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Growth Management Board Rejects Sumner's Orton Junction Project, City Plans to Appeal

The Growth Management Hearings Board voted to not approve Sumner's Orton Junction project, citing concern for agricultural resource land. Sumner has said it will appeal the decision.

The Washington State Growth Management Hearings Board voted against Sumner's Orton Junction project on July 9, citing concern over the loss of the area's agricultural resource land.

If upheld, the decision could halt plans for Sumner's extensive mixed-use development, which would add an additional 182 acres to the city's Urban Growth Area (UGA) that would include a YMCA, housing and shopping in the area generally south of SR 410, bordered on the east by Elhi Hill.

The Sumner City Council and Pierce County Council , after much debate and testimony from the community. was filed against the project by Futurewise and Friends of Pierce County. Bonney Lake also appealed the project in March after an agreement with Sumner for more sewer capacity.

Pierce County Executive Pat McCarthy and District 1 representative Dan Roach issued the following joint statement on the GMHB decision:

"We are disappointed in the board's decision. At the county's request, Forterra (formerly Cascade Land Conservancy) helped craft an agreement that represents a model solution to the conflict between growth and preservation. It would protect hundreds of acres of fertile farmland by creating a 'green wall' to curb further growth in the valley, while also providing jobs and services. We will finish a thorough analysis of the 137-page decision before deciding our next step."

Sumner leaders believe the GMHB "has made a mistake," according to a city press release. The city plans to appeal the decision.

“We will appeal this decision because we believe it is fully consistent with the goals and requirements of the Growth Management Act,” said Community Development Director Paul Rogerson. “Orton Junction reduces Sumner’s future size by 100 acres, directly combatting sprawl; it permanently protects over 500 acres of farmland and open space; it puts complete, compact and connected development next to existing freeway interchanges where urban services are readily available; and it creates thousands of much-needed jobs.” 

Within Orton Junction's Seven Principles Agreement, the development would permanently protect over 500 acres of farmland and open space, which planners argue benefits the preservation of farmland far more than what would be lost.

“This decision is attempting to jeopardize the best farmland protection package that Pierce County had ever seen,” said Sumner Mayor Dave Enslow. “Orton Junction would use private dollars, not taxes, to permanently protect over 500 acres of farmland in our valley. Instead, this decision opens that land back up to the possibility of being developed into housing. It just doesn’t make much sense.”

The city of Sumner has raised over $7 million for the Orton Junction YMCA and six acres of land has been donated for the project. BCRA Architects has already been hired to complete the design of the proposed 50,000 to 70,000 square foot facility.

"We remain committed to the Orton Junction project and bringing a Y to Sumner," said Michelle LaRue, communications spokeswoman for the YMCA of Pierce and Kitsap Counties.

LaRue said that the YMCA fully supports Sumner's appeal of the GMHB decision.

"We believe the City of Sumner Council and Pierce County Council were right in voting in favor of this project," said Bob Ecklund, YMCA president and CEO. "We will continue to work with the City of Sumner as they navigate the appeal process."

The proposed YMCA would include an art center, swimming pool, teen late night program and Friends and Servants, a program that mentors troubled youth by helping them learn farming practices.

“People need jobs now and healthy recreation right here in Pierce County,” said Enslow. “Orton Junction would use this area to grow not only produce but also strong, multi-generational families. We believe our children are worth it.” 

County Councilman Roach agrees.

"This development agreement protects 500 acres of farmland, creates jobs and serves the needs of the community with the YMCA and other amenities. It is right next to a major state highway," said Roach. "All of these factors point to a reasonable, responsible approach to development in Pierce County. If this doesn’t make sense, I don’t know what does."

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Click "Keep Me Posted" for the latest developments on this story. We have requested documents from the GMHB and will share them as soon as they are available.

