Final stretch for subarea plan

FALL CITY _ After two years of planning, writing and revising,

the King County Council is scheduled to vote on the proposed Fall City

Subarea Plan on May 15.

But some members of the Citizen's Advisory Committee (CAC) _

the group formed to draft the first version _ oppose some of the

amendments written by Councilmember David Irons. Irons proposed the

changes when the Growth Management Unincorporated Areas Committee

reviewed the document in March.

However, Irons said that the CAC was involved in just the

beginning phases of the plan and that it would probably contract and grow as

more people gave their input.

"Some people are having a hard time fathoming that the process

isn't complete yet," he said. "When the CAC finished the draft, it was one

step of the process."

"The public gave input on the vision, but it didn't have input on

the draft until it came to council," Irons added.

Kari Gilje, a member of the CAC, disagreed.

"During the formation of the plan there would be 25 to 200 people at

the CAC meetings," she said. "It seemed to us that it was a large public

process [spanning] two years."

And some Fall City residents said that the CAC's recommended plan

reflects the wishes of the community more than Irons' proposal. One

area of contention is the amendment that would allow three areas in the city

to have higher densities than the CAC and King County Executive Ron

Sims originally proposed.

The section includes an 8-acre parcel along State Route 202 near

323rd Avenue Southeast; a 30-acre parcel near the Herbfarm and a 35-acre

parcel near Wells Farm & Nursery.

Irons said that it was a "fairness issue" that led him to pull those

additional lots into an R-4 classification, or one home per four acres, instead

of the proposed one house for every five acres. The properties are

currently zoned R-4.

"When we're downzoning, if a property is densely populated on

three sides of you, then we don't want to downzone your property," he

said, noting that the lots around the Herbfarm and Wells Farm have

probably reached their maximum growth.

But Gilje said they always heard that the community wanted to

retain Fall City's rural character and one way to achieve that would be to

preserve as much open space in the city as possible.

"It seems like it'll benefit a few property owners," she said.

"They're not looking at what is in the best

interest of the community."

"We [zoned it RA-5] for fairness to everyone because we didn't

want to give special treatment," added Irene Pike, another member of the CAC.

If Irons' proposal is accepted, the 73 parcels in the three areas

could potentially accommodate as few as 82 additional homes and as many as

287 if maximum buildout were achieved on each lot.

Gilje and Pike were also concerned with Irons' proposal to rezone the

strip of buildings behind the current business district from R-4 to

Community Business. They said that the current space for businesses is adequate

for the city, and community members are concerned that the business

district will move another block toward residential areas.

"And they don't want chain stores or for it to look like a strip mall,"

Gilje said. "They want small, rural businesses and some people wonder

what those businesses would look like."

Irons said that the rezone would allow current owners to expand

their businesses by placing drainfields on the extra land, but since it is

zoned community business, they could also use the land as office or retail space

to generate income.

"You have failing septic systems in Fall City and the only solution

I came up with is for local business owners to acquire the lots behind

them and to use that property as a drainfield," he said. "It's not the

best option in the world, but I don't hear any other options coming up."

As proposed, the 14 lots would remain R-4 until someone decides

to take advantage of the business zoning. Once that happens, the entire

2-acre block will revert to Community Business, which would raise the taxes

for that area.

The CAC was also concerned that the word "sewers" had been added

to the Subarea Plan. Gilje said that it was the intention of the committee to

encourage septic system solutions instead of sewers.

"The community and committee recognizes that the business

district needs to do something," Gilje said. "We all said we want a business

district that can continue. But we want the county and business owners to

use an on-site septic system."

Irons said that he will present an amendment to his amendment at

next week's meeting that will make it clear that "sewers were a last solution

after all others were exhausted." He expects that there will be about eight

more amendments presented at the meeting, and the council is scheduled to

adopt the Subarea Plan on May 15.

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