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Possible zoning changes brings out public criticism and concern

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By Dennis Box

The Courier-Herald

A series of possible zoning changes affecting properties around Bonney Lake has been met with a flurry of criticism from residents.

At both the Jan. 5 Planning Commission meeting and the Jan. 11 City Council meeting, citizens voiced their concern about property being "downzoned" by the changes.

At the center of the controversy is area 41, about 10 acres of property which is zoned commercial and located near South Prairie Road East.

The property is surrounded by residential developments including Brookwater and Brookside.

It also sits near the busiest intersection in Bonney Lake - South Prairie Road East and state Route 410 - making it a prime area for commercial development.

The problem is the Central Puget Sound Growth Management Hearings Board has ordered that Bonney Lake must bring its future land use map (FLUM) into compliance with the Growth Management Act including urban densities and zoning consistency.

The city's Planning Department found 65 inconsistently zoned parcels, including area 41, which were brought for consideration before the Planning Commission by Planning Manager Steve Ladd.

The commission was tasked to go over the changes with city staff and make a recommendation to the City Council.

"We had zoning available that didn't meet the density defined by the hearing board," Deputy Mayor Dan Swatman said. "The hearing board says when you build something if you are going to be a city you have to act like a city and build to urban densities. The Planning Commission took a holistic view trying to make the rezones make sense."

If area 41 is rezoned R-2, medium-density residential, many of the property owners feel they will unfairly lose considerable property value.

Louis and Carol Archuleta have lived in a home with their two daughters on three-quarters of an acre in area 41.

According to Louis, the city came to him and the other seven property owners offering to rezone the 10 acres from residential to commercial.

Archuleta stated Home Depot came to the eight property owners late last year and offered to buy the land for nearly $13 per square foot.

The family moved to another home in anticipation of the Home Depot purchase.

The Archuletas would have received $420,000 for their parcel. The deal fell through, but the Archuletas stated much of their financial future is based on this property remaining commercial.

"This means college to my kids and a little retirement for me," Archuleta said. "We are going to fight this rezone. It isn't fair."

The rezone order from the hearing board came out of an appeal filed in 2003 by Dan and Randy Jensen.

The Jensens disagreed with the city's rezone of their 27-acre property and appealed.

While the hearing board upheld the city's decision in the Jensen case, the appeal allowed the board to look over Bonney Lake's comprehensive growth plan.

The hearing board ordered the city to rewrite zoning code removing R-1A, very low residential density or 2 units per acre, keeping all residential zoning to at least four unit per acre.

"We are crafting language to help protect trees and provide an open look," Swatman said. "We have to at least meet the four units per acre."

The hearings board has ordered the city to be in compliance with the Growth Management Act by June 20.

The Planning Commission has not yet finalized its zoning recommendations for the City Council.

Dennis Box can be reached at dbox@courierherald.com.

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