Why doesn’t the City have a building moratorium until SR 162 is widened?
My wife, Jeannie Pestinger, has lived here for 40 years. She remembers the simpler life when the population was around 1,500 and the highway was lined with daffodil fields. She has seen many changes and appreciates the city’s efforts in guiding responsible growth since then.
In 1974 the State Legislature passed the Growth Management Act (GMA). Its purpose was to make the best use of space and infrastructure resources by concentrating building density in urban areas (cities) and not in unincorporated and more rural areas. Washington is a very attractive state. Millions of people still plan to move here in the future. More than a million are expected to come to the Puget Sound area in the next 30 years. Orting’s comprehensive plan must be approved annually by the State and County to ensure it meets GMA guidelines.
The City only has jurisdiction over growth and facilities within its boundaries, such as sewer, storm water, water utilities and internal roads. We have no control over SR162 or County roads outside of our boundaries. Even any work we do on SR162 inside the City requires State approval and permitting. However, the City can politically lobby the State and County for improvements. We do that regularly and we work together with surrounding cities.
A Building Moratorium
The City can only enforce a building moratorium if it can prove it doesn’t have adequate utilities or facilities to accommodate growth… Right now the City’s sewer, water, and storm water facilities are built for 9,000 people. Our current population is about 7,500. Any attempt to stop the final build-out of our City could expose the City to potential legal action. The City would likely lose any suits, and would be forced to approve development, pay all legal fees, and those costs would ultimately be passed on to our citizens in the form of taxes etc. It may feel good to try and stop the growth but in the end that decision would be costly to all of us and we would still end up with growth.
All new developments must provide an independent Traffic Impact Study. When impacts reach certain State limits (in the City) the developer must mitigate impacts, usually with left and right turn lanes. Additionally, all new homes must pay impact fees. This includes paying for a portion of the sewer, water, storm, school, traffic, and parks fees, and building permit fees. The average amount paid is approximately $20,000 per residence.
State Route SR 162
The City has worked hard at trying to get the State to improve SR162 to Sumner. We just participated in a study with them that shows that even with a 5 lane road to Sumner the trip will take almost as long as with just 2 lanes unless SR 167, SR 410 and the overpass are fixed. However, in the interim WSDOT will probably do some minor fixes on SR 162 to improve the highway with left and right turn lanes.
So Here We Are
Our best bet to manage our growth is to make sure developers meet our standards and provide transportation improvements when we can legally require them to do so. We should continue to lobby the State and County for transportation improvements in our region and be willing to pay our share for it.
The City is also working on the “Southwest Connector” between Whitehawk Blvd. and Calistoga Street to move through-traffic out of the downtown core and speed up the SR 162 commute. 60% to 70% of the traffic on SR162 at rush hour is actually not from Orting residents. These are commuters from South Hill, Graham and even Eatonville who are trying to find the fastest way home. We cannot stop them from coming. We are trying to get grants from the Legislature and the County for this multi-million dollar project.
On the east side of our valley we are trying to limit additional growth of the Tehaleh development through political lobbying. I’m grateful that I have been selected by the Pierce County Regional Council to represent most Pierce County cities and towns on the Executive Board of the Puget Sound Regional Council. The board develops long-range traffic and growth control plans and distributes federal funds to the 4-county region.
Recently most of the land along SR 162 has been zoned Agricultural Resource Land by the County. Only one house per 20 acres can be built, which means that the population of the valley will remain very close to what it is now.
We all love living in Western Washington but so do many other people. We have hazards we must prepare for as well. I say let’s love living here and make the most of our opportunities. I’ve talked about a lot of different issues here. If you’d like to talk more please call or send me an email. You can also speak with our City Administrator, Mark Bethune, if I am not available. Thanks for reading this.
As we come to the end of 2016, I want to wish you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. I’ll be writing more often, hopefully monthly, in the “Mayor’s Corner”.
The City Council passed the 2017 budget on Wednesday December 14th. One of the Council’s goals has been a balanced budget, especially in the “General Fund”. It pays for police, court, administration, finance, and the recreation and building departments. We have other funds for streets, parks, and utilities. General Fund revenues are a portion of your property taxes, sales tax, the tax levied on power, phone, and cable services, as well as fines/penalties from the court. The General Fund includes a balance for Reserves. Reserves pay the bills from January to May until property taxes are due. They also help us withstand recessions and emergencies so that we don’t need to reduce services to our citizens.