Lauren Padgett (Editor) July 10, 2012 at 11:26 PM
We've added the final documents from the GMHB to this article, for anyone interested in reading!
Ken Nicholas July 11, 2012 at 04:26 AM
This is very good news for the environment of the Sumner/Puyallup valley
Kathleen July 11, 2012 at 07:34 AM
This is very good new for Sumner citizens. Millions of their tax dollars have been spent unwisely or pledged to this Mike Corliss development. Now maybe money can be saved for the citizens real needs and to lower their taxes instead.
Hellen July 11, 2012 at 11:48 AM
I agree.  Sumner is a wonderful little city and shouldn't loose its agricultural roots. The Mayor and the Sumner City Council should let Orton Junction go and find another location for the YMCA.
Ken Nicholas July 11, 2012 at 02:45 PM
What is unclear is where this "over 500 acres of farmland and open space" is. Where is it? Are we trading super fine highly productive valley soil for moraine that is fit only for "open space?" This must be clarified. We must only trade valley soil for valley soil.
Lauren Padgett (Editor) July 11, 2012 at 04:02 PM
Hey Ken, Under the Seven Principals agreement drafted by Sumner and Forterra, for every acre of Orton Junction development, four would be preserved, which would count up to 500 acres of resource land that would be permanently protected. Those 500 acres would defintiely be in Pierce County and focused on the Puyallup Valley, but not all acres might be in the valley...
Lauren Padgett (Editor) July 11, 2012 at 04:11 PM
I asked Carmen Palmer, spokeswoman for Sumner, your question, and this was her response: "The 7 principles agreement calls for the 500 acres to be sought first in the valley, then in other neighboring areas in Pierce County and then farther across Pierce County. The reason for that is that private property still applies. Farmers may not want to sell their rights as much as others may want them sold. So, the decision is still ultimately up to the individual farm owners. That’s why the agreement stresses that the developers try to get as much as they can in the valley but does allow them to work out from there. The one thing there’s no wiggle room on is the amount of acres that ultimately must be protected."
Justin Evans July 11, 2012 at 04:43 PM
We need jobs! That 500 acres can be farmed by less than 10 people. A movie theater, YMCA, restaurants and retail shopping can help bring needed jobs into this town and revitalize what will eventually dry up with the Antique Shops in downtown. We need to start planning for our future and continued growth. I think it's a great idea that will foster many more opportunities for the current youth to start their working lives and return retail shopping and sit down dining back to Sumner / Bonney Lake. I'm hopeful that it will also invite more new residents who will also spend their earnings locally. It's a win win for both the city for new revenues and the residents with job expansion.
Dennis Canty July 11, 2012 at 05:18 PM
Characterizing this as a "farmland versus jobs and prosperity" issue is missing the boat. Farming has been one of the foremost industries in Pierce County since the early 1900's and the food provided by county farmers supports thousands of jobs in the farming, food service, restaurant, and grocery industries. Sacrificing the county's dependable, multi-generational agricultural industry for another shopping mall makes no sense.
Patty Denny July 11, 2012 at 06:08 PM
I feel this is a bad decision on the part of Seattle firm denying the people in the Valley an opportunity to experience community. From where I live I would be able to enjoy taking my Grandkids to the YMCA(or the little retail shops that will be built), by bicycle or by walking. Instead of driving up to South Hill or to Bonney Lake. Years ago when my children were in elementary the County sent out a questionaire about what we as citizens would like to see transpire in our area. The first thing I put down is an opportunity to have a place where our kids could go to and be safe. The time has come and the YMCA has stepped up to the plate to give the kids in our Valley area a place to go to. The Y offers so many programs that benefit infants all the way up to 100. Programs that will help pay for activities that some people can not afford. I hope the City of Sumner pursues this venture. Correct me if I am wrong, but the farmland you are talking about has been used to grow tulips/daffodils. It has not been used to produce food for our community, right?
D.j. Kesler July 11, 2012 at 06:31 PM
I agree with all points of this comment
Kathleen July 11, 2012 at 07:34 PM
