Brenna Smark, Reporter
Twenty years ago, Puyallup’s South Hill neighborhood was designated as a regional growth center by the Puget Sound Regional Council. The title brought about the requirement that Puyallup develop a neighborhood plan. Ten years later, the grant was received, so that the plan-drafting process could begin.
Puyallup’s South Hill neighborhood (not to be confused with South Hill, Wash) is a focal point for population and employment and the plan establishes specific land use goals and policies for the area as well as detailed development standards. The Puget Sound Regional Council has established criteria and a checklist guide for the developments.
Multiple components are required to be addressed in an RGC plan, including land use, housing, transportation, public facilities and parks and open space. These specific criteria provide the foundation for future work on the plan for this area, including “the general land use patterns, pedestrian and vehicular connectivity, livability, site and aesthetic design, improvement of community assets such as Willows Pond that add to the quality of life for South Hill residents and employees, housing choice, economic vibrancy, and so on,” according the Puyallup Comprehensive Plan.
The new plan has a new future for South Hill planned and envisioned. Some areas that the plan is focusing on are transportation, public space, and housing and building design. Some of the ways in which transportation will be affected are that sidewalks will be built along many of the popular roads in South Hill, therefore connecting paths to neighborhoods and schools, including Pierce College Puyallup.
There will be improvements made to the roadway connections and the non-motorized circulation network, such as the trail system, Bus Rapid Transit and enhanced transit service, so that greater access to businesses and residential uses can be provided. A wider range of transportation options are also going to be provided, such as walking, bicycling and public transportation.
The plan is emphasizing land use development patterns that are less dependent on automotive travel and providing alternatives. For example, increasing roadway capacity by adding lanes to Meridian could cause a bigger growth in the already heavy traffic on that road. Alternatively, the plan is more focusing on creating more transportation methods involving the movement of people.
Sidewalks, bike lanes (or wide paved shoulders), special bus lanes, comfortable and accessible public transportation stops, frequent crossing opportunities, median islands, accessible pedestrian signals and curb extensions are just some examples on how the plan is hoping to provide more organization to the streets in terms of transportation.
The plan also involves raising the height limits of buildings in the South Hill region. Original coding laws state that buildings in the area are allowed to have four stories with the option two additional stories permitted as height bonuses. Two new options were brought to the table in the Puyallup City Council Meeting on Jan. 10. Option A allowed buildings to total seven stories outright, with height bonuses of seven extra stories—a total of 14. Option B allowed six stories, with bonuses reaching up to ten.
Three new options for the new height bonus locations were also brought up. Option A allows taller buildings in the area bordering state Route 512, Option B was the area between Ninth Street Southwest and the South Hill Mall, and Option C was an allowance for taller buildings in both these areas. The council voted for Option B as the height limit, permitting all buildings to have six stories, with an additional four allowed to the buildings in the Option C area: the land bordering SR 512 and the area between Ninth Street Southwest and the mall.
Some changes in the South Hill residential zones include: all single-family residential zones will change to multi-family zones. These means that developers will be permitted to build apartments are currently standing. The plan states “16 percent of (residential lots in South Hill) are larger than half an acre lending them further development potential.” Though in a previous interview with Senior Planner for the City of Puyallup Katie Baker, she says no development will happen without the property-owner’s permission.
“It is still up to each individual property owner to develop under those new regulations.” Baker said. “No one will be forced out of their home or property, it will be up to them.”
The plan is also trying to put forth a more pedestrian-friendly building design.
According to the Puyallup Comprehensive Plan, “Building frontages will incorporate combinations of uses, amenities and architectural details and artistic expressions that are both appealing to people on foot and provide a safe environment. Parking will be in structures, both above and below ground.”
Another topic that is prominent in the new plan are the public and open spaces in South Hill. Both natural and man-made open spaces, such as Willows Pond and Bradley Lake, will be integrated into the neighborhood. plazas, courtyards, squares, and parks will be created at every opportunity. More specifically, several storm water improvement projects have been identified in the drainage basins of these areas that will improve water quality flowing into the Puyallup River and Puget Sound. These improvements will also be utilized to create and enhance recreational amenities by establishing a system of water features that will complement future South Hill land uses and trail system.
According to the Puyallup Comprehensive Plan, “It is envisioned that all these features will be integrated into a green infrastructure system that both enhances and inserts the natural environment back into the neighborhood while also providing amenity and increasing the livability of the South Hill Center.”
The surface is only being scratched in terms of all the changes and improvements that are in store for South Hill. Over time, the area is planned to become a more organized, friendly and actively populated area that residents will find joy, convenience and opportunity in.
On Feb. 7 after two readings of the ordinance in the council chambers, the plan was officially adopted and passed and the building of the new Puyallup can officially begin.
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