Council votes to acquire property for sewer line

The Bonney Lake City Council on Nov. 13 authorized the acquisition through either purchase or condemnation of part a piece of land in Eastown to allow  for neighbors to install sewer lines through the property.

The parcel is located 21704 state Route 410 E., located between the Mazatlan and the former location of the restaurant, where the Andre’s presently sits, though the part that will be acquired or condemned is a 20-foot swath at the back end of the property.

The decision comes after a request from Kelly Kahne of Enumclaw, who owns owns two parcels of land on which he is planning to develop multi-family housing units.

To develop his land, Kahne must, by city law, connect to the sewer system, which only extends to 214th Avenue East. Kahne said he has been working with the property owners, listed on Pierce County Assessor’s website as James and Olivia Shepard of Surprise, Ariz., for six years to try and reach an agreement that would allow him access so he could make the sewer improvements, including pipes and a lift station.

But according to Kahne, negotiations with the Shepards and co-owners the Morris family, always seem to fall apart just as it seems an agreement has been reached.

“Six years I’ve been working with the Morris family and I’ve gotten nowhere,” Kahne told the council.

Dave Babcock of Eatonville, who also owns property in Eastown and has been working with the Morris family on the project also told the council that negotiations have been difficult. Babcock said the parties seemed to reach an agreement about 18 months ago. He said they had reached a verbal agreement, but when he had a contract drawn up and delivered, there was no further contact from the Morris or Shepard families.

Babcock said he needs a sewer line to allow a change-of-use at the restaurant in order to develop his land into something else. Babcock said he lost a contract with a local retailer due to the lack of sewers or an agreement on getting the pipes to the his property.

Following the most recent failure to reach a deal with the owners, Kahne came to the city, asking them on May 9 to consider condemning the property.

Ed Morris, a representative for the families was also on hand during the discussion and told the council he was “socked” to receive notice that the city was considering condemnation.

“We object to the ordinance and request you not approve it,” he told the council, adding that he still hopes to develop his land himself when the economy improves.

“If the city condemns this easement we will lose the ability to develop the back of our property in the future,” he said, adding that this was “not a legitimate use of your powers.”

But councilmembers disagreed, calling the the project important to bringing sewers to Eastown. The ordinance itself also reads “acquisition of a sewer easment from Shepard would help accomplish the City’s goal of extending sewer infrastructure into Eastown by enabling one property owner to contribute infrastructure to the system.”

Councilmembers also reiterated that the ordinance does not mean condemnation is unavoidable, but that it does make the easement a foregone conclusion, allowing the parties to negotiate price or to let it go a court to decide.

“This is legal structure the parties can work within,” Deputy Mayor Dan Swatman explained.

After a brief discussion, the ordinance passed 6-0 (councilman Randy McKibbin was excused for the meeting).