By Polly Keary, Editor
A controversial effort to rezone a piece of East Monroe land from open space to commercial has taken on new life again, as one of the property owners has paid to meet a requirement demanded by a hearing examiner last year.
For years, Heritage Baptist Fellowship and one other landowner have struggled to have property just at the east edge of Monroe made into commercial land, in order to develop part of it for retail.
But the land has complex issues, including proximity to a salmon-bearing stream, a steep slope below Rivmont Drive, traffic and access issues with U.S. Highway 2, and wetlands. Because of those issues, approximately 75 percent of the land is not usable for building.
Four times the property owners have petitioned the city for the rezone, and so far have been unsuccessful with the city’s planning commission and/or city council.
One of the steps required to change the land use designation is an environmental impact statement (EIS) that analyzes potential impacts to critical areas, shorelines, wetlands, traffic and more, as well as possible mitigation.
The last time the proposal came forward, the landowners completed what is called a phased environmental impact statement, which is a less-intensive version of an environmental impact statement that allows part of the analysis of impact to be completed at a later date.
“You could call it a preliminary EIS,” said Monroe Planning and Permitting Manager Paul Popelka. “What that would mean, if it had been accepted for the land use and zoning, is that any development would have to do a supplemental EIS.”
The city council accepted that phased EIS in July of 2012, but area resident Lowell Anderson appealed the decision to then-Hearing Examiner John Galt. In an unusual move, Galt ruled against the city, saying that the phased EIS was inadequate.
So one of the landowners, Heritage Baptist Fellowship, paid to have a full EIS done by a Kirkland consulting firm on the 43 acres owned by that organization. That EIS was completed this month, and the city has notified residents that the 300-page document is available for review at the city website, see http://www.monroewa.gov/index.aspx?NID=419.
The planning commission will now discuss the proposal and will hold a public hearing at City Hall at 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 5. After considering the matter, the planning commission will make a recommendation to the city council about whether to proceed with the rezone, which will also require an amendment of the city’s comprehensive plan. The council will then vote.
During the hearing the public can agree or disagree with the findings set forth in the EIS, comment on things they believe haven’t been sufficiently considered and more.