Isn't it sad to see how quickly democracy and the values of the Constitution
get pushed aside by the people at City Hall in the name of "sound municipal
policy"? Since the Puyallup City Council limits public comment at council
meetings to just three minutes I'll have to submit this story to the editor
since it takes about 6 minutes to tell. Consider it to be a parable, but the
city's actions can be well documented.
We have a piece of property in unincorporated Pierce County outside the city
limits of Puyallup. We don't feel it is appropriately zoned as single family
residential on one acre sites since it directly borders highway 512 and several
commercial businesses. We call up our elected representatives in the County
and invite them to come look at this property to see if they would be open to
rezoning it. After visiting, they agree that since there is never a semi truck
not going by and because of the noise issues from the freeway they would
consider a rezone.
As we drive our big yellow public notice sign into the ground our neighbors from
the six-plex apartments, the commercial nursery, the machine shop, and the
storage units that have one of the tallest cell phone towers in the county all
come out to ask what we are doing. We tell them we want to have our property
rezoned by the county to "mixed use". They ask what it is now and we tell them
it is zoned as single family residential homes on one acre sites. They are
amazed and tell us they thought it was mixed use all along. They agree it would
be better used as commercial.
We then go to meet with the County Planning Committee at an open public meeting.
The planning committee listens to anyone who wishes to speak including a representative
from the City of Puyallup if they chose to send someone. If somebody decided
to fly up from Florida and complain about all the commercial development alongside
freeways the committee would listen. Any citizen or government representative
has the right to speak at this open public meeting. The planning committee, after
listening to all public testimony, agrees that this property might be more
appropriately zoned as mixed use and sends the County Planning Department off
to study this issue and make certain that nobody is missing anything, that all
laws are being followed, and that there wouldn't be any negative impacts.
In the meantime, we move forward with our proposal to the County Planning Commission.
These folks are citizens who volunteer their time to oversee the growth in the
County. It requires a great deal of time. We present our case to the
commission at another open public meeting which anyone can attend, including any
representatives from the City of Puyallup. If someone chose to show up at
this meeting and read poetry, they could.
Over a year and half after we start this process (there aren't any snap decisions
being made here), we go back to the planning committee. They listen to the
planning department, the planning commission, and anyone else who wishes to
speak at this open public meeting. And then at one more open public meeting
the County Planning Committee drops its gavel, and declares that this property
should be rezoned as mixed use.
But the City of Puyallup says WE DON'T CARE. We don't care what your neighbors
say, we don't care what your elected representatives say, we don't care what
your planning commission says, and we don't care what your planning committee
says. WE DON'T CARE ABOUT YOUR STINKING DEMOCRATIC PROCESS. WE control the
water. Therefore, you WILL do what WE tell you to do. You WILL put in single
family homes on one acre sites. You or anyone who owns that property WILL
agree to be annexed by the City. You WILL sign any petition we tell you to
sign. You WILL agree to any Local Improvement District we tell you to agree
to. You WILL actively promote annexation in the area and not speak out
against the City of Puyallup. You WILL sign over irrevocable power of attorney
to the City in order for us to accomplish any of these requirements if and
when we should decide to annex the area. If you do not agree to our terms,
you may not build on your land.
Wouldn't it be wonderful if the City of Puyallup had so much to offer that
it didn't have to strong arm it's annexation process, that people would
actually still be allowed to vote or sign petitions for annexation because
they wanted to become part of the City? That the City didn't have to use
water service to coerce developers and citizens to accept its form of
government? Wouldn't it be wonderful if the City showed as much respect
for democracy as all the people who have died fighting for it, or the people
who wrote our Constitution? Wouldn't it be wonderful if the citizens of this
country didn't have to fight off petty dictatorships that seek to control
without representing the people it seeks to control? After all, people
outside the city limits don't vote for council members in the city. In this
country we like to think we are still a democracy, Puyallup's actions
certainly prove otherwise.
By the way, if the city limited public comment to 30 seconds, they wouldn't
have to listen at all.