Maple Valley is at a crossroads. We can continue planning for a bright future of a central shopping and gathering place, including a Main Street, or we can continue to be known for old strip malls and business parks and a lack of restaurants and needed retail stores.
I’m talking about the city’s Four Corners Sub Area Plan. This plan will provide the blueprint for the future of the Four Corners area and encourage economic development.
Our home construction-based economy is ending and it’s time to diversify and expand it.
We should be able to shop locally for essential goods and services. The plan will encourage this.
There has been significant investment by the community and city in this two-year-old process, including well-attended public scoping and planning meetings, city EDC (Economic Development Committee) and Planning Commission meetings, and significant city staff and consultant time. Last summer, the City Council unanimously approved three design alternatives to move forward to be shaped into one preferred plan. The alternatives were the result of this thorough public vetting process and were recommended by the EDC and Planning Commission. All three included festival retail, office, residential housing including some multi-family, a “Main Street” and pedestrian connectivity and gathering places, in the important “NW Area” of Four Corners. This area is critical to our future.
The NW Area is bounded by the Kite Development Site to the south, State Route 169 to the east, the regional trail (adjacent to the Katesridge neighborhood) to the west and the city-owned, 54-acre Legacy Site to the north. It is currently zoned BP (business park) and consists primarily of undeveloped land, storage yards and automobile related businesses.
BP allows varied industrial uses including asphalt processing, hazardous-waste disposal and animal rendering plants.
BP is simply not an appropriate use for this central area in our city, adjacent to single-family neighborhoods, the trail and the Legacy Site. Our community understands this and wisely supports the alternatives and subsequent “straw proposal” plans and their more appropriate uses – festival, office and residential. Examples of this include Kent Station, Mill Creek Town Center and University Village. They provide a vibrant community place with living, shopping, dining, gathering and recreation opportunities – a place you want to be.
Unfortunately, the City Council is not united behind this important plan. Several council members seem to have their own ideas for the NW Area – ideas counter to the community’s. In the past several months, these council members, led by Mayor Laure Iddings, have removed all multi-family residential from the straw proposal (working preferred plan draft) and had significant discussions (sometimes late at night without citizens present) regarding eliminating “Legacy Lane” or Main Street, imposing unrealistically low height restrictions and most important, reinstating BP in the area nearest Katesridge.
Multi-family is needed to provide human vitality around the clock. It will also provide housing options for our seniors, children and empty-nesters. In addition to smart, small-scale festival retail, Legacy Lane will provide much needed connectivity between Kent-Kangley Road and the Legacy Site. It will parallel SR-169 and will assure the Four Corners intersection continues to function as planned. Festival retail allows vertical residential or office above and requires compatible height restrictions to be viable.
Reinstating BP will continue to open the door to undesirable uses and will severely inhibit the viability of any “downtown” or Main Street. We don’t need an asphalt plant or animal rendering facility in the center of our city. We need the promise of the Sub-Area Plan.
I urge all council members to listen to our citizen residents and act on their behalf and not those of special interests. Adopt the Four Corners Sub-Area Plan as recommended. Our future is at stake.
Noel Gerken is a Maple Valley City Council member.