Sound Transit Board member Dave Upthegrove wants the Lowe’s/Dick’s Drive-In site removed from further consideration by the agency as a potential location for a light rail vehicle Operations and Maintenance Facility.
Upthegrove, a King County Council member whose District 5 includes Kent’s West Hill, sent a letter Monday to Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff stating that he will ask fellow board members in May to support him in a motion to not advance the site at South 240th Street and Pacific Highway South into the two-year Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) process.
Sound Transit is in the middle of gathering public comment about six proposed sites for the facility. The board plans to vote in May about which sites to move forward.
“I decided after talking with a lot of people that I will use my position as a Sound Transit Board member to try to remove the site from consideration,” Upthegrove said in a Monday phone interview. “I’ve concluded there will still be a good mix of sites even without that one.”
Upthegrove said he has three primary reasons for opposing the Lowe’s/Dick’s site:
• People are against it
“The most compelling reason for me is my constituents don’t want it there,” Upthegrove said.
Residents in the area as well as Kent Mayor Dana Ralph and the City Council oppose the site. The City Council passed an emergency zoning ordinance to ban the facility, which needs at least 30 acres to service light rail vehicles and is expected to open in 2026, two years after Sound Transit extends light rail from SeaTac through Kent to Federal Way.
“As a public agency, we have a responsibility to listen to the needs and desires of the citizens who have authorized and funded our regional transportation system,” Upthegrove wrote in his letter. “As an elected official, it is my duty to speak on behalf of and act upon the interests of the people I represent.”
• Impact on transit-oriented development
A light rail station for passengers will be built in Kent near 30th Avenue South and Pacific Highway South, just a short walk north of Lowe’s and Dick’s Drive-In. The cities of Kent and Des Moines as well as Sound Transit already compiled plans for future redevelopment of the area around the station to include retail and housing. Upthegrove said taking at least 30 acres of the station area for the maintenance facility would hinder potential development.
“The station area can provide much needed housing, employment and services for this area,” Upthegrove said in the letter. “Blocking the opportunity to improve the economy and quality of life in this diverse low-income area fails to realize our own board-adopted equitable transit-oriented development vision.”
• Removal of 30 mobile home park units
The agency would need to relocate people from 30 mobile homes if the site is picked.
“As we see the demand for affordable housing continue to rise – especially in South King County – I find it unacceptable to eliminate 30 affordable housing units,” Upthegrove said.
The board challenge
While Upthegrove has the support of Kent city leaders and many West Hill residents and businesses, it is the 18-member board that will make the final decision about which sites to advance for further study.
The appointed board includes representatives from King, Pierce and Snohomish counties. It will take at least 10 votes to remove the Lowe’s/Dick’s site from consideration.
“I don’t know if it will be successful,” Upthegrove said about his proposed amendment to advance five of the six proposed sites. “All I can do is try.”
Upthegrove opposes the Lowe’s/Dick’s site advancing into the two-year study process because no developer will look at the area near the light rail station with the unknown outcome of the property.
“Simply remaining on the list of alternatives during the environmental review phase will significantly delay development opportunities,” Upthegrove said.
The other sites under consideration include two potential locations on the former Midway Landfill west of Interstate 5 in Kent; unincorporated King County at South 316th Street and Military Road; and two Federal Way sites – South 336th Street near I-5 and South 344th Street near I-5.