Zoning with cookie cutter destroys Normandy Park
There's more than one way to live.
I was reminded of that again in August when Marge's family stayed with us during part of our vacation.
The three of them live in a tiny apartment on the lower east side of New York City.
I love our home in the leafy suburbs. I like to putter in my small garden on the back 40 (feet not acres).
But my brother-in-law feels stranded in the suburbs. He loves his daily walk to the local grocery store to pick up that morning's New York Times and the day's supply of fresh vegetables and fruit.
He hates having to drive everywhere. He can't imagine loading up the car trunk at the supermarket with a week's worth of groceries.
Locally, the fact that different folks like different strokes is contradicted in the July ruling by the Central Puget Sound Growth Management Hearing Board that Normandy Park must allow zoning of four dwelling units per acre.
The lawsuit, that lead to the ruling, was filed by a developer and the environmental group Futurewise, acting as strange bedfellows.
Futurewise said forcing Normandy Park to subdivide lots would provide more space for cheaper single family residences.
That's true. But it would also destroy Normandy Park's special identity.
Highline has taken some horrific blows to its livability with the noisy and ever expanding airport.
That has pushed home values down, relative to other communities.
A healthy community needs a mix of income groups.
Normandy Parkers have the time, money and influence to get involved in bettering our community.
In pressuring the school district to provide academic rigor for their kids, other students benefit, too.
In contributing big bucks to the fight to save creeks running through their backyards from airport pollution, they are also saving the stream system outside their community.
Don't get me wrong, I support the Growth Management Act (GMA).
I'm not a conservative, who in the name of private property rights, defends sickening suburban sprawl.
Out in Pierce County's Bonney Lake, on the cusp between suburban and rural, it seems like the city's motto has been modified to, "Where developers' dreams can soar."
Our pleasant vacation drive from Portland to the Oregon Coast reminded us how much more intelligently Oregon has approached land use management.
Unfortunately. that might be altered by a recently voter-approved initiative.
Democratic Rep. Dave Upthegrove also supports the state's Growth Management Act.
But he points out that Normandy Park is actually meeting its growth targets.
It is just not doing it in a cookie-cutter fashion, where all lots must be the same size.
"The Legislature intended the GMA to be a bottoms-up law that respects local control. The Hearings Board has interpreted the law in a way never intended by the Legislature," Upthegrove declared.
Reasonable urban growth boundaries can be achieved through creating non-suburban housing that appeals to different lifestyles.
In Highline, that's transit-oriented projects around Burien Town Square, Tukwila's Sounder station, SeaTac light-rail and Normandy Park's First Avenue South.
Normandy Park officials pledge to take their appeal of the hearing board's decision up to the state Supreme Court, if needed.
Rep. Upthegrove is optimistic that common sense will prevail.
He cites last month's state Supreme Court decision that upheld density limitations in Richmond Beach.
The unanimous opinion stated, "...the GMA does not prescribe a single approach to growth management....Thus, the GMA acts exclusively through local governments and is to be construed with the requisite flexibility to allow local governments to accommodate local needs."
Legislation is also possible, according to Upthegrove. A bill addressing density requirements passed the Senate but was stalled by a House committee chairman during the last legislative session, he noted.
The growth squeeze may eventually become so bad, Upthegrove adds, that the central Puget Sound area may some day be filled with skyscrapers.
By then, hopefully, I'll be hiding out in a cabin on the Oregon Coast.
Eric Mathison can be reached at email@example.com, or at 206-444-4873.