Donut Hole and fields top priorities for Maple Valley

Economic development, public safety, transportation and addressing the city’s need for ball fields will be among the top priorities for the Maple Valley City Council in 2013.

Economic development, public safety, transportation and addressing the city’s need for ball fields will be among the top priorities for the Maple Valley City Council in 2013.

“The number one thing is economic development,” Mayor Bill Allison said. “To do it right you have to create the jobs, if you establish those you’ll see everything else grow.”

One of the council’s top priorities when it comes to economic development this year is the annexation of the Donut Hole, 154 acres off Kent-Kangley Road and Southeast 228th Street that is owned by King County and is home to a county transportation maintenance facility, nine holes of Elk Run Golf Course as well as undeveloped land.

“We’re closer than we’ve ever been,” Allison said.

Allison also noted that annexing the property doesn’t change who owns it, but rather which entity – the county or the city – controls the zoning.

Senate Bill 5417, which was introduced Jan. 28 by State Senator Mark Mullet, who represents the 5th district, would make it easier for cities to annex property

Another area for economic development on Allison’s radar is the Legacy site, a piece of property across from Rock Creek Elementary and the Tahoma School District district office.  A site study was completed in 2005 which included plans for a new city hall as well as other developments.

“The properties the city owns need to start working for the city,” Allison said. “We need to keep the burden off citizens. The responsibility within the city limits is to provide for our citizens.”

Another major issue the city faces is its lack of ball fields.

“We have to address parks and rec (recreation),” Allison said. “We only own one ballfield.”

Allison cited the convenience of having local fields, the community-building aspects of sports, concerns over safety related to existing fields and the large demographic of students and children under 18 in Maple Valley (one-third of those who live in the city fall into that category according to Allison) as reasons this issue is a top priority for the council.

A master plan was adopted to build Summit Park and ballfields in 2010, but that project has stalled due to lack of funding. Allison said the project would require a $17-19 million bond to complete.

“When is a good time to run a bond?” Allison said. “We have to find a way that we can do it in a way that doesn’t overburden our residents.”

Another aspect of having ballfields locally, that Allison pointed out, was the potential to generate revenue from hosting tournaments and other events.

“When I go to tournaments for my girls I see the revenue that comes in a weekend,” Allison said.

The city also has to provide for, and fund, transportation needs including improving streets and addressing needs for transit services.

Two current projects are the T7 and T31 projects and there is a long term vision to widen state Route 169.

One of the challenges, besides funding, are the geographic features of Maple Valley which the city has to build around, Allison said.

Another area of priority for the council this year will be public safety, Allison said. The city has begun talks with the King County Sheriff’s Office to get a precinct located in Maple Valley again.

“Public Safety is on a lot of people’s minds right now,” Allison said. “We’ve got to provide that safety and the appearance of safety.”

The city and the Sheriff’s Office are looking for a site that would allow officers quick access to the main hub of the city and to local trails.

For Allison, it is a matter of being proactive rather than reactive.

“I never want to sit back and say, ‘If only we had been prepared,’” Allison said.

Ultimately the keys to achieving progress on the issues facing Maple Valley are better communication with citizens and having a clear vision, as well as being able to explain that vision, Allison said.

“Maple Valley is always going to be our community,” Allison said. “It (development) is not going to change who we are, just how we look.”