Maple Valley city manager Anthony Hemstad hosted a breakfast meeting last Wednesday at Lake Wilderness Grill to hear from community members about about issues the city is facing.
Topics ranged from sign code enforcement to eminent domain to the donut hole to the Four Corners sub-area plan to the recent recognition of Tahoma High School in Newsweek magazine’s annual Best of Education feature.
Hemstad said this is the second quarterly meeting he has hosted and he hopes to host more. Assistant city manager Philip Morley said that continuing dialogue with community leaders is important as the city tackles issues big and small.
“A lot has been happening in the past three months, I think, in a pretty positive way for business and economic development,” Hemstad said. “At the last breakfast, there was discussion about the northwest quadrant (of Four Corners) and particularly the Kite Development. A variety of concerns have been raised about roads in that area and what may or may not happen.”
Four Corners Square is being redeveloped by Indianopolis, Ind.-based Kite Development. Part of the plan when it was initially proposed a number of years ago was to require the developer to deal with road infrastructure. Obstacles have prevented the company from getting land and rights-of-way to build the roads, and the concept of eminent domain cropped up recently.
City attorney Christy Todd explained to the small group last Wednesday – made up of business owners and city employees – how eminent domain works in Washington.
“There is nothing in Washington law that authorizes the use of eminent domain specifically for economic development,” Todd said. “Cities can use eminent domain for road-building, to convey fresh water, for sewers, culverts, drains, for public parks, to build city halls.”
The city is still working on a development agreement with Kite as to the best way to build the roads for that project.
Bill Woodcock, a member of the Maple Valley-Black Diamond Chamber of Commerce and business owner, said there would have “to be a pretty strong reason for the chamber to get behind the City Council’s use of eminent domain.”
Woodcock also voiced his concerns about the city’s enforcement of its sign codes. It’s an issue real estate agents are facing, and with the current state of the housing market, Woodcock said, signs advertising homes for sale are critical marketing tools.
Shane Davies, a Windermere Real Estate broker, said the inconsistent enforcement of the sign code is “driving us nuts.”
He said he has observed handmade garage-sale signs stapled to signs or placed on street medians, clearly in violation of the city’s sign code, but they aren’t removed, while real estate signs get yanked within minutes of being set out.
“We’ve got these signs up because these people need to sell their homes,” Davies said. “When the city is messing with us, it’s not cool. That’s like family members messing with us.”
Ty Peterson, the city’s community development director, said he is short-staffed and doesn’t have people doing code enforcement on the weekends, which leads to another problem that others are taking the real estate signs. Or it’s possible that state road crews are picking up signs on Maple Valley Highway, for example, but Davies said that’s something he’s used to.
“I can assure you that we’re not singling out any particular industry, as frustrating as it seems,” Peterson said. “We do know that the state recently collected a whole bunch of signs because they’re preparing the roadway for the summer overlay.”
Hemstad wrapped up the meeting with three facts he said the business community can find helpful in marketing:
• “Tahoma School District is now in the top 5 percent of the nation. That appeared in Newsweek magazine recently, so that’s great when you’re trying to sell homes,” he said, referring to the magazines Best of Education feature.
• “According to FBI data, Maple Valley had the third -lowest crime rate in the state for cities over 10,000.”
• “Thirdly, the median household income in Maple Valley is about $91,400. That’s up considerably from last year. We think Maple Valley, mid-term to long-term, is going to come out very strong.”
Staff writer Kris Hill can be reached at (425) 432-1209 (extension 5054) and firstname.lastname@example.org
‘DONUT HOLE’ UPDATE
During a breakfast meeting with mostly business owners and city employees last Wednesday, Maple Valley city manager Anthony Hemstad was asked for a brief update on the controversial, 160-plus-acre “donut hole,” also known as the Summit Pit site owned by King County, which has been a topic of interest for two years. The land is within city limits.
“The biggest thing is that King County had put out (a request for proposals) to sell the donut hole and they only got one response, that was from (development firm) YarrowBay,” Hemstad said. “Right now, YarrowBay and King County are negotiating about which of these two proposals is going to be accepted.”
Last summer, the County Council signed off on County Executive Ron Sims negotiating with Kirkland-based YarrowBay on a land swap and sale that would give the developer the donut hole in exchange for cash and environmentally sensitive property near Black Diamond, known as Icy Creek.
“As a city, we’re still extremely concerned on a wide variety of issues,” Hemstad said. “We don’t think the county has taken the city’s views into account yet. Any sale is going to have to be approved by the County Council. We think the situation for the County Council being more open to the city’s views is much better today than it was four or five months ago.”
Whatever happens to the donut hole is huge because, Hemstad said, “that will have a fundamental impact on the future of the city.”