonney Lake will also create a $2 million fund to be used for additional infrastructure improvements as businesses begin to develop, primarily through the use of developer agreements, which come back for council approval.

“Using developers agreements seems to be the answer,” McKibbin said.

Money for the fund could come from capital investment money originally designated for a new public works facility that is being reconsidered and altered.

Councilmembers were excited about the proposals, but some were concerned about the additional $2 million fund. Councilman Mark Hamilton said any non-utility related improvements, such as roads, could not come from utility money and would have to come from the city’s shrinking general fund.

“Where does that money come from?” he asked. “$2 million on plumbing is easy; we have that.”

Swatman said the $2 million investment fund would be “nebulous” and that if them money comes primarily from utilities, the city could work with builders through a developer agreement to trade out additional savings in water or sewer costs so developer money could be shifted to other costs.

“There’s a lot of things we can do with a developer’s agreement,” he said.

Councilwoman Katrina Minton Davis, who opposed the larger ULA earlier this year, called the new package a “great solution” and would support it because the use of developers agreements allows more flexibility on the city’s part and places more of the cost on developers.

The issue was moved forward to the Dec. 11 full council meeting and it is expected to pass at that time.