Previously, I expressed reservations about the Planning Commission’s proposed gated development section of Enumclaw’s Comprehensive Plan (Courier-Herald, May 8). Essentially, my objections were that the enclosed housing tracts would thwart the stated goal of the Comprehensive Plan to enhance connections across the town and that a market-driven approach is not a plan, but the absence of one.
After reading the other comments on file with the city, I would like to make a further point. A letter supporting the gated developments argued that our neighbors are doing it and we shouldn’t be left behind. I would counter that we are a unique community. We should capitalize on our assets and not try to imitate neighbors whose circumstances are very different from ours. What we have is a distinct downtown surrounded by nearby neighborhoods. What we don’t have are proximity to major employment clusters and vast tracts of land within the city limits.
Compare our situation to two of our neighbors, Bonney Lake and Black Diamond. Bonney Lake is a large housing region with a highway through the center, but without a downtown. What they do have is ample acreage for mega-development. And commute times there are considerably shorter than from Enumclaw.
Black Diamond also has a shorter commute and land for mega-development. Like Enumclaw, Black Diamond had a central core and a sense of community. But as you have read here in the Courier-Herald, that community has been divided by the prospect of market-driven development.
Enumclaw should not try to replicate our neighbors. We cannot shorten the commute from here and the scale of our developments will certainly be dwarfed by what we will see in these other places. What we can do is take advantage of a unique asset – a downtown core connected to adjacent neighborhoods.
Why would people want to drive the extra distance and move to Enumclaw to live behind a gate when they could find the same thing much closer to work? But many would accept the longer commute and choose Enumclaw because it offered something very different, something they couldn’t find elsewhere.
A goal of the Comprehensive Plan is to build connections across Enumclaw neighborhoods and with the city center. Targeting high-end homebuyers and enclosing them in exclusive locations would run counter to the goal of connecting the community. Such a strategy would divide our unique town instead.
At a recent Planning Commission meeting, members discussed dropping the requirement for three-car garages. It is one thing for a home buyer to choose a three-car garage, but quite another for the city to mandate it. This language in the plan is, in fact, what caught my eye about the whole issue. However, removing that specific requirement does not solve the problem. It is gated developments themselves, not the restrictions within them, that would isolate segments of our town.
The Planning Commission has worked hard to create a forward-looking plan. Except for one paragraph, the 162-page document offers a coherent vision for the future of a special town. If you agree, please urge them to drop the gated development section the Comprehensive Plan. You can reach the Planning Commission members through CPasinetti@ci.enumclaw.wa.us. They will present their recommendations to the City Council members, who make the final decision, at CouncilMembers@ci.enumclaw.wa.us.