Key Peninsula resident Charles Wilber gets a bird’s-eye view of the lake Kathryn construction recently. “I have been here a few times to see what’s going on,” he said. Photo by Scott Turner, KP News

A lot of heavy equipment is moving dirt and trees at the Lake Kathryn Shopping Center. Rumors are spreading across the Key like wildfire.

Don Zimmerman and his wife, Kathryn, have owned the shopping center for 40 years. Don is a licensed pharmacist, frequently found behind the counter at Cost Less Prescriptions.

The most recent major change at Lake Kathryn was the construction of the Burger King restaurant that opened in 2005.

According to Zimmerman, as a result of the calculated increase in vehicle traffic for Burger King, Pierce County required him to construct and pay for more than $800,000 in road and signal light improvements along State Route 302.

“Those road improvement costs wiped out 40 years’ of equity that had been gained by the shopping center,” Zimmerman said. “With all of the costs and expense that the governments dump on the small businessman, it’s nasty out there for a businessman trying to make a go of it.”

The current work being done by Rush Construction will complete the last of the required road improvements. Completion date is set for April 2014.

The current entrance at 92nd Avenue will continue to be an entrance, but will allow exit only, with a right turn onto SR302, toward Purdy.

The primary entrance will be at the 94th Avenue signal light (for which Zimmerman said he paid dearly). That entrance driveway will go south and then turn 90 degrees east to join the existing parking mall parking lot.

In addition to the road work, Rush Construction also will be doing infrastructure work to prepare for potential new business occupants. This includes grading and filling, retaining walls, catch basins, vaults and utilities like electric, water, telephone, cable and additional septic to the building sites.

A review of Planning and Land Services building permit records reveals that all environmental and forest practices permits and requirements have been reviewed and approved over the past two years. There are no building permit applications filed yet, because there are no contracts yet with any additional tenants, Zimmerman said.

“I’ve been in negotiations with a number of prospective new tenants over the years, including some ‘big box’ stores,” Zimmerman said. “But there are no commitments. Hopefully, the economy will make an upturn, and we can start to see some real changes on the KP.”

Zimmerman admitted that he had to borrow a major portion of the cost of the work being done now.

A review of the Assessor’s records shows that Zimmerman owns 52 acres at Lake Kathryn and has an annual property tax bill of more than $102,000.

“It is not easy being a businessman these days,” he said. “The government stacks so very much against a business becoming successful.”

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