Daniel Pollock, Online Reporter
At the Jan. 10 Puyallup City Council meeting, Senior Planner for the City of Puyallup Katie Baker addressed the council about the South Hill Neighborhood Plan, one of the final steps toward deciding what the future of Puyallup’s portion of South Hill will look like.
According to a public notice on the City of Puyallup website, “the plan recognizes Puyallup’s South Hill as a focal point for population and employment, and establishes specific land use goals and policies for the area as well as detailed development standards.”
The plan includes a new zoning map for South Hill and amends some of the current zoning designations for the area.
“(The plan) describes the neighborhood, and says what the vision for the future is,” Baker said. “It also establishes policies for everything from land use patterns to design of buildings, and utility and transportations needs.”
The plan will change South Hill transportation in several ways, including lining many of the heavily used streets with sidewalks, creating paths to connect neighborhoods and schools—including Pierce—and redesigning the transportation system.
The plan also involves raising the height limits of buildings in the South Hill region. Original coding laws for the area allowed buildings to have four stories, with two additional stories permitted as height bonuses.
Baker offered the council two options for a new height limit. Option A allowed buildings to total seven stories outright, with height bonuses of seven extra stories—a total of 14. Option B allowed six stories, with bonuses reaching up to ten.
“We’ve heard mixed support for allowances up to 14 stories,” Baker said. “There was also discussion of particular locations where these building heights might be more acceptable.”
There were three options for the height bonus locations. Option A allows taller buildings in the area bordering State Route 512, Option B was the area between Ninth Street Southwest and the South Hill Mall, and Option C was an allowance for taller buildings in both these areas.
The council voted for Option B as the height limit, permitting all buildings to have six stories, with an additional four allowed to the buildings in the Option C area: the land bordering SR 512 and the area between Ninth Street Southwest and the mall.
With the plan in effect, all single-family residential zones will change to multi-family zones, meaning developers are permitted to build apartments where homes currently stand. Inducing landowners to raise eyebrows, the plan states “16 percent of (residential lots in South Hill) are larger than half an acre lending them further development potential.”
But according to Baker, no development will happen without the property-owner’s approval.
“It is still up to each individual property-owner to develop under those new regulations.” Baker said. “No one will be forced out of their home or property, it will be up to them.”
The neighborhood plan was created about 20 years ago, when the Puget Sound Regional Council designated South Hill as a regional growth center. As such, the area is required to develop a neighborhood plan. Ten years later, Puyallup received a grant which ultimately began the plan-drafting process.
“Over the years we’ve had some stops and starts at different times because of a variety of reasons,” Baker said.
Now council members are hoping to adopt the ordinance within the year.
“This has been bashed around forever and it really needs to get resolved,” Mayor John Hopkins said.
He added that the mall is the only stumbling block to the plan.
“The mall has been pretty vocal in wanting some changes to the code,” Baker said. “They want the most flexibility with the least regulation.”
With Amazon and other online shopping services taking popularity away from brick-and-mortar retailers, the mall requires flexible zoning to give them room to change however they might need to keep their business viable.
“The council directed me to continue working with the mall and see if there were any small changes to wording we could make to make it easier to interpret in the future,” Baker said.
There must be two readings of the ordinance in the council chambers before it can be adopted. During the readings council-members are permitted to amend the ordinance with a majority vote.
The council plans to consider adopting the ordinance after its second reading which will take place at the Feb. 7 meeting, and community members are welcome to attend. For more information, citizens can visit cityofpuyallup.org.
If the council adopts the ordinance, it will go into effect at the end of February. But according to Baker, there won’t be any fast, drastic changes.
“There will not be any immediate development.” Baker said. “Any future development will just depend on the individual property owners wanting to propose a new building.”
Baker added they’ve already received some development proposals and she anticipates receiving more once the code passes.
Though the change may be slow, it’s still drastic. Whether by taller buildings, or apartment complexes standing where homes once sat, South Hill is steps away from an all-new bigger, taller future.
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