Rumors & Questions

Check this page for updates on rumors, chatter heard about town to get the facts and real scoop straight from the source.

Check this page for updates on rumors, chatter heard about town to get the facts and real scoop straight from the source.

  • QUESTION: what is the City doing about commuter parking?

    24 October, 2019

    We definitely realize that commuter parking is getting tight and painful. A lot of projects will improve access in the long-run: more housing right downtown next to the station, fixing the Traffic Avenue bottleneck, and even Sound Transit’s parking garage that will bring 500 more spaces in 2021. However, as all this gets built, it will make things even tighter before it gets better. And, we’re fully aware that no matter how much is done, demand for parking will always outpace supply.

    We will keep reviewing how to balance residential, local business and commuter parking needs to see if we can help one group without impacting the others too badly. We think we can find a few areas that are currently timed parking that we can let go back to open parking for commuters without hurting businesses, but even that brings just minimal spaces at best.

    There has to be more options to access the Sumner Station than just parking. One long-term way is to provide housing at the stations, so people can live and commute and not worry about parking. We have two projects coming—one the Red Apple and one up on Fryar next to the existing library. Both accommodate parking for their residents on-site, making them good options for transit commuters.

    The other long-term access solution is for transit options feeding the station. The Bonney Lake shuttle proves that this option works well for commuters, and it would be wonderful to have feeders coming in from Tehaleh, Orting, etc. However, we don’t run transit. We keep mentioning this need to our transit agency partners, but they have a lot of regional projects on their plate.

    Related Question: Does the City get funding for having a station here?

    This is a common perception that then leads to the idea that the City has some sort of duty to provide commuter parking. We get no such funding and have no such duty.

    For a long time, the land the station and lot is on was owned by the City, so Sound Transit paid us a lease. However, we set that rate below market value, meaning we were essentially subsidizing, not profiting, from the exchange. We also receive funding from Sound Transit for specific access projects--the Traffic Avenue interchange, a pedestrian bridge over SR 410, sidewalk improvements and bike lanes on Academy Street. However, none of that funding comes to us to create parking. It is all for project-specific access improvements, and in most cases, the City also invests as much resources in the same projects.

    Related Question: Will bike lanes on Academy Street take out that parking too?

    No, they will not. The design is to have bike lanes and retain street parking for commuters. Academy Street was the compromise to leave open for commuter parking when we installed Restricted Parking Zones (RPZs) for residents. We chose that street because no home's front door faces the street. There are still a few homeowners who disagree with that compromise.

  • QUESTION: do I need a permit or reservation to hold a party in one of Sumner's parks?

    27 June, 2019

    All park spaces, including the gazebo, picnic shelters, tables, barbecues, etc. are available on a first-come, first-serve basis only at no cost. Please note if it is a busy weekend of graduation parties or Father's Day, for example, other people may have the same idea. Normal uses, such as birthday parties, family picnics, etc. do not require any kind of permit. Click here for a list of Sumner's parks and their amenities.

    If your event is larger and changes the normal, everyday use of the park, you should obtain a Special Event Permit. This situation occurs if your event includes major components such as structures (tents, special tables, inflatable bounce toys, etc.) or a band or amplified music. Click here for more information about holding special events.

  • RUMOR: City of Sumner is considering permitting an asphalt batch plant

    25 June, 2019

    FACTS:Actually, an asphalt batch plant has operated in Sumner for decades, within a half mile of hundreds of homes, businesses, schools and churches. Sumner has also been home to a yeast plant, paper processing facility, and operates a waste water treatment facility, all surrounded by residential areas. Sumner is also home to an existing mineral extraction facility, which has been operating in the city for over a hundred years. The mineral extraction site crosses two city zones: Low-Density Residential (LDR) and General Commercial (GC). The LDR zone allows for mineral extraction, while the GC does not, which was likely an oversight many years ago. That means the hundred year old facility is technically “non-conforming” under current code. The concern of the owner is that if the facility was damaged under current zoning code, the owner could not rebuild. In order to be in compliance with the city code, and to allow for future repairs if needed, the owner has asked for both zones to allow mineral extraction as a conditional use.

    That is the issue currently before the city. It is called a zoning code text amendment.

