New rules for Fall City business growth? Public hearing called on comp plan change

For more than a decade, King County law has strictly limited commercial change in Fall City. Without a sewer and dependent on septic systems, Fall City businesses often face uphill battles when they move or develop. Growth is out of the question.

"Because there's no sewer system in place, and no prospects to get one, we've denied every commercial rezone request for years," said Paul Reitenbach, Comprehensive Plan Project Manager for King County's Department of Development and Environmental Services.

Doing business in Fall City could get easier, thanks to a new push to change the Fall City Sub-area Plan as part of the lead-up to the 2012 Comprehensive Plan update.

A fresh look at Fall City regulations—business and environmental policies, parking and sign rules, and how they affect the community—is the topic of a public meeting, 7 p.m. Monday, Jan. 31, at Chief Kanim Middle School, hosted by the county.

Last year, residents, business owners and the Fall City Community Association entered talks with Reitenbach's department and County Councilwoman Kathy Lambert's office on ways to loosen strictures. Those talks led to this month's public meeting.

"It's to the point where we need to bring the community in," said Vanessa Allen, president of the Fall City Community Association. "We need to discuss changing the comp plan, so businesses in Fall City can thrive, or at least keep their doors open."

"The rules that businesspeople were having to abide by were just not realistic. Something had to give," Allen said. "We want to stay Fall City. But we have to be able to conduct business."

In an e-mail to the Record, Lambert said that county staff are working hard on the issue.

"Preserving the viability of the town and the livelihood of the people is vitally important," Lambert said. "The county is listening and working with the citizens to see how they can come to balanced solutions that are good for the town, the business community and the environment... This is and will be a very open process."

Reitenbach doesn't foresee sweeping change for Fall City. But changes and modifications could open the door for new commercial possibilities.

"This is something we have to look at, think about," he said.

The county council has final authority over sub-area plan changes.

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