County postpones changing density calculation formula in comprehensive plan

By a 4-3 vote, the Pierce County Council on Jan. 24 passed a resolution to remove an amendment that would change how urban density is calculated in its Comprehensive Plan and requested the Department of Planning and Public Works refund application fees related to the Master Builders Association of Pierce County project (permit no. 940172) in question.

The Comprehensive Plan is a land-use policy document that guides county decisions related to growth and development of unincorporated Pierce County. The county’s population is projected to increase significantly over the next two decades.

MBA Pierce had submitted a comprehensive plan amendment to change density calculations in the county's urban areas from net to gross. On Dec. 29, however, a county environment official issued a determination of significance for the amendment, indicating a probable major adverse environmental impact, which triggered an environmental impact statement be completed. Because the impact statement could not be completed by the Planning Commission's Feb. 15 deadline to submit recommendations to the County Council regarding the amendment change, the council opted to remove the density calculation formula amendment.

Council Chair Derek Young, sponsor of the legislation, said he didn’t think the resolution would have an overall negative impact, noting that it would slow down growth in areas where it was not planned for.

Councilmember Marty Campbell indicated he was in favor of the resolution.

“I’ll be supporting this because, frankly, legally, I think it’s where we need to be to avoid longer and protracted problems that will put us in a worse spot,” he said.

Councilmember Ryan Mello said the legislation was necessary because the timeline can’t be made.

“But largely this is a major timing issue,” he said. “We’re going to get the information to have a thoughtful conversation going forward.”

Other members of the council weren’t so sure.

“If our true goal is affordable housing and being able to hit that middle housing goal that we want to do to get home ownership up in Pierce County, we’ve got to continue to look at options of doing that,” Councilmember Dave Morell said, indicating he would not support the resolution.

He was joined by Councilmembers Hans Zeiger and Amy Cruver.

“At this point, I am going to be voting no to signal that I think we need to be engaging in these discussions as soon as possible because the challenges are just so great,” Zeiger said.

“I don’t think we are in a position today to be denying people homes they want to buy,” Cruver said.

Councilmember Jani Hitchen joined Young, Mello and Campbell in voting for the measure.


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