Proper planning provides desirable downtown | Carter’s Community

As I come up Elhi Hill I marvel at the sight of Mount Rainier, looming large. That view is the brand of Bonney Lake. I live just behind the new Franciscan Medical Pavilion, and I am thankful that the height of the new Franciscan Medical Pavilion does not block that view. That is because of planning.

As I come up Elhi Hill I marvel at the sight of Mount Rainier, looming large. That view is the brand of Bonney Lake. I live just behind the new Franciscan Medical Pavilion, and I am thankful that the height of the new Franciscan Medical Pavilion does not block that view. That is because of planning.

I am also thankful for the new jobs created by that building and the business within it.  According to recent census information, 15.5 percent of Bonney Lake age 16 or older are employed in the education, health and social services fields. Construction employs 11.9 percent. The 45,000 square-foot medical office building with parking for 200 houses physicians’ offices, an urgent-care medical clinic and other outpatient health-related services that provides jobs for plateau residents.  That is because of planning.

The facility, on 3.2 acres on what used to be South Holly Street was the location of a trailer court in the 1960s. There were many potential uses after the trailer court vacated.  When I moved here in the mid-1980s it was vacant. I remember at one time it was going to be an upscale restaurant that would allow you to dine while viewing Mount Rainier.  One developer wanted to put in apartments just before the market downturn.  But that busy corner in downtown now allows Plateau residents to enjoy convenient access to high-quality medical services, closer to their homes. That is because of planning.

And to accommodate the increased traffic at the intersection, there was widening of Sky Island Drive and SR 410, the addition of left turn lanes, new traffic lights, new sidewalks, retaining walls were added and landscaping.  Utilities were moved.  As a resident who drives through that intersection every single day, there is a huge improvement, especially with the frequency with which the traffic signals cycle.  That is because of planning.

I was at the last planning commission meeting where the periodic update of the city Comprehensive Plan (comp plan) was discussed.  The Growth Management Act (GMA) of 1995 requires cities, counties, state and federal governments to work together to plan for growth.  A regional approach is used; it is called the Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC). The last major update of Bonney Lake comp plan was 2006, with some revisions and additions since then.  And PSRC policy and the GMA have recently been updated.

Jason Sullivan, senior planner of the City of Bonney Lake provided a brief but thorough presentation of the need to update the comp plan on an ongoing basis.  There is a need to remove redundancies and internal inconsistencies.  He explained that grants and loans with a potential value of up to $30 million are contingent on the City being in compliance.

Sullivan listed items that need work and new items to be developed and added.  The presentation included a timeline and a list of stakeholders and public hearings built into the process to give anyone and everyone a chance to provide input.

Sullivan stressed that teaming with neighboring cities and overlapping agencies is what has to be done. It is required by RCW 36.70A.070-080. The sanctions for not playing together as a team? Loss of low interest loans.  Loss of grants.  Bluntly, in my words, not being awarded funding of public works projects.

Sullivan explained that the transportation element of the plan needs to be rewritten.  Why? The city currently has a “conditional certification” from PSRC which allows the city to be considered GMA compliant.  Conditional certification is used by PSRC if only a limited set of issues are identified during review and the city and PSRC agree to resolve the issue by a timeline.  This means providing regular updates to PSRC by the city to ensure progress and that the issues are resolved.

How did that happen? PSRC’s previous review of the city’s 2006 comp plan discovered it was consistent with the Puget Sound Regional Council policies of Visions 2020 (Vision 2020 was the predecessor to Vision 2040), but did not conform with one of the key requirements in the transportation planning provisions of the GMA.  What happened was future land use assumptions were inconsistent and used throughout the plan, including the transportation element, which resulted in an internal inconsistency in the plan preventing full certification.  This has also been discussed at a council meetings on more than one occasion.

Planning provides economic vitality, like the Franciscan provides services, jobs, permit and tax revenue for the city, improved the neighboring intersection and provided sidewalk connections and safe crossings at the intersection for non-motorized transportation.

The comp plan will have a new section called Active Living to encourage active and healthy living.  I imagine the Franciscan is a good example of that new element. I suppose that if the YMCA had been built at the WSU forest it would have brought economic vitality in the form of up to 125 new jobs, mostly for youth and young adults, provided a nurturing environment to swim, exercise, take classes on healthy lifestyles.  And of course the construction jobs, the revenues.  Arts, entertainment, recreation, accommodation and food services provide 6.7 percent of the jobs in Bonney Lake for workers over age 16.

Areas of the city were developed at different times.  The Downtown area was originally developed before Bonney Lake became a city February 28, 1949.  If you look at county records, you will see how crooked or non-existent streets are in McDonald Fruit Tracts, where I live. Property lines go to the center of the road. Rights of way are delineated in most yards by the ditch, a fence, or the unimproved part of the yard near the road.  There are no sidewalks in most parts of Downtown.  The city has come a long way since 1949 with prudent planning, making improvements step-by-step.

Last week there was a grocery ad for one of those cheese cakes with a slice of every flavor you can imagine: chocolate, strawberry, blueberry, plain, all arranged on a platter so that the dessert connoisseur could partake of the flavor they desired.  Now imagine, the Downtown plan with specific requirements.  Each piece of the cheese cake is a different part of the plan, can be moved around slice by slice, but when all together make an entire cake, like the different requirements of a sub-area plan.  Those apartments that were penciled in where the Franciscan Pavilion is now?  That project is now across SR 410 where they are logging and is known as Renwood.  So the pieces of the cheese cake have changed places, but are still part of the cake.

By the way.  Sullivan assured that the Active Living element is not a plan to force us to exercise.  There will be no tickets for failure to workout, no food police.  It will be up to each of us to make a personal choice to push back from the table and not eat too much cheese cake.


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Don C. Brunell is a business analyst, writer and columnist. He retired as president of the Association of Washington Business, the state’s oldest and largest business organization, and lives in Vancouver. He can be contacted at thebrunells@msn.com.
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