By Lowell Anderson and Jeffrey W. Rogers
Once again, the proposed East Monroe Comprehensive Plan Amendment and subsequent Rezone has resurfaced, and is on a fast track to be accomplished in the waning days of office of the Mayor and certain members of the City Council. We remain steadfastly opposed the proposed Comprehensive Plan Amendment and Rezone of the 42-acre East Monroe site. While we certainly appreciate the property owner’s desire to effect a rezone to enhance the value of the land, we do not believe the proposed Comprehensive Plan Amendment and Rezone is in the best interest of Monroe. Our review of the Draft EIS that supports the Comprehensive Plan Amendment and Rezone indicates that approximately 75% of the 42-acre site is undevelopable or designated for protection as critical areas and buffers. As such, only approximately 11 acres could be developed. The Draft EIS acknowledges that the site “hosts an array of environmental challenges.” We have been raising these environmental challenges for several years and most of our issues have fallen on deaf ears with many of our City’s political leaders.
It is our position that the City should not entertain any proposed Comprehensive Plan Amendment and Rezone without a specific development proposal. Why open Pandora’s Box given the many environmental issues and critical areas that would be affected by any commercial development of the Property without a specific development proposal in hand? You can be assured that those of us who have been staunchly opposed to the Comprehensive Plan Amendment and Rezone will remain opposed to any attempts to develop the Property for commercial purposes.
A number of questions continue to be raised by the City’s efforts to effect this Comprehensive Plan Amendment and Rezone, including:
- Whose interests are actually being served by the proposed Comprehensive Plan Amendment and Rezone, the narrow interest of the property owner or the broader interest of the City of Monroe?
- What is the economic viability and realistic chances of developing 11 out of 42 acres with essentially no or limited access to Highway 2, and that has no access to public facilities such as water, sewer and other public utilities?
- What is the rush to effect a Comprehensive Plan Amendment and Rezone when Monroe, within the City’s boundaries, has plenty of available commercial land and numerous empty buildings that could be utilized for commercial property development? Why not leave the property in its current Limited Open Space designation which is consistent with the LOS designation as the site lacks the full scope of public services and facilities necessary to support urban development, and is severely impacted by critical areas?
- What are the projected costs of enabling commercial development of the site?
- Will the cost of developing this 11-acre usable parcel of commercial property justify the incurrence of considerable environmental mitigation; over one mile of sewer and water lines and related work; highway/traffic mitigation costs; and all the attendant mitigation costs relating to construction and ongoing operation on the 11-acre site?
- Can adjoining property owners be assured that any commercial development will not result in erosion, slope degradation and landslides?
- Why proceed with considerable uncertainty as to the ability to access the site from Highway 2 and whether WSDOT will require a frontage road?
We believe these answers need to be fully addressed by the City Council and Mayor prior to reaching any final decision with respect to the Comprehensive Plan Amendment and Rezone. Why rush this project through during the remaining few months of the Mayor’s tenure given the long-term implications on the City? We believe this issue should be carefully considered by the voters of Monroe as part of the upcoming Mayor and City Council elections.