February 21, 2000
CARNATION--Sewers are no longer a growth issue, but a survival issue for the town. That was the general consensus by city officials at an informational forum last week to gather feedback from residents on the latest sewer study.
In the past, sewers never made it past the study stage because of fears that a treatment plant would invite rapid growth. But the city grew anyway, from a population of 530 in 1970 to 1,785 today. Downtown, though, did not share in the boom, mainly because of drainfield limitations.
In 1970, there were two grocery stores, two gas stations, two restaurants, two taverns, one laundromat, one drugstore, one high school, and one new clothing store. Now there is one grocery store, one gas station, no restaurants, one tavern, and no laundromat, drugstore, or clothing store. The high school is now a middle school.
Due to health department restrictions, The River Run Cafe, destroyed by fire a few months ago, may not be rebuilt. Restoration of the historic Commercial Hotel has also been held up due to drainfield problems.
Officials reminded residents that rebuilding of a home or business is prohibited if is destroyed by more than 50 percent by fire because of lack of drainfield reserve area. Many of the older homes in Carnation were built on small lots.
Mayor Bob Patterson said citizen involvement is vital to making the project successful.
"The time is now," he said. "Carnation is faced with a tremendous opportunity ... if you will, a challenge. All across the country, new communities are being built. Carnation has it already--structure, history--all we have to do is rehabilitate it. The Citizens Advisory Committee has researched and discussed the issue for months. It became convincingly clear that there is no way to rehabilitate the town without a sewer."
Last year, the Sewage Treatment Plan Advisory Committee wrote a position paper which included a sewer. The City Council then hired American Engineering to develop a plan which included public involvement.
"This forum is the second step," Patterson said. "The process will be completed in May and we will set a direction for the next 20 years ... a vision for Carnation's future."
Ace Hardware owner Bob Cox, a member of the advisory group, told residents that Carnation "is not what is once was. Stores sit empty, city coffers sit empty because there is little retail sales tax revenue. Our financial security lies with sewers."
But some residents said they were worried about costs, the possibility that a strip mall may take over the downtown area, and the fact that people tend to shop where they work.
One resident said she has been circulating a petition that opposes the sewer. But Andy Weiss, a longtime area resident and business owner, applauded the city for proposing the project.
"Carnation has run backwards," he said. "The business district lacks critical mass. This is needed for businesses and the environment. Septic systems are failing and polluting the aquifer. We can't sprawl, being limited by the Tolt and Snoqualmie Rivers. We need to work together for the sewer, [perhaps] just limiting it to the business district."
Officials said the draft plan will be completed the week of April 24, with a newsletter published. A public hearing will be held the week of May 16 and the draft plan will go to the City Council the week of May 30.