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19 February 2007 @ 11:46 am
Renton Reporter: Council again puts off vote on Kennydale Blueberry Farm  
by Emily Garland

It’s been almost a year-and-a-half since Sue Larson-Kinzer and her husband, Darrell, asked city staff for a rezone of their property, known as the Kennydale Blueberry Farm. They’re still waiting for a decision to be made.

“It has gotten to the absurd,” Sue Larson-Kinzer said after Monday’s meeting.

City Council’s Planning and Development Committee recently voted unanimously that the farm should be upzoned from Resource Conservation (RC) to Residential-4 (R-4), but City Council has not ruled on the upzone.

The council was to take action at its meeting Feb. 12 and again at Monday’s meeting, but it will not revisit the issue until a Committee of the Whole meeting Feb. 26.

At this week’s meeting, council member Randy Corman said the council asked city staff to ask the Kinzers if they would allow the city to have an expert analyze the wetlands on their property. The city would pay for this analysis, Corman said.

A wetland delineation has never been done on the blueberry farm land and is not required for a rezone, city staff have said. The Kinzers must give permission for an analysis.

Corman said an analysis would better equip council to make a decision on the upzone.

“If we had better clarity on how much (of the property) is wetland and how it’s going to be protected, we probably wouldn’t have as many remaining concerns about allowing the rezone,” Corman said.

Although R-4 allows four houses to be built per acre of land, and RC only allows one house per 10 acres, city staff say that zoning the farm R-4 actually offers better protection of the wetland. The wetland only leaves room for one house to be built on the land, staff said.

The Kinzers want their land rezoned to R-4 so they can sell the property and start over as farmers up north. An upzone would allow them to make a larger profit on the sale. They claim that adverse effects from development surrounding the land has made it near impossible to continue operating their U-Pick farm.

Corman said City Council may also discuss purchasing the wetland portion of the farm.

Since the rezone application was turned in, many of the Kinzers’ neighbors and other community members have spoken against an upzone at City Council meetings.

Corman said he regrets that the proposed rezone has churned up so much contention, but said he is glad council has not rushed into a decision.

“I think we’re doing the community a service,” he said. “There’s so much concern about the wetland, and I think if council had not had had this in-depth discussion and just rezoned it, that very likely would have been appealed.

“If we come up with a workable solution, that will just allow everybody to move forward and on with life, which would be good.”

The Committee of the Whole meeting on Feb. 26 begins at 5 p.m. in council chambers at Renton City Hall, located at 1055 S. Grady Way. The meeting is open to the public.

Emily Garland can be reached at emily.garland@reporternewspapers.com or (253) 437-6009.