A civics lesson in community development | Carter’s Community

What is the Community Development Committee (CDC)? It is a City Council subcommittee chaired by Councilman Randy McKibbin, and also comprised of Council members Jim Rackley and Katrina Minton-Davis. The committee has recently split in two. One meeting a month it talks about matters relating to building, zoning, signs, utilities and annexations. The other is the newly formed economic development part of the committee.

What is the Community Development Committee (CDC)?  It is a City Council subcommittee chaired by Councilman Randy McKibbin, and also comprised of Council members Jim Rackley and Katrina Minton-Davis.  The committee has recently split in two. One meeting a month it talks about matters relating to building, zoning, signs, utilities and annexations.  The other is the newly formed economic development part of the committee.  Now, according to BLMC 2.04.860 (c) they are also supposed to be discussing aesthetics, cultural and social development, and parks and recreation.  They are to coordinate with the Community Development Department, Planning Commission, Building Department, Parks Department and the Public works Department.

Let’s get back to that March 19 council workshop, starting at minute 25, for this civics lesson, where the full council discussed the proposed traffic signal at 204th and state Route 410.  Mayor Neil Johnson started the discussion stating he and Councilman McKibbin had attended a conference in Las Vegas on developer incentives.  The signal at 204th and SR 410 would be an incentive for development at the WSU Forest.  The floor was given to the CDC, who gave no presentation. Although 5 representatives from Quadrant were in attendance, they also did not provide a presentation.

Deputy Mayor Dan Swatman started off by asking the question: “Why are we using city money to undo the development agreement made in 2009?” He said it was disturbing to him.  He gave the example that in his opinion the sewer agreement between Sumner and Bonney Lake is a bad agreement, but he is not going back on it.

Swatman asked why Quadrant wants the light and then give them a 25 percent discount on putting it in?  It is not even an intersection; it is a three-legged entrance that solely accommodates the developer.  Why not use frontage roads, like were required in Eastown? There are plenty of places to connect with Fred Meyer, Albertson’s and Safeway.  There is a possible vital connection at 208th, just improve that intersection.  He said this is a one track proposal.

Swatman said there is no surety. WSDOT has not been supportive of a light there (and on April 4 WSDOT reiterated their stance has not changed).  Is the expected revenue to the city worth the traffic impact of putting another traffic light on SR 410 at 204th?

Community Development Director John Vodopich (who also attended the Las Vegas conference) said the packet explains the City will support changing WSDOT’s mind about the signal.  If the Development Agreement is amended, the city will give 25% credit on Traffic Impact Fees (TIF) as an incentive.

Councilman Donn Lewis said he looks this over and wonders why a right in/right out won’t work.  As an example, Costco on South Hill of Puyallup has enter only at the east end of the building and exit to the west end where there is a frontage road and signal.  If there is a firm commitment to develop in the future, then let’s talk about this.

The Mayor reminded those in attendance there is no firm commitment from any big box store.

Rackley responded to Swatman, saying the traffic signal will attract the size and quality of business.

Swatman responded with “I don’t know why you say that.  What about Costco on South Hill? They do okay.” He reminded them there is a four-way intersection in Eastown, signals and enough land to develop.

In my opinion, a deal is a deal.  It was made in 2009. It specifically excluded this traffic signal.   The real puzzlement is if there truly is no development planned, no firm commitment from any big box store, why change the development agreement?  From my perspective at the March 19 workshop, only the three CDC members were for the signal and amendment. Quadrant said on the record at a subsequent CDC meeting they plan to meet one-on-one with the non-CDC councilmembers. Not one of the CDC members when the Mayor gave them the floor gave any reasons why a signal should go there.  Not one explanation of the process or background.  Usually the pluses have to outweigh the minuses to get buy off.  No pluses were offered at all.

Quadrant is not going to sit on the 150 acres much longer with building starts up and housing inventories down.  That is Quadrant’s incentive: competition. Why waste city and Quadrant more money, especially when WSDOT is not in the loop?

I appreciate the four council members who are looking at the big picture, not just pro-development.  I prefer a livable city, one with vision.  Not development driven, seeking permit, impact fees, property tax revenue at the cost of traffic impacts and densities that effect all of as we travel through the city to get from home to work or school and back. But, the coming election can change that dynamic.

The civics lesson here: You should really attend council meetings and committee meetings not only to listen to discussion, but to watch the body language, see where people choose to sit at the round table discussion, pick up the eye rolling, snickers, under the breath comments.  At best, listen to the audio on the city website.  There you will hear comments like “I guess my Vegas experience (then voice trails off)” or “Very rarely do I drive from one end of the city to the opposite end. We stop places along the way and I assume most people do.  If you are driving through the city you don’t live here.”  Or “let’s just take this back to CDC.  We have to decide if traffic really will be better.  We have to consider the ripple effect.”  Or how about “you are not under the impression the light would be built and there would still be a forest?” Or this is a classic line from a December 11 meeting: “I guess you don’t need my vote.”

Should what happens in Vegas stay in Vegas? Don’t people drive through the city? Shouldn’t the CDC have been better prepared before this came to council workshop?  Shouldn’t there be firm, proposed development before an item such as this traffic signal is discussed?  Shouldn’t the “ripple effects” have been vetted at CDC before this came to council? The answer to all is: Yes.

The agendas, minutes, and audio are on the government page of the city website; you can get updates on Facebook, or sign up for emails.  Be informed.


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