The Buckley Multipurpose Center, where the city council meets.

The Buckley Multipurpose Center, where the city council meets.

Buckley City Council narrowly approves Ellison Townhomes design

Housing development would put 40 units just south of the White River

Buckley’s city council Oct. 12 approved a raft of items paving the way for food trucks and federal grant funding, and approved a design review for a proposed housing development in the city, although the latter proved divisive among council members.

ELLISON TOWNHOMES DESIGN REVIEW NARROWLY PASSES

Council members spent about half an hour discussing the merits of a proposed townhome development just southwest of the White River.

The matter before the council — a design review for the development — passed on the thinnest of margins.

Council members Luke Wilbanks, Lyn Rose and Brandon Green voted in favor, while Amanda Burbank, Marvin Sundstrom and Connie Bender voted against it. Council member Ron Smith abstained from voting, and Mayor Pat Johnson broke the 3-3 tie with a yes vote, meaning the council has now approved the proposed exterior building design.

The Buckley Hearing Examiner on Oct. 20 approved the site plan, subject to certain conditions, according to acting City Planner Evan Lewis, and an appeal period will last for 21 days. The City also recently approved clearing and grading plans for the site, subject to conditions, and approval of complete civil construction plans is pending.

The developer has obtained stormwater and forest practices permit approvals from the state, and is talking with WSDOT about required improvements in the SR 410 right of way, Lewis said.

The proposal would build 10 residential buildings (for a total of 40 townhome units) in a currently wooded plot of land between the west boundary of Highway 410, the shores of the White River and Mountain Circle Drive.

The project sparked concerns for a few council members.

Burbank asked about the work that had already been done on an access road into the proposed development area and whether that work required a permit.

“It just makes it seem like, if the design review hasn’t even been reviewed yet the developer has already cleared access to it, it comes under the assumption that everything’s going to be approved and (the homes) are going to be built.”

Lewis clarified that the planning department recently became aware of the work going there, including truck staging and brush clearing, and determined it doesn’t require a permit – yet.

“They’re not clearing trees, they weren’t bringing in fill, the dump trucks were to bring in equipment, and they’re putting in a silt fence in advance of an LDA permit that they have not yet been granted.”

Bender shared concerns that the design review didn’t already have several layers of approval despite the City bringing it to the council. Lewis replied that many projects come to the council for design review prior to getting other elements of approval, and applicants do so at their own risk.

Bender and Lewis also went back-and-forth on a number of specifics of the design review. Sundstrom shared concern that the city’s review should have been better prepared, and that the city got the worse end of the land deal involved in the project.

FOOD TRUCK PILOT PROGRAM APPROVED

The council kicked off their agenda by unanimously approving the guidelines for a long-awaited food truck pilot program, which starts now.

Food trucks have been growing in popularity in the last few years in Buckley, but the zoning, right-of-way and event laws for the city were written back when they weren’t as popular, according to the city planning department’s report. City officials wanted more clear municipal standards for how they operate.

This program won’t establish those standards, but it will clarify the code already on the books and create a pilot program through which all food trucks will have to apply.

The program has a nine-month duration, with a review scheduled six months in. The city and city council will use that review to determine whether to let the program expire, extend it a little while longer, or ultimately build a permanent set of food truck rules from what they’ve learned.

“This is a pilot program,” Lewis said. “(It is) intended as a bridge to something more permanent.”

The pilot program aims to simplify the process by which food trucks apply to legally operate. Operators would only have to complete a single application for the program. They’d also need a Buckley business license endorsement, certification of insurance and would be subject to review by the city.

The city recommended adopting the guidelines in July, but the council had questions and concerns about the proposal that sent the city back to workshopping the program.

Feedback from the council led to one part of the proposal being cut: A proposed $100 fee for review of permit applications that operators would have had to pay will no longer be included.

ARPA FUNDING MAPPED OUT

The council also unanimously voted to approve the city’s plans to spend more than $1.4 million received in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) federal funding. $65.1 billion was approved in ARPA funds nationwide, with $1.4 billion of that money coming to Washington cities.

The money comes from the U.S. Treasury’s Coronavirus Recovery Fund, and must be spent to aid in public health efforts, economic impacts from the pandemic, aiding essential workers, keeping government services afloat or making needed investments in water, sewer or broadband infrastructure.

Buckley’s award of $1,413,309 will be split halfway between 2021 and 2022.

In broad strokes, the money will be split in the following avenues:

$600,000 toward government improvements, comprised of $50k for a part-time grant writer in 2022, $350,000 for a city water automated meter reading system, and $200,000 for the city public works facility.

$250,000 toward city safety, including COVID-19 supplies, body cameras, radio equipment, patrol vehicle replacement and safety enhancements on the Foothills trail.

$230,000 toward promoting the local economy, including small business, chamber of commerce and new businesses seed grants, parklets on Main Street and improved city signage

$190,000 for improving community livability, including utility assistance grants, upgrades to the youth center and community pavilion, support for the senior program and affordable senior housing, arts commission grants and improvements for weather sheltering at Buckley Hall.

That leaves another roughly $122,000 in the tank for future opportunities, according to the city.

The council will ultimately determine the process by which small business apply for the grants, mayor Pat Johnson said.

Council member Marvin Sundstrom cautioned that he’ll be closely eyeing exactly how those grants are given out.

“I’m taking a real interest in making sure we get a viable business community,” Sundstrom said. “(Rather than) ‘Oh yeah that’s a nice person, we’ll give them $5000 bucks.’”

UTILITY SHUTOFF MORATORIUM EXTENDED THROUGH END-OF-YEAR

The council’s third unanimous move was to extend the city’s utility shutoff / late fee prohibition extension through December 31. Governor Inslee’s proclamation extending that prohibition expired at the end of September.

The City has established $30,000 worth of ARPA funding to support residents who need more time, and the extension will allow city staff time to reach delinquent customers and help them figure out a payment plan to avoid late fees and shutoffs, according to the bill passed by council members.

The initial city-drafted resolution would have extended the prohibition through only Nov. 30, but council member Connie Bender called for an amendment bringing it through the end of the year.

The rest of the council approved her amendment unanimously, as well as the amended resolution. That means residents have until the end of the year before late fees, penalties and shutoffs for non-payment of water, sewer, stormwater and solid waste utilities kick in again.


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This artist’s sketch shows an overhead view of the proposed Ellison Townhomes.

This artist’s sketch shows an overhead view of the proposed Ellison Townhomes.

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