Patty, to my understanding the farmland is dairy fields but I could be wrong. The extra spwarl this deveolpment would have brought to our area does not serve the majority of the Sumner comuunity, it is meant to drawn from all outlying areas, such as Bonney Lake and Puyallup. It is just another commercial development in a sea of commercial development. This type of development has destroyed my community and my ability to run a small hobby farm of raising Tennessee Walkers. I lived on 214th sthen since 1970...quiet, neighborly, but we did have to drive for services. When traffic became 60 mph in front of my house and others would cut my timber and take down my fence lines, I gave up the small income producing farm and moved closer to Sumner. The absolutely ludacris amount of retail shopping (and jobs) I have seen sprout up since is more in 2 decades than in the prior 120 years. And all those "jobs" have not improved our local economy or community. What has been lost is FARMLAND. The whole purpose of the GMA...Find another place for your YMCA....Leave the farmland alone to make it's own profit and to contribute to our lives...we need it...really.
Katharine Rode July 12, 2012 at 06:47 AM
This ruling from the GMHB proves that truth will prevail. That land is indeed valuable as it stands. Why are we wasting any more time on trying to cover up this prime Ag? According to this very article..."The city of Sumner has raised over $7 million for the Orton Junction YMCA and six acres of land has been donated for the project..." If having quality recreation for our children is still the top priority, why doesn't the city of Sumner read the writing on the wall and take that $7 million and purchase the Northstar property. It is more than what the property owner is asking for and the YMCA would have almost 19 acres instead of the Corliss 6. Not to mention that extremely expensive new well that the city has pumped so much money into on that very site, could sevice the YMCA, feet away. I would think that it would be easier than getting water to the YMCA if it had been able to be built way out there. They do use a lot of water, don't they, the YMCA I mean. This is not an either or issue. Jobs versus Farmland. Sumner can have their "rhubarb pie" and eat it too, but not if there isn't any land to grow it on.
Kandi Holgren July 12, 2012 at 02:55 PM
Justin, What if all the items in the Orton Junction could be built in other areas around town? Filling in the vacant buildings and land we already have? Wouldn't that be a beautiful thing? All the jobs, all the recreation, all the farm land, none of the sprawl. Besides, where in the plan does it gaurentee how many jobs will be created? How many would be above minimum wage? The reason this plan was rejected is because Sumner can not prove that they need the land when they have so much of it vacant already. That is why those protections were written in the first place. Why the push by our officials? Because Mike Corrliss bought a huge chunk of land that wasn't zoned (or priced) to make him a bunch of money. He knew full well if he just waited it out, got our officials in line, then eventually he would get what he wanted. Now why would he believe that? Because that is the way it has worked in this community for as far back as I can remember. If you have enough money, you can buy what you want and call it good for the community.
Justin Evans July 12, 2012 at 03:43 PM
Kandi, The downtown area doesn't have the capacity or the demographics to pull off what I would consider to be similar to Kent Station. Every third building in Downtown is vacant and the rent being charged there is outrageous (i used to co-own a business on Main Street) and the space isn't large enough to support the restaurant and retail space needed to facilitate what is being proposed. I can't tell you how many jobs will be above minimum wage, but the Dairy Freeze and McDonald's can't support the entire upper class employment of Sumner High. I can tell you that the owners of the new retail spaces will be putting millions of dollars into this and surrounding communities during build out. McLendon's will see sales jump easily 20-30%, plus the local businesses that will support the workers during the build out will go up too. Winco, the Shell Station, all the fast food restaurants, Fred Meyers, they will all get a boom during the construction phases which will last at least a year or two for completion. Sales go up and so does the coffers of the city to cover more police, fire fighters, road repairs and other municipal upkeep. All boats will rise with this tide. It will also provide community services with the YMCA that will be vital to the continued growth we're going to need to sustain an already aging populous. We need to bring back youthfulness to this area to ensure prosperity for the next generation to come.
