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."


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.

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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