City crews will remove a small park and large trees on Kent’s West Hill to make room for a 16-story water tower.
The City Council on Tuesday night unanimously approved the transfer of the 0.65 acres to the Public Works Department from the Parks Department to build the water storage tank next year near South 248th Street and Military Road South. Public Works will pay the Parks Department $520,000 (set by an appraiser) for the land, with those funds to be used for park expansions, improvements or acquisitions on the West Hill.
The council in September delayed a vote on the removal of the undeveloped Kronisch Park after several people testified they wanted city officials to find a different spot for the 165-foot tower in order to preserve the park and keep such a tall tower away from their business or home.
But city staff reported to the council that other choices were limited.
City officials didn’t want to build the tower on undeveloped land two blocks up the street because of long-term plans for a regional West Hill park on that property. National Guard officials turned down city staff about potentially building the water tower at the Kent Armory along Military Road South. Other sites would have meant buying and demolishing as many as four to six homes, said City Public Works Director Tim LaPorte.
“When this came up before the council a couple of months ago, we took a pause to try to make sure this is the right thing to do,” Council President Bill Boyce said at the meeting. “Between that time we had a lot of questions to staff to get clarification. By the end of the day, we are not going to take houses down to put a water tank up.
“There is a need for water on the West Hill. Deep down inside, I feel this is the right thing to do. It may not be the best of the best decisions, but based on what we looked at, what we studied and what we were told (by staff), this is our only choice.”
City staff recommended the Kronisch Park site because the water tower needs to be located at as high an elevation as possible in order to serve the region with a gravity water system with strong pressure, and the site is flat and stable. The water tank will take up most of the property and all of the large trees at the park will be removed.
Glenn Carpenter, whose law office sits right next to the park and who was featured in a Kent Reporter story in August favoring the tower to be built on city park property down the street, said in an email Wednesday he didn’t know about the council’s planned vote.
“Did they have a hearing? I don’t think I received any notice,” Carpenter said. “I’m disappointed in the council. I have never received a response to my/our concerns about the effects it will have on our business/ homes or why that can’t build it down the street. It’s almost as if they don’t care.”
Money from the city water utility fund from ratepayers will pay for the estimated $12.5 million tower, which will store 5.5 million gallons of water. City staff said the storage facility is needed to improve water pressure for firefighting and water supply for development.
City staff noted that the Parks Department bought the property in 1991 for $75,000 from David and Mary Ann Kronisch. There were no restrictions on the property to prohibit use of the site for a water tower. The city hearing examiner in July approved a conditional use permit for the city to build the water tower on the property.
Councilmember Dennis Higgins said prior to the vote that better planning is needed in the future.
“I would say to Public Works, we’ve known we’ve had to build this for many years and I know we have lots of things going on, but for the future, if it’s possible, planning 10 years in advance rather than two or three years in advance and we may be able to head off a situation like this,” Higgins said.
Mayor Dana Ralph added a final comment after the vote.
“I think that’s a really good example of having a really difficult decision and having to choose between two not-so-great options,” Ralph said.