M aple Valley has moved one step closer to its years-old dream of creating a civic center and retail core after City Council passed a crucial zoning change near Four Corners.
We seem to have some great synergy building
Council voted 6-1 to approve a new “Central Commerce” zone in the area north of Johnson’s Do It Center and across and south of state Route 169 from Rock Creek Elementary.
“It is the perfect opportunity to create something special in the heart of our town,” says council member Erin Weaver.
The new zone opens the acreage up to developers who may want to put in shops or restaurants.
Weaver and others hope that this will move the city closer to realizing its civic center vision, which was developed after numerous public meetings ended with a master plan drawn up in 2009. The idea is to extend a pedestrian-friendly retail core from the Johnson’s shopping center along Kent-Kangley Road all the way north to the so-called legacy site.
The legacy site is the name for about 50 acres of woods that the city bought years ago just north of the new Central Commerce zone and directly across from Rock Creek Elementary. The 2009 plan envisions parks and civic spaces there in addition to city offices and retail.
Just south of the new Central Commerce zone, demolition work has begun recently on a plan to revamp and expand the Johnson’s shopping center. (Read more on those plans later this week in the Post.)
Some version of the city’s 2009 vision “can connect our northern and southern commercial areas and, hopefully, create our ‘meeting place’ in town. It has the [Lake Wilderness] trail running through it for pedestrians, and the Maple Valley Highway for auto traffic,” Weaver says.
But it’s not a done deal. The zoning change has taken years to pass largely because many established businesses already exist on the site, which had been zoned Business Park. The owners of those auto repair shops, storage facilities and others fought the change because their businesses would be listed as “nonconforming” under the Central Commerce zone. Nonconforming businesses are limited in their ability to expand and to obtain financing.
To satisfy them, council this week voted 4-3 to amend the Central Commerce zone so that it will allow auto repair shops, mini storage and heavy equipment storage — nearly all of the existing businesses.
After approving the amendments, council put the new Central Commerce zone into effect permanently.
Whether conforming or nonconforming, however, the existing businesses are not required to move.
But Weaver hopes a great offer from a developer might persuade them.
“The value of commercial land is much greater than the current business park. A developer might be able to offer current land owners a good enough price that they will be willing to sell,” Weaver says. “The owners that I have talked to have indicated just that. Give them the right price, and they are willing to take it.”
Weaver also hopes that developers will notice Maple Valley’s forward momentum. The new Fred Meyer opens next week, with the rest of the complex to follow this summer. Across the street, Johnson’s site is beginning an upgrade and expansion. Also, the city has seen an unexpected increase in requests for new housing permits, she says.
“We seem to have some great synergy building,” Weaver says. “Maple Valley is a town that people want to live in; whether it is for the schools, the natural environment, or the accessible price of our homes. I think, finally, the commercial world is becoming aware of how special Maple Valley is as well.”
To read more about Maple Valley’s zoning disputes, click HERE.
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