    What is confusing the issue is that under State law, mineral extraction, by definition, can include batching facilities. The owner has discussed this as a potential use, but it would have to be separately permitted under a Conditional Use Permit, which would require a public process, including noticing, public hearings, conditions to mitigate impacts, and federal regulation and approvals. There is no application being considered at this time.

    More Information: Because the City is already home to an asphalt batch plant, it recognizes the concerns of citizens. Although we generally don’t hear complaints, the existing plant, built under older regulations, does emit some odor on occasion. A representative from the Clean Air Agency met with the City Council to discuss newer regulations that reduce potential for odors, and code provisions the City can adopt to further address any impacts. These are being considered as part of the text amendment.

    Because the site abuts the City boundary, the City Council is also concerned that the owner of the mineral extraction site could locate an asphalt batch plant on County land, where it would be currently permitted, without the provisions to reduce impacts to our City. As our Mayor has said, it’s not just a simple matter of whether an asphalt batch plant should be located in Sumner. It’s a matter of how best to protect the long-term impacts of decisions even beyond our borders.

    If you are concerned about asphalt batch plants, you can express your concerns to the Council at any time. If and when the City receives a permit for an asphalt batch plant, it would be important to express any concerns you have at that time, so that the hearing examiner has the opportunity to consider and impose reasonable conditions.

  • QUESTION: why is the City focusing on fixing the SR 410/166th interchange next? Have you seen SR 162 lately?

    17 June, 2019
    supporting image

    We have, and that’s why we’re focused on 166th next. There are two main reasons. First, both interchanges are horribly congested, but the 166th interchange has major safety issues with no signals at the westbound ramps. Traffic collision data shows that while the number of accidents are similar, 166th experiences way more dangerous turning accidents than the rear-enders on SR 162.

    Second, it’s going to be much quicker and cheaper to fix the 166th interchange. We could complete the fixes for $9.5 million. While that’s not exactly cheap, it’s a lot cheaper than the estimated $30 million needed for SR 162/410 interchange. And it’s not just the interchange that’s the issue on SR 162. The entire highway to Orting needs relief, making it a major project. Getting 166th done gives us an alternate route that will be important whenever SR 162 does go under extensive construction.

    And the added bonus? The 166th project also includes replacing the current Salmon Creek culvert with a fish-passage culvert designed to meet today’s standards in this environmentally significant creek. With all the work on orcas in Puget Sound and salmon runs this is a significant additional piece of this important transportation project.
    So far, the Sumner City Council included $150,000 in our budget to plan the 166th Avenue interchange improvements. We’re asking the State of Washington to provide seed money in their transportation budget, and from there, we’ll continue to seek grants and other funding sources.

  • RUMOR: The Town Center Plan means the City will "take" people's property in the town center to build high-rises.

    17 June, 2019

    FACTS: No, not at all. We’ve had a Town Center Plan for decades, by the way, as well as a Comprehensive Plan. Plans help direct the future by determining what property owners can and can’t do on their property. The idea is to avoid conflicting uses next to each other and give the entire city a general direction it’s going.

    Recent updates to the Town Center Plan give property owners within that area slightly different options than they had before if they are interested in developing their land. In some locations, that does include allowing a slightly taller building, a change made at the request of numerous existing property owners as well as the general public who provided feedback for over a year on these rewrites. The updated Town Center Plan does not, in any way, supersede private property rights.

    On a related note, the City owns the block where the Red Apple was located. We only own this land because it was originally intended in the 1990s to build a larger City Hall there. Instead, we expanded our existing building in the early 2000s, making the Red Apple site no longer necessary. After recently acquiring the last two parcels, we are finally marketing the property for redevelopment but that’s in an effort to get ourselves out of the land-development business, not further into it.

  • TOUGH TOPIC: Homelessness in Sumner

    17 June, 2019

    It’s a topic on the minds of communities throughout the Northwest, and it’s a topic that is not new to Sumner. During the Great Depression, individuals, then termed “hoboes” and “tramps,” would come off the trains and gather down by the river behind the Cannery, when it was a cannery. What is the philosophy of the City of Sumner and the Sumner Police Department? This is a big topic, but here are a few very general overviews.

