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Outcry grows against chance Monroe field may become housing


Jana Alexander Hill photo

Marshall Field, near the corner of N. Kelsey and Columbia streets, may be rezoned for housing.



MONROE — Some residents and the school district are in a conundrum: about a field, its use and just who has a say in what happens next on what’s currently an open space in midtown Monroe. 
The Monroe School District is the landowner for the 12.4-acre plot known colloquially as Marshall Field. The park is off of
W. Columbia St.
The open-space plot, equipped with a goal post and bleachers, framed in by chain link fencing, is used regionally for Little League, soccer players and community events. The field has natural-grass turf, bleachers and a cinder running track.
Rezoning would allow a multi-family structure that could be just short of 300 units, per city documents. It is currently zoned for institutional-use, freeing it for its current use as a sports field.
The planning commission is scheduled to consider the issue in its 7 p.m. Aug. 12 meeting.
“I want (the school district) to keep the property” and use it for the public, said Ashley Floyd, Monroe resident.  
City planners and a developer involved in the environmental checklist for the rezone request say that there is no project, because the rezone has not been finalized. 
The city documents at present are “just an engineer putting boxes on a page,” city planning director Ben Swanson said. “What we wanted from plans was a conceptual site plan, so we could measure impacts if we did rezone it.”
But some residents are feeling a sense of urgency, due to the potential traffic impact in a residential area. The public has been invited to comment on the land-use request, and the district is open to additional comments, said Tamara Krache, the spokeswoman for the Monroe School District.
The public is welcome to attend the planning commission’s Aug. 12 meeting, but, “just like any landowner, we can put guidelines (for land use), but we can’t tell them what to do” with their land, Swanson said. 
And while city documents discuss a lightly used property, residents see it differently. Floyd has observed Marshall Field being used for soccer games and jogging, as well as other community events. One resident suggests a community center, such as an aquatic center, at the site. 
Randall Trivett and some other Monroe residents contend that this is a one-time chance to make a new project, on a space that has already been unifying for the community. 
“If they don’t build it now, it won’t happen,” said Trivett, Monroe resident. He is adamant about keeping the site a public space, due to its central location, where residents can walk from town hall or residential areas, to the site.
“The town does not have a focal point,” he said. 
He said this is the moment to create a community hub, and that option will not occur if the land is rezoned. 
Three sources involved in the official side of the rezone request were asked whether a developer had expressed interest in the property, at this time, and none confirmed a specific developer. 
Since 2010, the city has grown in population by about 2,000 residents, per Census data. The changes needed to prepare for the traffic and activity that comes with that growth have included the addition of city parks, providing other options for open space.
The project is in the State Environmental Protection Act stage with this rezoning request, meaning that the city is measuring how to mitigate environmental impacts of a development that is not yet planned, officials say. A SEPA review is required if a project includes new structures or a change in use.
The Monroe School District took public comment on the issue at a July 16 school board meeting. Additional comments can be sent to schoolboard@monroe.wednet.edu.

 

  

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