Lauren Padgett (Editor) July 12, 2012 at 04:04 PM
Justin, I really like your phrase here, "All boats will rise with this tide." I think that OJ would bring a new economic reality to Sumner... But if this decision sticks, maybe the council should consider doing something about Main Street's rent prices and focus on filling those empty storefronts with sustainable businesses. I would love to see the next generation of entrepreneurs succeed in Sumner.
Justin Evans July 12, 2012 at 07:01 PM
I can't agree more with you Lauren. I'd love to see the next generation flourish and plant their roots right here in Sumner / Bonney Lake and raise a family and keep the community spirit growing, but with a little modernization. It kills me that I have to go to Puyallup to enjoy a non-fast food hamburger or a steak at a sit down restaurant that is accessible to families with kids. I'm hopeful that this will soon change and I can spend more of my earnings locally.
Kandi Holgren July 12, 2012 at 09:37 PM
I have lived in Sumner for 34 years. I watched all of the beautiful farm land to the north covered and warehouses built. Why? Because of the promise of jobs. Sadly, there isn't any way to ensure that the businesses that are built here in Sumner will hire Sumner people... at minimum wage or any other wage. How many people who work at Fred Meyer (one of our largest employeers) live here? I agree that the rent for space in the old part of downtown are crazy. Have you stopped to ask yourself who owns all those buildings? There is plenty of room on the East side of Main Street for retail/mixed use buildings. Old Thriftway and QFC lots are empty and both are eyesores! Over on Traffic Ave... lots of space and space that would be well used in preserving our future safety and water supply (see Ms Rodes comment below). We cant have a Kent Station type developement even on the OJ property. Not going to happen. The Y can go many places, including the north end of town on the farmland we have already buried... although I am still STRONGLY against using our tax dollars for a private francise that only benefits those who can afford to use it. (yes folks... sad to say it is a reality that some people can not afford even the "reduced" fees... there are NO free rides for people who can not afford it, but they still pay taxes!) although the benefit of this private francise is really a seperate issue. Sumner has land. They don't need more.
Justin Evans July 13, 2012 at 02:01 PM
Kandi, You make some great points. The old QFC is an eye sore, no doubt about that! The problem with using any of the downtown buildings and the North end of Traffic Ave is location and demographics. Downtown is already a parking nightmare, even with all the empty store fronts and North Traffic Ave is not conducive to ease of convenience. The road is literally called Traffic Ave. It's quite cumbersome to get off of Traffic Ave exit and mosey through the lights to get to your destination. With the OJ, you can pop right on and right off and will also bring in additional revenues by drawing in the additional populous from Bonney Lake's Sky Island community and all others driving on 410. If you can see it, you will stop by. As for the demographic this will be targeting, you can't succeed by trying to merge the old with the new. Zumiez and PacSun retail stores will not work next to BerryLand & the Picket Fence. With two anchors like a State of the Art Movie Theater (and this area needs one badly!) and the YMCA, you can be assured 8-10 retail spots and 2-3 restaurants in the future. All those combined will directly support upwards of 150+ jobs and indirectly, about the same. You can't guarantee the jobs will all be Sumner residence, but in this fledgling economy, jobs are jobs and the sales, property & B & O taxes the city will bring in will help the residents tremendously. In real estate there's only one rule, Location, Location, Location and the OJ is that location
Lindsey July 15, 2012 at 04:58 PM
Sumner is crazy if they let this rich farm land go to retail development. Haven't they read that most of the Country's farmland is in a drought ? We need MORE farmland not more stores  selling products made in China.
Kathleen July 20, 2012 at 09:13 PM
The whole point of "Growth Management" Plan is to manage growth and sprawl. Sumner wants to shred that plan to add development and sprawl. I hope the GMHB stays firm on what they were set in place to do. Or what was the point of drafting the Growth Management Plan to begin with?.

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