The City of Kent took emergency action Tuesday evening to stop Sound Transit from building an operations and maintenance facility on a 30-acre site currently held by Lowe's, Dick's Drive-In and other businesses on West Hill.
The council unanimously approved an ordinance changing zoning codes to save existing businesses and point Sound Transit toward alternative locations with Kent. The transportation agency has selected up to six possible sites that would be home to the facility funded from the ST3 package approved in 2016, according to the Kent Reporter.
During a city council meeting this week, city leaders expressed the importance of saving businesses in the Midway Shopping Center, a region intended to support transit-oriented development. City leaders said Tuesday they anticipated the addition of light rail stations and smaller transit hubs that would fit into the existing fabric of West Hill, not larger operational facilities that act as storage.
The council approved an interim zoning change to prevent Sound Transit from building a facility in the north region of the Midway area. Instead, the council and Mayor Dana Ralph hope to point the transportation agency toward the Midway Landfill: a vacant property within the city that won't dramatically change the landscape of the city or take away existing jobs.
Kent's city leaders are eager to find a resolution quickly. Mayor Ralph said Sound Transit will need to conduct an Environmental Impact Survey, a process that could take up to two years.
After the city council approved the ordinance, 7-0, Ralph expressed concern on behalf of the businesses that could be moved by Sound Transit. She said the businesses at risk will "be held in limbo," stuck waiting for a resolution during that time.
"[Kent is] willing to work with Sound Transit on how we make the landfill site a win-win," Ralph said.
Dick's Drive-In in Kent has only been open for a few months, welcoming customers to its newest location in December after months of anticipation. Since then, the popular joint known for its burgers, fries and shakes has attracted large crowds.
Jasmine Donovan, executive vice president of Dick's Drive-in, penned a letter
"We hired 40 new employees from the Kent area months before we opened and trained them throughout the summer in our Seattle stores, transporting them to and from Kent at company expense. Many of those employees are already using our scholarship program to attend Highline College and pursue their education," Donovan wrote.
Echoing the message of the mayors of Kent and Federal Way, Donovan hopes Sound Transit will look to the Midway Landfill.
Donovan ended the letter with a clear message, "...we ask you to please remove the Midway Shopping Center and our brand new and only location in the South Sound from consideration."
Kent City Council will hold public comment on Thursday, February 5. The council must approve permanent zoning changes within six months.
KING 5 has reached out to Sound Transit for comment and is waiting for a response.