    The term “homeless” is too broad to accurately describe varying situations. Chief Brad Moericke talks about the difference between unsheltered individuals and transients. Although they don’t have a physical address, unsheltered individuals identify Sumner as their home, typically have lived here for years and are well known as part of the community. Transients truly are “on the go” and passing through, usually on their way to Seattle. Sumner’s officers often know our unsheltered residents and also try to make contact with transients to understand their situation and help get them resources or headed in the right direction.

    Being homeless is not a crime. Police officers still get calls, asking us to arrest someone “for being homeless” or appearing dirty or disheveled. That is not possible. Nor is it true that being homeless equals or assumes criminal activity. Sadly, as a Police department, we see crime committed by individuals in every socio-economic bracket.

    Shared space is indeed shared space, which brings benefits and challenges. Our roads, sidewalks and parks are shared space available for everyone to enjoy regardless of economic, gender, or racial status. However, there are norms and laws to keep one individual’s enjoyment from interfering with another’s. That’s why we have laws against overnight camping as well as golfing in parks, skateboarding on sidewalks or consuming alcoholic beverages in public. The Council is considering no longer allowing smoking or vaping in parks. Again, these norms and rules apply to everyone.

    What does all this mean for you? As always, please call police when something feels amiss. We maintain the motto that no call is too small. Collectively, you have more eyes and ears on the streets than we have officers, so let us know. Your call keeps us informed and may also give us an opportunity to check with someone new. Last year, a citizen called about a man living in his truck outside their home. The officer checked in with the man who was indeed homeless and a veteran experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder. Rather than just ask him to move along, our officer, also a vet, connected the man with resources. Today, the man is getting assistance through Veterans Affairs and living in an apartment.

    What can you do to help? The most effective way to help is to volunteer, donate or simply ask what’s needed at existing organizations ranging from the Sumner Food Bank to the Emmanuel Food Pantry to St. Francis House in Puyallup or Exodus Housing in Sumner. Working together is much more effective than trying to provide food or clothing on your own. The City of Sumner and our employees support a number of efforts ranging from the Food Bank to the Sumner-Bonney Lake Family Center. We’d love to have you join us.

  • RUMOR: "The City took the bus service away."

    27 June, 2019

    From time to time we hear this when people ask what happened to the bus in Sumner. No, we did not take bus service away. That was done for us many years ago when the local transit agency announced in 2012 that they were removing regular service throughout our community and limiting service only to the train station, while still collecting approximately $2M in taxes. We asked them to reconsider, but they moved ahead anyway. As a result of their decision, we removed ourselves from being in the transit district. Per their plan, a bus would have come from Puyallup into the Sumner Sounder Station and gone right back out again. There would not have been a bus throughout the city, and they would also have cancelled the shuttle to the Bonney Lake Park & Ride that hundreds of commuters need daily. Worse, their Shuttle service for disabled riders would have left significant low-income and senior residential areas in most of our City without any service at all.

    When the City of Sumner withdrew from the transit agency, it lowered our sales tax rate from 9.3% to 8.8%. This was not money collected by the City and used elsewhere. It was a savings to citizens, particularly helping low-income populations that are hardest hit by sales taxes. (Please note that the sales tax rate has since gone back up to 9.3% with ST3 and would have been 9.8% if we were also still in the transit district.)

    Plus, by removing ourselves from a transit district, we were eligible to bring in other transit service, notably two key services. First, Beyond the Borders service provides free bus service throughout the entire city for youth, disabled, senior and low-income citizens. They have a fixed route that runs weekdays and service the YMCA, the library, grocery stores and the senior center as well as offering direct rides in certain instances. Second, after extensive lobbying by the City of Sumner and Pierce County, Sound Transit agreed to pick up the vital Bonney Lake Park and Ride Shuttle. Had we remained in the transit district, we would have had neither service nor been able to seek them from other agencies.

    A few citizens have said they have called the transit agency who said the City of Sumner cancelled buses. While that’s partially true, it’s not the whole story. What really happened is that the City canceled being in the transit agency only because the transit agency had already canceled virtually all of our bus service, hurting those who needed it most. Today, the city actually has wider service, and we hope citizens use these vital services as that’s the only way of retaining them.