Sumner withdraws land use appeal for Orton Junction

The city of Sumner withdrew its appeal regarding the area of land known as Orton Junction after Michael Corliss, the primary property owner, withdrew his appeal of the ruling from July 2012.

The city of Sumner withdrew its appeal regarding the area of land known as Orton Junction after Michael Corliss, the primary property owner, withdrew his appeal of the ruling from July 2012.

In 2010, Corliss brought the idea to the city of Sumner to build commercial, mixed use, pedestrian-oriented development in the area south of state Route 410.

Corliss also discussed donating an area of land to the YMCA of Pierce and Kitsap Counties for a new location, Sumner Community Development Director Paul Rogerson said in an email.

However, the land Corliss owned was not within Sumner’s city limits. The land was listed as rural.

In order to build urbanlevel development, the area of land would have to be annexed into the city. But only land within a city’s urban growth area can be annexed, so the first step was to get the rural area Corliss owned listed as urban, Rogerson said.

All decisions under the Growth Management Act urban growth area are decided by Pierce County after consulting with the city.

By January 2012, Sumner had prepared a detailed application to Pierce County requesting the land be placed under the city’s urban growth area.

Rogerson said the city’s application had to show a need for the new land while accommodating expected population and job growth as well as show the city’s urban growth area wouldn’t increase in size with the addition of the Orton Junction.

Sumner proposed to reassign another portion of its urban growth area to accommodate Orton Junction and prove that it wouldn’t increase the city’s overall urban growth, he said.

A number of objections were voiced during the hearing process, Rogerson said. The primary one, he said, was that some parties were against the idea of seeing farmland lost because a large area of the land was designated by the county as Agricultural Resource Lands (ARL).

The city’s responded to this concern by proposing that for each acre of farmland annexed and developed, four acres would be placed in permanent agricultural easements elsewhere in the county, Rogerson said.

Requested by Pierce County Executive Pat McCarthy, Forterra, a non-profit conservation and community building organization, worked with the city of Sumner, Pierce County and Corliss to create an innovative way to collaborate sustainability that would benefit all residents.

Forterra created the Seven Principles Agreement that included the proposal to set aside four acres of land for every one acre that would have been designated ARL with Orton Junction.

The seven principles will now be used as a model of how land can be developed while conserving farmland, said Jordan Rash, Forterra conservation director.

“Going forward (with other projects) we will try to use the seven principles,” Rash said.

In a press release, Forterra said he believes these principles are a bold approach toward a sustainable connection between agriculture and community and are a baseline for innovation in Pierce County.

The proposal was not seen as acceptable, Rogerson said. He added that an environmental group out of Seattle, Futurewise, didn’t approve of this compromise.

By late 2012, the County Planning Commission and County Council approved the application anyway.

Futurewise then appealed the decision to the Growth Management Hearings Board. Rogerson said technically the appeal was against the county because the County Council made the decision.

The appeal stated the city of Sumner hadn’t adequately shown the need for more employment lands.

The appeal was upheld. Corliss and the city of Sumner appealed the hearings board’s decision to the Superior Court.

Sumner Councilman Steve Allsop said he is troubled by Futurewise’s ideologies because they have nothing to do with the community.

Rogerson said Corliss no longer wanted the land to be brought into the city’s urban growth area.

The land will remain rural for the moment and Sumner currently has no plans in place regarding it, he added.

Rash believes Forterra will continue to be in talks with the city of Sumner if Corliss and the city decide to move forward again with the property.

“Any future plans for that land would be up to the property owners,” Sumner Mayor Dave Enslow said through his communications director Carmen Palmer. “They chose not to continue with this process, which left us no choice than to pull out as well. It’s a shame really, because now that also stops all the corresponding land preservation that was going to go with it. We were going to develop 100 acres and permanently preserve over 500 acres for farmland in the Valley. Now, all of it is open again to become large-acre housing lots that just add sprawl down our valley.”

In a press release, Corliss said he, “believes the Orton Junction property continues to be a strong candidate to meet some of (the agricultural infrastructure needs in the Puyallup River Valley), even if it can’t move forward in the immediate future.”

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