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Council Passes a Rural Reserve Rezone for Tiny Homes Community

We are very pleased to announce that in researching the proposal to build a Tiny Home Village for the unhoused near Spanaway Marsh and Audubon Springs, Tahoma Audubon members have found a compromise solution that may work for all parties involved.

In late March, the Pierce County Council authorized significant changes to the Rural Residential zones in Ordinance 2023-5s. These changes expanded the housing densities allowed in Parkland-Spanaway-Midland Community Plan. This violated the Growth Management Policy, which requires that a change of regulations must be completed after the Growth Management Policy has been amended.

In this case, the new regulation in the RR zone is in violation of county policies and regulations that limit the number of homes in this zone. These regulations exist to protect wildlife corridors in and around the wetlands in the vicinity of Audubon Springs.

Resolution R2022-163 was also approved and will release $22 million of funding to begin permitting and construction of a Tiny Home Village for the chronically homeless. It will build 285 micro-homes on 85 acres near Spanaway Loop Road. It is also north of Spanaway Marsh, which is a favorite birding location for Audubon members. The vote to pass approval of this village was 6 to 1.

During the approval process Kirk Kirkland of TAS Conservation was in contact with council members. They assured him that problems with sewers and surface water concerns would be handled during the approval process. Kirk avoided public testimony as he wanted to avoid a public statement that would create the impression that TAS was opposed to helping the homeless. Tiny Homes communities have social and health benefits that are important for a segment of the homeless population.

Once Kirk learned that the new regulations were not in compliance with County Growth Management Policies, he provided research to the Futurewise organization. Included was a proposal for an alternative 40-acre site for the (proposed) 29 acres, which could be relocated to an alternate government-owned property. This site has urban services nearby and adequate buffers from wetland areas. Futurewise filed the appeal a week later.

The cost of an appeal of Resolution 2023-5 will be borne by Futurewise organization. It will be their third appeal of county actions within the last decade. (The previous two appeals were settled by negotiation - without a public hearing).

Finding a viable alternative to the Spanaway Marsh site assures an outcome in this dispute that will address the needs of the homeless in our county. Several cities in the U.S. have built successful Tiny Home Villages – such as Tallahassee, FL and Austin, Texas. The chronic homeless issue is complex and expensive. Our county council has voted on and funded several solutions that provide a compassionate response to this complex problem within the last two years. It is important that Tahoma Audubon's position on this issue brings people together in order to resolve the issue in a way that works for everyone - birds, wildlife and people.

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