The Enumclaw Planning Commission will soon make a recommendation to the City Council that they adopt some proposed changes to the Enumclaw Comprehensive Plan. They have put a lot of thought and effort into this document, and are to be complimented for taking on the difficult task of integrating the wishes of a community having diverse viewpoints with Washington’s Growth Management Act.
I am particularly impressed with the plan for transportation, including sections that promote connectivity among neighborhoods and the downtown core with a network of trails and sidewalks. These infrastructure developments make the town inviting to residents, visitors, and new homeowners.
The one area of concern I have with the plan is with the gated developments. Here are the issues I see:
1. Gated developments appear to thwart the goal of connecting the community.
In fact, they isolate rather than connect. Insiders have their own neighborhoods, recreational facilities and parks. Outsiders must route themselves around these enclaves to travel about the city.
2. Required three-car garages and minimum house and lot sizes obviously target only high-income buyers and thwart the goal of a mixed community.
A number of enclosed, homogeneous complexes is not a mixed community.
3. Enumclaw is a unique town with a unique history. One of the city policies that has fostered interaction among diverse neighbors is the “No private streets” ordinance.
It was enacted for a purpose. Obviously, that policy will have to be abandoned if gated developments are permitted.
4. As part of the city’s plan for connectivity, it has a grid system for its streets. A patchwork of gated developments will wreak havoc with the grid.
5. A market-driven approach is the antithesis of a plan.
A plan is a method of creating a preferred future, based upon the desires of the townspeople. The market-driven approach takes Enumclaw in directions based on what happens to be selling at a particular time but leaves permanent structural changes.
The proposed Comprehensive Plan dealing with gated developments assumes that the kind of new housing the city promotes should be market driven. That high-end buyers (the stated target group of this section) willing to live this far from upper-level employment would be seeking a housing tract, gated or not, is a questionable assumption. But even if they would, that is not the point. We should be creating the kind of town we want, not one they want. We can choose to be an open or closed community, and others who would be happy with our plan would be welcome to move here.
I am very supportive of the proposed revisions to the Enumclaw Comprehensive Plan but would suggest deleting the section on gated communities. There might be others who agree. Nearly all of the comments to the Planning Commission so far have been from real estate salespeople and out-of-town developers, who are supportive. Unfortunately, most of our citizens are unaware of this significant policy change and how it will alter the community. If you think closed developments, with a requirement for three-car garages, large houses and prescribed landscaping, are not what we want the future of Enumclaw to look like, you might want to contact the members of the City Council, who have the final word. To email all Council members at once, use the address: CouncilMembers@ci.enumclaw.wa.us