Bonney Lake officials agreed Tuesday to let a developer build homes and retail buildings over two-thirds of its 147-acre urban forest, provided that the development doesn’t result in an additional traffic light on the city’s main highway.
The Bonney Lake City Council approved a development agreement Tuesday that will replace the Washington State University demonstration forest with 65 acres of homes and 35 acres of retail and medical offices.
The remaining 47 acres of the forest will go to Bonney Lake officials, who plan to use the land for a new YMCA facility and new sports fields, Mayor Neil Johnson said Tuesday. The forest, owned by WSU, grows in the middle of Bonney Lake and has been closed to the public since 2006.
Mayor Johnson said the development agreement gives the city a chance to take a sizable chunk of the forest area and preserve it for public use. WSU and Weyerhaeuser, Co., have been working to develop the forest since about 2005.
“Our biggest fear is that if we don’t get anything agreed to, they could log the whole piece and replant it,” Johnson said before Tuesday’s meeting. “This is the time for us to take advantage of an opportunity.”
The agreement is still subject to final approval by WSU officials and Weyerhaeuser, Co. executives, who haven’t yet signed off on the city council’s condition that no traffic light accompany a proposed connector road between Highway 410 and South Prairie Road.
Without language prohibiting the traffic light on Highway 410, the city council wouldn’t have approved the development agreement Tuesday. Council members voted 4-3 against a version of the agreement that allowed the traffic light before passing an amended proposal minutes later.
The traffic light would have created another stop-and-go point on the highway that already has too much congestion, council members said.
“People have said we will never allow Bonney Lake to become South Hill— we will never allow 410 to become Meridian,” said Councilman David Bowen, referring to the congested stretch of Meridian Avenue East south of Puyallup. “I cannot support this unless there is clear language that there will be no light.”
Some citizens said they don’t feel like the agreement saves enough of the forest. Much of the 47 acres going to the city for public use will need to be clear cut to make way for the city’s proposed YMCA and sports fields, said Bonney Lake resident Fred Jacobsen, who opposed the development agreement in public hearings.
“Ballparks don’t have trees in them, especially when they are soccer fields,” Jacobsen said prior to Tuesday’s meeting. “We might end up with a couple of acres of trees left.”
Councilwoman Laurie Carter was the only council member who didn’t vote for the amended version of the development agreement Tuesday. She said that she was still concerned the deal gives the city too little park space and that there isn’t enough financial support yet to start planning a YMCA on the site.
She said that the city’s 47 acres will really amount to more like 30 to 33 acres of developable land due to storm water infiltration areas that the agreement places on the city’s share of the property. Factoring in the storm water pools, there won’t be enough room for the four ballfields city officials would like to build, she said.
“It would be too tight of a squeeze,” Carter said.
Officials with WSU and Quadrant Corp., a Weyerhaeuser subsidiary, have been working with Bonney Lake officials for four years to negotiate a development agreement for the forest, which the university once used for educational purposes and 4H activities.
Pete Lymberis, a senior development manager with Quadrant, said Tuesday that WSU and Weyerhaeuser executives will probably decide in the next week whether they are willing to sign the agreement as amended by the Bonney Lake City Council. All parties must sign the agreement by Dec. 31 for the city’s rezone of the forest area to become effective next year. The new zoning plan will change the land-use designation of the forest area to allow the commercial and residential construction proposed in the development agreement.