Zoning change considered by Enumclaw City Council

A pair of recommendations were favorably received – by the slimmest of margins – during the most recent meeting of the Enumclaw City Council.

By 3-2 votes, a shorthanded council first directed city administration to look at a zoning change that would benefit assisted living facilities; later, a trio of “yes” votes supported formation of a committee that would promote specific, targeted economic development.

The votes came during the March 23 session of the council, following recommendations made by the council’s Community/Economic Development Committee.

The talk of assisted living facilities was sparked by a proposal that has been floated to build a multi-million dollar facility on the city’s south side. The area is zoned R-4 which allows for high-density development, so assisted living qualifies to a certain extent.

The motion, offered by Darrel Dickson, stipulated that the R-4 density be bumped from 30 units per acre to 60. The motion also would allow buildings up to 55 feet, instead of the present 30 feet.

“Our community has a need for assisted living,” Dickson said. “This is a way to encourage that type of development.”

The motion passed with supporting votes from Dickson, Juanita Carstens and Chance LaFleur. Opposing the proposal were Hoke Overland and Jim Hogan.

Overland noted his support for the property being discussed, but wondered what the proposed legislation could have on other R-4 areas in the city.

A second recommendation from the CED Committee directed city administration to appoint a committee that would specifically look at promoting “food, beverage and agriculture” efforts within the city.

Overland, a CED Committee member, said things like restaurants and breweries “bring all kinds of tourist dollars” to a community. An ad hoc committee, he said, could go so far as recruiting businesses to town.

The proposal passed with support from Dickson, Carstens and Overland.

Also during the March 23 session, council members heard a report from Doug Osterman, King County’s watershed coordinator.

Enumclaw is among 17 jurisdictions that banded together 10 years ago to protect the Green/Duwamish/Central Puget Sound watershed. The political entities make up the regional Water Resource Inventory Area, one of 64 such areas in the state.

The agreement between governmental partners expires at the close of 2015 and Osterman expressed his hope that Enumclaw would sign on for another decade.

“We’ve done a lot of really good work in your neck of the woods,” Osterman told the Enumclaw council, noting there has been more than $137 million spent on capital improvements, all in the name of improving habitat for endangered fish, specifically Chinook salmon.

Project undertaken have included work on levees, primarily in Kent and Auburn; floodplain protection; restoration of waterways; and removal of invasive weeds and the replanting of native vegetation.

In the immediate area, Osterman said, has been the Big Spring Creek project. The city of Enumclaw was involved in the purchase of land, one step in a project aimed at restoring the creek to its historic channel and, in the process, improving drainage throughout the area.

Osterman admitted the project spurred protests by some property owners in the area.

In terms of regional importance, Osterman said, creation of a fish passage at Howard Hanson Dam – northeast of Enumclaw – is seen as integral to salmon protection. The only project more significant, Osterman said, was the removal of a dam on the Elwah River on the Olympic Peninsula.