Heritage Baptist’s controversial rezone back before officials
MONROE - Heritage Baptist Fellowship’s controversial rezone request is back before the Planning Commission, which previously rejected a similar request brought by the church on environmental, traffic and flooding concerns.
The church’s rezone request has been rejected several times by city planners, the City Council and Planning Commission, but Mayor Robert Zimmerman is friends with Chad Minnick whose father, Thomas Minnick, is the pastor at Heritage Baptist and the primary landowner. The landowners asking for the rezone are known as the East Monroe Economic Development Group.
When Zimmerman and Minnick were on the City Council together they pushed for a rezone but were unsuccessful.
New people are in office now but all of the concerns about this rezone request remain today.
The land is currently zoned limited open space and contains native growth protection areas, wetlands and steep, slide-prone slopes, according to a draft Phased Environmental Impact Statement released last week.
The area also has no connection access to city water, sewer and storm water infrastructure, and traffic access off U.S. 2 is limited.
The latest proposal asks the city to change 50 acres from limited open space to general commercial. The land is located off U.S. 2 on the eastern edge of the city. The land within the shoreline protection boundary has been removed from the proposal.
Flooding is a major concern among many people interested in this rezone request: from residents who live along the bluff above the land to county and state officials.
At the high end of potential development, a 150,000-square-foot discount store could generate 8,000 vehicle trips on a Saturday, according to the draft phased environmental statement, which can be read online on the city’s website.
But peppered throughout the document are these words: “This action in and of itself does not have any environmental impacts.”
East Monroe Economic Development Group successfully convinced the city to back off a broader environmental review of the proposal and just look at changing the zoning for now and study any potential environmental impacts once a specific project is submitted.
The church has been trying for years to unload this property and is currently marketing the land to fit Monroe’s “Gateway to Adventure” brand.
Josh Freed, who is submitting the proposal on behalf of the landowners, and listing agents Bret and Ryan Olsen of Wallace Properties addressed the Planning Commission last week.
Bret Olsen said they are receiving positive feedback from potential buyers, but “the biggest issue for them is it is currently not zoned for their purposes.”
Residents who spoke at the meeting said the applicant left a lot of information to be desired from its proposal application. The application doesn’t address any potential environmental impacts because a comprehensive plan amendment to change the zoning won’t affect the environment.
While there will be no environmental impact from this initial action, as it essentially only changes the color on the city’s zoning map, the end result will be further development on the land, so the city needs to consider the cumulative effects, commissioner Dave Demarest said.
“Given the critical and the sensitive areas on this property, we were somewhat amazed that a phased review was (prescribed) for this” site, resident Jeff Rogers said.
The Planning Commission has scheduled a public hearing on the draft phased Environmental Impact Statement for 7 p.m. Monday, March 12 inside the City Council chambers at City Hall, 806 W. Main St.
A second public hearing will be held April 23.
Written comments on the draft statement may be sent to Joan Cook, 806 W. Main St., Monroe, WA 98272, or by e-mail at email@example.com. Comments will be accepted through Friday, March 30.
By STEPHANIE KOSONEN
Published March 7, 2012