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With people flocking to South Hill, Pierce County updates plan to accommodate influx

Posted by Joe Bell on June 1, 2017
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With people flocking to South Hill, Pierce County updates plan to accommodate influx

By Allison Needles

May 31, 2017
Pierce County is planning for new growth in unincorporated communities as 60,000 people are expected to move in between now and 2030.

South Hill is one of those communities being looked at closely, along with Frederickson, Mid-County and Parkland-Spanaway-Midland communities. South Hill’s population is currently more than 53,000 people. The population jumped to 50,000 from 35,000 between 2000 and 2010.

“We always have to plan for future growth,” said Pierce County Associate Planner Jessica Gwilt, adding that the growth will happen regardless. “We have to figure out where that growth will go.”

Pierce County hosted an open house May 23 at Meridian Habitat Park on South Hill to invite residents to share their thoughts on the initial updates for the area’s Community Plan. The Community Plan reflects how the community wants South Hill to develop in the future, and was adopted in 2003. Pierce County began updating the plan in 2016 and will continue until 2018.

About 60,000 people are expected to move to unincorporated Pierce County communities between now and 2030.

The county is using the Centers and Corridors Concept as the framework behind the updates. Where Centers are “areas of major commercial and multifamily development with an emphasis on walkability and gathering people together,” Corridors are “areas for residential, commercial and employment uses designed to connect people to Centers,” according to county officials. The Centers and Corridors increase development along major arterials.


“We have these major transportation corridors — they’re the ones people use the most,” Gwilt said.

Meridian Ave., or state Route 161, is one of the main transportation corridors looked at by Pierce County.

“We’re trying to concentrate the growth along the transportation corridors,” said Tiffany O’Dell, senior planner for Pierce County planning and public works.“We’re trying to concentrate the growth along the transportation corridors.” Said Tiffany O’Dell, senior planner for Pierce County Planning and Public Works.

Currently, Pierce County is proposing a Centers and Corridors zoning map. Along Meridian is a Mixed Use Corridor Designation, which promotes transit-supportive densities, including multifamily residences, while still allowing for commercial use between Centers.

There are two Center Designations along Meridian, called Longston and Sunrise. Longston is a Mixed Use-High Density Residential Zone, which promotes high-density multifamily residences. It also promotes access to services for everyday needs and leisure activities, and should be within walking distance of residences.

Sunrise is a Mixed-Use Commercial Zone, which promotes moderate-density multifamily residences, some single family, and a range of commercial uses, including local retail and shopping, grocery, restaurants and other services.

Both Gwilt and O’Dell said residents have discussed with them concerns over taxes, changing zoning codes and transportation as growth increases.

Pierce County is taking into account traffic congestion and plans to work with Washington State Department of Transportation for traffic road improvements in the future.

The county also has a mobility map with proposed trails for residents on foot to reach their destinations without vehicle transportation, and to feel safe while doing so.

“This gives people options,” O’Dell said. “We’re really looking at the opportunities we have.”

The Community Plan Update is still in its early stages, and zoning boundaries are expected to change with input from the public, Gwilt said. “It’s a vision for the future,” she said. “This is the start of a conversation, not the ending point of one.”

Moving forward, the Pierce County Planning and Public Works Department will draft updates to the Community Plans and propose them to the Pierce County Council and Land Use Advisory Commissions. The final proposal will be considered by the Council in the winter.

Three more open houses are scheduled for the month of June. For more information, visit


Allison Needles: 253-256-7043, @herald_allison


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