Glenn Carpenter wishes the city of Kent would construct a 16-story water tower on empty land it owns just up the street rather than taking away a small park and grove of large trees right behind his law office.
“They are just trying to squeeze it in here,” said Carpenter as he walked in Kronisch Park just several feet from his law office at 24730 Military Road S. “I think it would be a better spot (at the future West Hill Park site) because it’s much larger and you could fit the tower in there easily and it wouldn’t affect anybody. You could still have ground around it to use for open space.”
The City Council will have a public hearing at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 3, at City Hall to consider the transfer of the Kronisch property, near Military Road South and South 248th Street, from the Parks Department to the Public Works Department for construction of a water tower.
City Public Works staff says the 165-foot tower, which will store 5.5 million gallons of water, is needed to improve the water supply for development and water pressure for firefighting.
If the council approves the land transfer, construction is anticipated to begin in fall 2020 and be completed in 2021, said Drew Holcomb, city Public Works design engineer, in an email.
The estimated cost of the water tower facility is $12.5 million, Holcomb said. Funding will come from the city’s water utility capital fund.
If a new water tower is built, the city also plans additional projects to support the facility, including a new pump station near Veteran’s Drive and Military Road South and about 2 miles of a new water main along Veteran’s Drive and Military Road South.
Carpenter, a personal injury attorney, doesn’t dispute the need for the tower. He’s against the location. The park is about 0.65 acres with several large trees and a grass area. His office sits to the west of the park. A strip mall is to the north, homes border the south and 38th Avenue South runs along the east side.
“It’s going to be 25 feet from my building,” he said. “I’m not looking forward to that. These trees, I bet some are 100 years old and they are beautiful trees, and they are going to remove every one of them. It’s terrible. There are no trees over in that other area. I wish they had looked more seriously over there.”
Seventy percent of the property would be comprised of impervious surfaces after development, according to city documents.
City planner Jason Garnham testified in front of the city land use hearing examiner in June that staff picked Kronisch Park because the water tower facility needs to be located at as high an elevation as possible in order to serve the region with a gravity water system, and because the site is flat and stable whereas the West Hill Park area is sloped and comprised of soils that are potentially unstable.
Garnham said the city Parks Department also has long-term plans to develop West Hill Park (now an empty grass field) as a high-quality, multipurpose regional park and siting the water tower facility there would diminish the utility of the park.
City Hearing Examiner Andrew Reeves in July approved the city’s application for a conditional use permit to build the water tower facility at Kronisch Park. Now the council will decide whether the land transfer should be approved.
Councilmember Brenda Fincher heard the plan discussed at a workshop July 2 and at the council’s Public Works Committee on Aug. 5. She raised a few concerns.
“I know there’s fire danger, but it’s also another piece of our parks department being chipped away, that we are losing,” Fincher said. “And there is not a lot of park space on West Hill.”
David and Mary Ann Kronisch deeded the property to the city in 1991 to be a small park. Most of the residential areas to the south and east of the park were built in the 1950s and 1960s.
“I was told back in ’98 it was dedicated as a park,” said Carpenter, who initially rented the office space and then bought the building in 2000. “I see kids out here once in awhile playing or picnicking or kicking the ball around. It does get used. It’s not developed. If they put a playground in here, I’m sure it would get used everyday.”
The city proposal would keep a small path that runs along the southern edge of the park and connects 38th Avenue South and Military Road South.
The title report for the park property does not contain any restrictions that would prohibit use of the site for a water tower, said David Brock, city Public Works deputy director, in testimony to the hearing examiner Reeves, who verified the deed had no restrictions.
Fincher asked Public Works Director Tim LaPorte about other potential sites for the water tower.
“We looked at the Armory site, they told us no,” LaPorte said.
The Kent National Guard Armory sits between the two park properties. It has been a military site since at least the 1940s, according to city documents.
The other water tanks on the West Hill were built in the 1950s and don’t have the capacity to handle the upgrade the city seeks. City staff says the Washington Administrative Code prescribes pressure and storage requirements for public water supplies and the West Hill area does not meet the requirements for water storage standby and fire-flow storage, falling about 2.5 million gallons short for the existing developed areas.
The West Hill water service area goes to South 272nd Street on the southern border, Kent Des Moines Road to the north, Interstate 5 to the west and the base of West Hill to the east.
Mary Adams, who lives directly adjacent to the project site to the south, wrote the city that she’s concerned the large structure will impact the value of her residential property.
“My house is all I have to leave to my children when I die, and I am afraid that this huge eyesore next to my property will bring down my property value,” Adams wrote.
She said her grandchildren play at the park. That won’t be possible if the tower is built.
“From the photo you provided, it appears this means the entire park will be taken up by this massive structure, which I find totally unacceptable,” Adams wrote.
Adams added that the park is frequently used, especially in the summer, and is a community asset. As with Carpenter, she prefers the city put the tower on its undeveloped park property at the end of 38th Avenue South, just north of the National Guard facility and about 1,000 feet from Kronisch Park.
Carpenter has concerns about property values as well. And he’s not too impressed with the rendering of the tower with muted green colors and trees.
“They say it’s going to blend in because they are going to paint it,” he said. “I don’t think it’s going to blend in much. Basically, it’s going to stick out like a sore thumb at 16 stories and nothing else around here more than two stories.”