By Pat Jenkins
The future of the Mount Rainier Resort at Park Junction may become clearer after a public hearing next week to check on the project’s progress.
The session before a Pierce County hearing examiner is scheduled for Jan. 15 at 10 a.m. at the county’s Public Services Building at 2401 S. 35th St. in Tacoma.
Attention in recent years has focused on whether the project, whose plans were approved by the county 13 years ago, is making headway or instead is sufficiently dormant that its permits should be revoked. The hearing next Wednesday won’t include testimony on whether the project ever should have been authorized or whether it should face revocation. The focus will only be on its progress, county officials said.
Proposed for a 420-acre site off State Route 706, halfway between Elbe and Ashford and 11 miles from Mount Rainier National Park, are a 270-room guest lodge, an 18-hole golf course, 300 condominiums, a conference center capable of hosting 500 people, 20,000 square feet of space for retail stores, and restaurants, tennis courts and a swimming pool. It also would have a train station, its own sewage plant and housing for 120 employees.
The project developer is BCB Group, which is based in Oregon. Park Junction LLC is the owner of land the resort would occupy.
The project was first proposed in 1994 and passed environmental impact requirements with the county in 1999. Appeals by project opponents led to a series of court rulings, ending in 2005 when the state Court of Appeals reversed a lower-court ruling and restored the project’s approval. Since then, there has been no construction and the project has struggled to obtain financing because of economic conditions, according to BCB Group.
Despite the decade-plus that has passed, the county’s approval of the project plans is still valid, officials said.
At a public meeting in Ashford June 13, 2012, a county hearing examiner received an update on the project’s status, including any efforts by the developers to move it forward.
Developers have said they hope to be given enough time for the resort to be built. They’ve estimated that construction would take about 18 months to complete once it starts.
During the proposed resort’s approval process more than 13 years ago, critics opposed the project with claims that it would negatively impact police and fire protection services and traffic on SR-706, a heavily traveled route to Mount Rainier. Questions also were raised about environmental impacts from the demand for water and sewer service.
In preparation for next week’s hearing, Ty Booth, a senior planner for the county’s Department of Planning and Land Services, is accepting written comments from citizens that will be given to the hearing examiner. They can be e-mailed to him at firstname.lastname@example.org or mailed to his attention at Pierce County Planning and Land Services, 2401 S. 35th St., Tacoma, WA 98409-7490. He’ll answer questions via e-mail or at 253-798-3727.
It isn’t necessary to attend the hearing in order to submit written comments, officials said.