Opinion

Enumclaw protected against sprawl | Rich Elfers

Think about what you feel as you drive east on state Route 410 and head up the hill above the fieldhouse and the golf course. Look off to your right (south) and you see a beautiful forest with thousands of trees. Hancock Timber owns that property.

In your mind, drive that same road a few years from now after Hancock Timber has sold that forest to a developer. Think of Bonney Lake with its strip malls and housing developments. That’s the potential if King County decides not to buy up the development rights for 43,000 acres from Hancock Timber for $11.1 million.

The County Council will vote on this issue April 29. Their decision will determine whether your view will look like it does now or whether it might become more urban sprawl.

The city of Enumclaw has recently annexed several pieces of property near Thunder Mountain Middle School and along 244th by the airport. We also have the area to the west of 244th (the Big West), which is part of our growth management plan expansion area. We have lots of room to grow. We don’t need to worry about destroying a pristine forest and recreation area east of town.

I love this town because it’s one of the few real cohesive communities in Puget Sound. We have our Fourth of July parade, the homecoming parade, the Loggers’ Legacy statue and great parks. We have a sense of pride in being a rural community. I want to preserve Enumclaw’s charm.

I am afraid that if the Hancock property east of town were allowed to develop into a residential community it would split the community in two and destroy that charm. We’d potentially have hundreds if not thousands of people who live on the plateau above us. We’d have no control over the growth because it’s outside the city limits.

Just look at Kent. When I was growing up in Renton in the 1950s and 1960s, I thought Kent was a beautiful small town in the valley. What happened is that development took off on the hill to the east. It grew until it’s population was greater than downtown. Now Kent has two parts of their city that are not well connected. That sense of community that Kent once had has been lost due to urban sprawl.

On a different but related issue, the concern expressed by a letter to the editor about King County buying up development rights to the Thomas farm just north and slightly east of Safeway is a valid point. King County did come in and buy up the development rights inside the Enumclaw city limits. They shouldn’t have done this. Now, they don’t want to give development rights back to the city because if they do, they fear it would open the gates to lawsuits over purchased development rights throughout the rest of the county. The county doesn’t want to go down that road. I can understand their concerns. It’s complicated.

In my view, the King County Council will be making a good decision if they vote to buy up development rights for the Hancock Timber forestland east of Enumclaw on April 29. It’s in the best interest of Enumclaw for them to do so.

It’s my guess that the whole issue about the Hancock Timber land has already been decided. Negotiations between King County and Hancock Timber have been going on for months. The Council already has a negotiated contract with Hancock Timber to sell development rights. The County Council is just waiting for the vote to seal the deal.

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