After an executive session, the Sumner City Council voted last night to move forward with an appeal of the Growth Management Hearing Board (GMHB) decision to deny approval of the Orton Junction project.
The council voted 5-1 to green light the appeal, with councilmember Nancy Dumas voting no.
"We think that the GMHB had some areas that were just clearly wrong and some areas that could be solved by working together," said Dave Enslow, mayor of Sumner. "We think Orton Junction is a huge win for the community, combining a community center, farmers market, shopping area, retail and senior housing in a place that would look like Kent Station, made possible through private money and donations. It means a whole lot of new jobs and a YMCA."
City councilman Steve Allsop agrees.
"Orton Junction would bring a fabulous resource to Sumner in the form of the YMCA plus enhanced health care with MultiCare. It would create scores of jobs as well as expand Sumner's revenue base, and would result in preserving farmland now and forever that is currently at risk of development," said Allsop.
Dumas believes the Orton Junction project has lost it's original vision and that's why she voted no.
"The idea for Orton Junction originally came from the desire to create a place for our children to play, safely. Somehow it got morphed from a great idea into an 182-arce commercial development," said Dumas. "We have had so many 'no's' on this project... maybe it's time to take a step back and admit that what we've been doing hasn't been working. We were voted 'no' on this development because we have empty space in town already to do what we want to do."
City attorney Brett Vinson said the decision to appeal is based on the fact that the GMHB, , is supposed to give guidance on local growth – not directives or mandates.
The city also hopes to clarify de-designation criteria for agricultural land.
“The [GMHB] said they are not guidance, they are directives,” said Vinson regarding the GMHB decision. “We need clear direction.”
The city also plans to argue that because two amendments went before the county council – the UGA reduction on East Hill and the Orton Junction development – it weakened the plan, which should be looked at as a whole. The reason the two were seperated was primarily to facilitiate public comment on the two seperate issues, Vinson said.
While the GMHB denied the Orton Junction project, it approved the removal of East Hill from the city’s UGA.
“That’s another reason to appeal – to clarify that the reduction was a component of the application for growth and not independent and separate,” said Vinson. “If growth area [in Orton Junction] were to be denied, [East Hill] should remain in the city’s UGA so we can continue to properly plan for the future.”
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