New home construction has greatly helped the General Fund during the last few years. So while we currently bring in more revenue than expenses, this due to extra building activity, future activity is an unknown and can fluctuate. If construction was at a more normal rate we would actually face a deficit of about $100,000. Therefore I recommended to Council that we add a utility tax of 2.5% because we cannot depend on unknown future building activity. This increase would have raised your monthly utility bill by about $2.50 a month (less for seniors and the disabled). The state gave cities this taxing authority about 30 years ago because they realized how difficult it was, especially for smaller cities, to pay for government. Most cities in the state adopted the tax. Orting is one of only three cities that has not adopted it. None of us like tax increases, but I have come to see how important it is to sufficiently fund city governments and still hold them accountable and wise in how the funds are used. Council members asked me to take this out of the 2017 Budget while they wrestle some more with how to close the gap. I agreed.
The Council approved a utility rate increase on December 14, 2016.th. Your monthly utility bill will go up about $6 a month, again less for seniors and the disabled. There are miles and miles of utility pipes and lines with an estimated value of about $100 million in town. Some of these are very old and will need replacement. We also must keep up with state requirements to improve our utility systems. Since our utility bills are 20% below our neighbors in this region, the Department of Health is very concerned that we will not have the money for needed repairs and replacements. I disagree with their concerns and want to assure you that our utilities are in good order.
We expect construction to begin early spring on a left turn lane on Washington Avenue at Whitesell. I suspect that you are as frustrated as I am in trying to get to Safeway and other stores in Pioneer Village or getting stuck in a long line behind those trying to make that left turn. The City received a million dollar grant from the state to fund most of this project and the rest of the expense comes from transportation impact fees paid by developers.
Another big issue for 2017 is that we are looking at the potential of selling the Public Safety Building to the Fire District as they need to expand. If this occurs we will need to build a police station and a place for council and court to conduct business. We are having our city planner conduct a facilities planning process to help us determine the best path for this work. We have a committee that is made up of citizens and other stakeholders to help us make the best decision. We are a growing city with an old infrastructure and need to make updates. One of the alternatives that I favor is to tear down the old city hall and build a two story building that can offer one stop service from the City.
Wishing you and yours the very best,
Joachim ‘Joe’ Pestinger,
Mayor, City of Orting.
Meet Mayor Joe
Mayor Joachim Pestinger
Term expires December 31, 2017
2016 is moving on quickly and I wanted to update you on our City’s achievements. We are still basking in the success of completing the Puyallup River setback levee. Pierce County refers to us a “the little city that could”. We’ve received multiple awards and the latest was from the International Right of Way Association granting Orting the Project of the Year award. It took us 7 years of planning and seeking funds. The citizens of Orting helped fund this project with their monthly storm water utility payments.
We are expecting construction to begin this fall or early spring on a left turn lane on Washington Avenue at Whitesell. I suspect that you are as frustrated as I am in trying to get to Safeway and other stores in Pioneer Village, or getting stuck in a long line behind those trying to make that left turn. The City received a million dollar grant from the State to fund most of this project and the rest of the expense comes from impact fees paid by transportation developers.
Street repairs and maintenance continues with chip sealing. Chip seals give a road an additional 8-10 years of service. We are trying to do about 1.5 to 2 miles a year. We have 25 miles of streets in our city. Our Council and community decided a few years ago that we weren’t going to allow our streets to fall into disrepair like we see in many other Washington communities. The $20 car tab fee you pay each year is paying for this.
We are now moving into budget season. We’ve done well so far this year but that is mostly attributed to significant new home construction. One day that will end so we don’t want to build a budget based on those revenues. We will be looking at the potential of selling the current public safety building to the Fire District as they need to expand. If this occurs we will need to build a new police station and a place for council and court to conduct business. We are having our city planner conduct a facilities strategic planning process to help us determine the best path for this work. We will have a committee that is made up of citizens and other stakeholders to help us make the best decision. We are a growing city with an old infrastructure and we need to make updates. One of the alternatives I favor is to tear down the old city hall and build a two story building that can offer one stop service from the City.
I also want to appeal to all families of Orting to make sure you prepare for potential hazards. Our state, particularly the west side, is subject to several hazards including earthquake, volcanic eruption and potential mud flows called Lahars.
Every family should have 14 days of food and water available to ensure your ability to make it through a hazardous event. You should also have an evacuation plan that includes a destination and a place to stay. The recent statewide “Cascadia Rising” drill showed how vulnerable Washington, Oregon and California are to extreme earthquakes. Your evacuation plan is best carried out by walking out of town initially and getting to high ground. If you feel you are too far away from Calistoga Street and the current plan to get to the Pierce County Rock Quarry, you might consider riding a bike. Trying to drive out might put you into a gridlock situation.
Finally I hope you have enjoyed the City-wide events this year, including the Daffodil Parade, the Kingsmen Car Show, Summer-fest, the Farmers Market, and many others. We can still look forward to the Red Hat Days, Pumpkin Fest and the tree-lighting at the bell tower.
Wishing you and yours the very best,
~Mayor Joe Pestinger