When Jean Zeren learned about plans to build a subdivision across the street from her 65-acre property a few years ago, she rallied a few neighbors to try to stop it. Zeren has owned her property since 1967. There, she raised more than 100 horses, including Longacres Mile winner Trooper Seven.
The plan for the 34-acre subdivision at the time called for 20 duplexes and three single-family homes. Little Minter Creek goes through the plat. The residents who appealed the project cited concerns that included impact to the salmon, traffic, safety, runoff, and the character of the neighborhood.
“It wasn’t consistent with the rural area,” Zeren said.
Although the Peninsula Advisory Commission, comprised of residents, recommended not approving the project, the hearing examiner disagreed. The neighbors took the battle to court—and lost.
The development, along with another one, is planned on a small portion of the 168-acre farm property that has been in the Alvestadt family since the 1900s. Paul Alvestadt, who is representing the projects, says the family will keep farming on the rest of the land.
“Farming isn’t something you can do a lot of and make a living; it’s more of a hobby farm,” he said.
Under current regulations, the subdivision wouldn’t be allowed. But because an application was submitted before the Growth Management Act became in effect, it was “grandfathered in.” The GMA limits the density in rural areas to a minimum of one home per 5 acres and doesn’t allow subdivisions of rural plats.
The Key Peninsula has many lots like this one that have been grandfathered in. “Most of the growth (on the Key Pen) will happen in those,” said Mike Krueger, Pierce County planner who is coordinating the Key Peninsula Community Planning Board. The board, which has completed the environmental and economic development elements of the plan, will start discussing land use in August.
The land use plan will address commercial, residential and resource zoning that will impact future developments on the Key Peninsula. But residents like Zeren and her neighbor Judy Austin, who have been attending many of the meetings, see little impact from the discussion.
“How do you control sprawl when so many things were vested before the Growth Management Act?” Austin said. “It’s a rural area with large tracts of land and they are starting to chop it up into developments.”
As with any other community plans, the Key Peninsula one has drawn some controversy. One of the more recent ones was a proposal by the Key Peninsula Business Association to establish a reserve area for a “New Fully Contained Community” that would allow for thousands of jobs to be created, including offices and light manufacturing. The NFCC was included in the draft economic development policy, but Kruger said he received feedback from many residents who did not want that kind of intense use on the Key Peninsula.
“Nobody supports the idea,” he said. “They were miffed it was even there.” The planning board was due to discuss the draft at press time, at a July 27 meeting, after the work of the economic development subcommittee ended. It would be up to the board if that concept remains in the plan, Kruger said.
“I’m greatly concerned this Key Peninsula can’t take urban development. Am I the only one who moved here from the city?” said Pat Latshaw, who has been attending subcommittee meetings. “I look at the Key Peninsula as a retirement area; this is where you come to ‘get away from it all.’ You make your lifestyle changes—that’s part of living out here.”
These kinds of views, and the battle of growth vs. keeping the character, will continue to be expressed in future months, as the land use element, the cornerstone for the plan, is being discussed.
Should we have more growth on the Key Peninsula?
The Key Peninsula News has set up an unscientific poll on its Website to ask that question. To vote, read previous stories on the planning board, or follow a link to Pierce County for more information on the board’s work, see www.keypennews.com and follow the “Special Section” link.
The Key Peninsula Community Planning Board’s upcoming subcommittee meetings are Aug. 3 and 16, at 7 p.m. in the Key Center Library, located at 8905 Key Peninsula Highway.