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Fennel Creek returns for planning review

Dennis Box

The Courier-Herald

The Pierce County Council voted unanimously June 8 to delete the five urban growth amendments it approved in 2003 that added 496 acres to the city of Bonney Lake.

The council faced an appeal of the amendments filed by 1000 Friends of Washington, an environmental and urban growth watchdog group, and the state's Department of Community, Trade and Economic Development with the authorization of Gov. Gary Locke.

The appeal was scheduled to go before the Central Puget Sound Hearings Board this month.

One of the amendments, U-8, will be reconsidered by the County Council after it is reviewed by the county's Planning Commission. U-8 would add 333 acres of the Fennel Creek corridor back into Bonney Lake's urban growth area (UGA).

"We need to go back and do a more definitive job of land use based on new case law coming from the hearings board," County Councilman Shawn Bunney said. "I am still committed to doing the right thing to protect this land."

The Fennel Creek Corridor Advisory Committee, an ad hoc group appointed by Bunney at the recommendation of the County Council, is in the final stages of developing a master plan for the corridor. The master plan will be used by the Planning Department, the Planning Commission and the County Council as an advisory document suggesting standards for land use and protection of environmentally sensitive areas.

"The Planning Department and the Planning Commission will hold public hearings on the Fennel Creek corridor," said Hugh Taylor, County Council staff member. "The issue with Fennel Creek is unique. This area is not needed for expansion of Bonney Lake and is not appropriate for a typical urban development. Rolling the amendment back into Bonney Lake's UGA is to protect the environment of Fennel Creek."

The committee met June 10 to go over the details of the master plan and plans to meet at least one more time to work out the details.

The report outlines two basic land use concepts.

The first alternative allows for varying degrees of development options while protecting about 200 acres as environmentally sensitive wetland. The options in this alternative would allow from 29 to 255 homes in a pocket area of 51 acres, while protecting the remainder of the land as open space.

The second alternative would protect all 245 acres of the undeveloped portion of the corridor as open space, allowing no further development. The entire corridor would be purchased by Bonney Lake or both the city and Pierce County.

This option would require a hefty public land purchase by the city, but could add a large central park with trails and pristine open space.

The advisory committee is set to present the final draft of their master plan report to the County Council in the next two to four weeks.

"What the committee has done is take a good look at the facts and let the land speak for itself," Bunney said. "The concern raised by citizens with me is to make sure any agreement will be honored by the future county councils and Bonney Lake city councils."

Dennis Box can be reached at dlbox@courierherald.com

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