Federal Way appears poised to scrap the idea of building a maintenance facility on the Steel Lake Annex, a controversial plan approved on a narrow City Council vote last summer that would have required removing the skate park, two ballfields and about 9 acres of public land on the property.
The city had considered the Steel Lake Annex property for its Operations and Maintenance Facility in the first place because “it’s property we already own,” Mayor Jim Ferrell said in a phone interview. Initially, the city expected to save around $800,000 to $1 million per year, for the next 20 years, by using the area.
But the city “did our due diligence,” Ferrell said, and confirmed what they had heard from concerned citizens, including at prior council meetings: Federal Way would have been required by the National Park Service to replace every acre of park space removed at the Annex with new park space.
“We’d have to come up with 11 new acres of park land, starting now,” Ferrell said. Recent additions like Town Square Park couldn’t count retroactively to that obligation.
When Federal Way was incorporated 33 years ago, city staff hadn’t recorded that obligation for the land, so it didn’t come up a few years ago when Ferrell’s staff first reviewed the land requirements, he said.
Without any financial savings from pursuing the location, Ferrell said there’s no longer any will on the council or desire from the city to choose the location.
“I think it’s safe to say at this point that we are no longer going to be pursuing … the Steel Lake Annex (as) the preferred site for the Operations and Maintenance Facility,” Ferrell said.
While Ferrell is confident the city would have discovered this snag in the plan either way, he said public response did play a role in the decision.
“We work for the public,” he said. “We always listen to the people we work for. … I do think they had an impact. They got us to this information and drew more attention on to it more quickly.”
The current O&M facility, which houses city trucks, tractors and other heavy equipment, sits on a 4.1-acre site at 31130 28th Ave. S. The building is falling apart and is prone to break-ins, and is not safe for city employees anymore, according to the city.
The city had its eye on the Steel Lake Annex, located across from the existing facility, in 2020, in part because the skate park was seen as “underutilized.” The council approved the spending of $250,000 in a council meeting last July to advance a preliminary design of the new O&M facility there, with plans to finish the facility in 2025.
That design work will still be useful wherever the facility is located, Ferrell said.
“No money has been wasted,” Ferrell said.
Dozens of Steel Lake area residents pushed back against the idea during the public comment period that meeting.
The council will now likely consider either expanding the O&M facility to the north, which would require acquiring some houses on private property, or moving the operation to the wooded northeast intersection of First Avenue and South 320th Street. Expect to see the matter come up at the March 7 city council meeting.