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.