Kent City Council ready to rumble with Sound Transit

Members continue fight against light rail yard at Dick’s Drive-In, Lowe’s site

The Kent City Council plans to keep fighting against Sound Transit to remove the Dick’s Drive-In and Lowe’s property on the West Hill as a potential site for a new light rail vehicle operations and maintenance facility.

Eight people testified at a public hearing Tuesday night at City Hall in favor of the temporary zoning change adopted by the council last month to ban the facility from the property near the southeast corner of South 240th Street and Pacific Highway South. The site is one of six properties in South King County under consideration by the transit agency.

After the testimony, Council President Bill Boyce promised that city leaders are ready to rumble.

“This is very important to us, and we will fight this tooth and nail to make sure that this property is not impacted,” Boyce said. “At the end of the day, there are several sites. I’m an optimist and I strongly believe that we will be able to convince Sound Transit that this is not the right spot for them and that the landfill is the right spot for them.”

The former Midway Landfill, a 60-acre site in Kent just west of Interstate 5 and east of Pacific Highway South between South 246th Street and South 252nd Street, is on the Sound Transit list. The agency needs a 30-acre site for its facility, so two sites on the landfill, which closed in 1983 and is owned by Seattle Public Utilities, are being studied.

So far, Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff remains strong in his opinion that the Dick’s/Lowe’s site should stay on the list. He told the Sound Transit Board last month that, “existing commercial uses and incompatibility zoning alone are not enough to protect Sound Transit from a potential legal challenge later in the process.”

After further analysis by agency staff and consultants and public hearings over the next few months, the board will decide in May which sites to move forward into a two-year environmental impact statement process before picking a location. Two other sites are in Federal Way, including the Christian Faith Center, and one is in unincorporated King County.

Besides saving local businesses, city leaders oppose the Dick’s/Lowe’s site because the council eight years ago approved zoning in the Midway area to allow a transit-oriented corridor with high-rise buildings for businesses and residents around the new light rail station to be built near 30th Avenue South and Pacific Highway South. That Kent/Des Moines stop will be part of the 7.8-mile extension of light rail in 2024 from SeaTac to Federal Way. Nobody considered a operations and maintenance facility to be part of that plan.

“We envisioned a transit-oriented development, a dense walkable neighborhood full of businesses and homes and multiple uses with quick and ready access to that new light rail station,” Councilman Dennis Higgins said. “For any organization to come in and think they are going to overturn the will of the cities of Des Moines and Kent that went through that (planning) process offends me deeply, deeply, deeply.

“Especially, when there is the perfect location to put a operations and maintenance facility immediately to the south (at the landfill). … How dare they look at taking away half of our transit-oriented development. How dare they. Take that site off the list today!”

Kent resident Tim Brown thanked the council for its stand and to continue to fight.

“We need to make it clear to Sound Transit that they are not going to take a brand new business (Dick’s opened in December) and mow it under for the cheapest dollar it can get,” Brown said. “We need to make it clear there are other properties better for their use than what they are doing here by removing Dick’s and the other businesses that is totally incompatible with that neighborhood.”

Boyce later encouraged people to reach out to the 18-member Sound Transit board by email to oppose the site.

“We are not going to let this happen,” he said.

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