Pierce County Releases Draft of Comprehensive Plan Affecting KP

The plan could eliminate the rural bonus that allows more than one home in R10 zones.


Pierce County released its updated comprehensive plan for public review in January.

Erika Rhett, Pierce County long-range planning supervisor, met with the Key Peninsula Land Use Advisory Commission Jan. 25 to discuss the draft.

The only recommendation in the plan that would impact the Key Peninsula is the elimination of the rural bonus. The bonus allows two houses to be built on 10 acres in R10 zones if half the land is set aside as open space, or to cluster houses — for example, four homes on 20 acres if 10 acres remain open space.

“Generally, KPAC is in favor of the plan,” said Kristen Zink, the commission chair. “Most of the changes or potential changes really focus on where the high transit areas are in the county, and they don’t have much effect on the Key Peninsula.”

KPAC unanimously approved a recommendation to eliminate the rural bonus option in the current area plan at the January meeting. “We want to avoid sprawl,” said Kip Clinton, secretary of the commission. Other members cited concerns about water quality and availability.

“We thought getting rid of the rural bonus was good,” Zink said.

The first county comprehensive plan was written in 1991 in compliance with the Growth Management Act, passed by the state legislature in 1990 to counter the threat of uncoordinated and unplanned growth to the environment, quality of life, and sustainable economic development. It serves as a 20-year policy document with updates every 10 years.

The new plan focuses on policy changes affecting areas of the county with higher population density because that is where the county both expects and wants to encourage growth.

The draft offered three alternatives for managing growth.

The first alternative is described as “No Action.” It would accommodate growth without making significant changes to current policies. If implemented, larger homes could be built in locations farther from services, there would be a shortage of low-income housing (about 5,000 units), and increases in transportation emissions would continue.

The second alternative, “Centers and Corridors,” encourages growth in urban areas. It would increase housing density in urban unincorporated areas, with smaller units in already developed areas, and building enough low-income housing to meet expected needs. The plan would invest in transit as development occurs, adding 6.6 miles of sidewalks and 23.7 miles of bike trails. It would conserve 50,000 acres of land and lead to 3,500 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent reduction in transportation emissions.

The third alternative, “High-Capacity Transit,” rapidly shifts growth to high-density neighborhoods near transit and limits capacity elsewhere. It could lead to a shortage of about 5,200 low-income housing units. The plan calls for proactively building 9.6 miles of sidewalks and 34 miles of bike lanes. It would conserve 150,000 acres of land and lead to 4.636 billion tons of carbon dioxide equivalent reduction in transportation emissions.

This alternative recommended removing Purdy as an urban growth area and reclassifying 44 acres there from mixed-use to rural. Some residents have expressed support for the change; developers are opposed.

Rhett said the final recommendation will probably include elements from the second and third alternatives outlined in the draft.

The planning commission will bring that final recommendation to the Pierce County Council for a decision before the end of June. County staff will meet with KPAC this summer. Staff will prepare the draft including an environmental impact statement with approval by the council scheduled in December.

“I’m interested to see what the county does as they move forward with the process,” Zink said. She encouraged anyone interested to review the plan and make comments.

The public can provide feedback through Feb. 26.

The plan, process and documents are online at piercecountywa.gov/950/Comprehensive-Plan.

Feedback can be emailed to compplanupdate@piercecountywa.gov; by calling 253-798-2799; or mailed to Long Range Planning, 2401 South 35th Street, Room 2, Tacoma, WA 98409.