LACEY - The City Council on Thursday night eased the five-year-old size limit on large warehouses, saying the new regulations strike the right balance between local economic growth and residents' quality of life.
The council adopted the unanimous recommendation from the city planning commission to raise the cap from 200,000 square feet to 500,000 square feet, if conditions are met. The conditions include that the property be at least 40 acres, that three or more buildings are proposed and that a 100-foot tree buffer screen the property from neighboring land.
The vote was 6-0. Councilwoman Mary Dean was absent.
Deputy Mayor Virgil Clarkson said the size limit imposed in 2005 was a “knee-jerk reaction” to the influx of developers interested in making Hawks Prairie a distribution point on the Interstate 5 corridor.
Clarkson said he is reassured that there are few properties left that could accommodate buildings of this size, and it would allow an employer in the area to hire more workers.
“I’m all for jobs, and especially if they are family-wage jobs,” he said.
Two council members, Ron Lawson and Cynthia Pratt, who initially raised concerns about the proposal said they are on board.
“It’s a good example of the adjustment of the vision that was created some years ago,” Lawson said. “But the problem with people’s vision – myself included – is they can’t see too far into the future.”
The City Council approved the size limit in 2005 as developers were angling to land another massive warehouse on the heels of the completion of the Target and Home Depot distribution centers. City leaders worried these huge structures would consume the available industrial properties – envisioned to become job centers – and employ too few people. They also worried that the increase in heavy truck traffic would increase road-maintenance costs and degrade the quality of life for new residents.
In December, John Teutsch, founder of the Seattle development firm Teutsch Partners, filed an application to lift or amend the size camp on all city properties zoned light industrial.
Teutsch owns a 160-acre parcel that his company is developing into the Hawks Prairie 111 Corporate Park. He has city approval to construct 17 buildings.
Teutsch said he has had difficulty developing the property because the size cap has dissuaded manufacturers and distributions who need buildings larger than 200,000 square feet. He said that is costing the city tax revenue and job growth. He said easing the size limit will attract more businesses to the city and aid his efforts in bringing employers to his property.
Harbor Wholesale Grocery Inc. in Tumwater, which employs 120, wants to move and has an option to buy one of the lots on the Teutsch property. Its principals have told city leaders that they need flexibility in the regulations to ensure that their company can expand at that location.
A company representative did not return a phone message seeking comment.
The council forwarded the issue to the planning commission for review in February.
Steve Lake, president of the Campus Glen Homeowners Association, testified before the commission in April. He said Wednesday that he’s less concerned about the size of the buildings than the amount of noise, lighting and diesel fumes they generate. The 172-home neighborhood is east of the Teutsch property.
On Wednesday, his association and Teutsch’s company signed an agreement to mitigate issues when the lot on Teutsch’s property closest to the neighborhood is developed.
Under its terms, Lake said, the loading area of the future building will not face the neighborhood, a fence will be constructed so the headlights from tractor-trailers don’t flash into homes and truckers will be barred from parking or idling their vehicles close to the neighborhood.