Diverging interests that might become more prominent soon in Maple Valleywere at play at a meeting at Covington City Hall last Wednesday.
The occasion was a public forum for Covington residents and city officials to exchange thoughts on how to keep up with what each other are doing and thinking. During the discussion, a few of the roughly 30 townfolk who’d assembled voiced frustration with what they consider intrusive commercial growth – especially big-box stores – at the expense of their quality of life: The more stores, people and traffic, the less desirable their community becomes, they said.
Officials countered that such views are important and will be heard at City Hall. But private developers and landowners can’t be turned away if their projects meet the land-use requirements for fitting projects acceptably into the cityscape and infrastructure. And citizens who pay attention and get involved can manage development through their City Hall representatives so that the public’s interest is satisfied as much as possible.
Big–box is the moniker hung on businesses such as Fred Meyer, Wal-Mart, Home Depot and Costco, which are either open, close to opening or gearing up for construction in Covington. They aren’t the worst thing in the world. Even people who resent them shop in them. Most embrace them for the conveniences they provide, especially if they’re part of well-planned and sensible growth. In addition to employment and local tax revenue, the stores provide wider choices for consumers, often as virtual one-stop shopping in lieu of fighting traffic to other towns. Save gas? Sounds good.
As much as possible, big-boxes can work in favor of a town and its populace. Though not everyone agrees, that’s what Covington’s accomplished so far.
Maple Valley can, too, which is why its City Council, Planning Commission and Economic Development Committee are talking about opening the zoning regulations to allow stores bigger than 100,000 square feet – the big-boxes. If that happens, Fred Meyer is poised to open a store in the town that so far has made itself off-limits to mega-store development.
“We can do it in a way to please the people of Maple Valley,” said Melinda Merrill, a Fred Meyer spokeswoman.
Cities can’t hide from growth, but they can manage it and reap some benefits.
Editor Pat Jenkins can be reached at (425) 432-1209 and firstname.lastname@example.org