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City preps to annex land to streamline SR167 work

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Fife and Washington State Department of Transportation officials are in early talks about a plan that would involve Fife annexing about a dozen parcels of unincorporated land between Interstate 5 and Pacific Highway that are part of the planned roadway for State Route 167.

The move would help streamline the permitting process for the key transportation corridor by putting all of the land within one municipality instead of requiring permits from Fife and Pierce County.

The state Legislature passed a statewide transportation funding package, known as “Connecting Washington,” earlier this year. That package includes funding for “Puget Sound Gateway” projects to complete SR 167 to address major commercial trucking congestion between the shipping operations on the Tacoma Tideflats and the distribution hubs in the Kent and Puyallup valleys. The work slated to complete SR 167 spans a strip between Puyallup and the tideflats.

“It swings mostly through Fife,” said Fife Community Development Director Steven Friddle.

Annexing the land would speed up planning and design as well as allow the city and state to coordinate projects more closely, most notably the planned relocation of 70th Avenue and a new Interstate 5 and SR 167 interchange in that area of the city that is bordered by Milton on the east.

WSDOT already owns nine of the parcels being considered for annexation and is in negotiations with the property owners for the remaining two slivers of land. The whole annexation map spans 14.6 acres worth $ 8 million. The two privately owned properties include a mini‐storage business and a repair business. Annexation plans could also include right of ways around I‐5 and Pacific Highway as well as slivers of undeveloped land around Milton. Adding those parcels could clear up jurisdictional boundaries as construction moves forward and avoid the creation of jagged municipal lines.

Annexation of the land is fairly straightforward and consistent with regional planning goals that seek to create logical boundaries and streamline permitting and service responsibilities.

“To create the most logical boundary, the annexation boundary could be increased to include all of the I‐5 (right of way) to avoid creating a small unincorporated county‐island between Fife and Milton,” according to the staff report. “Staff anticipates that annexation may further expedite WSDOT’s efforts to proceed to final design and acquisition, reduce the permit complexity and early re‐alignment of 70th Avenue East.”

Annexation of the land would largely be administrative since WSDOT owns a large enough majority of the parcels to clear an actual vote of the property owners. But the move would still require public hearings and then approval nods from the city and the county’s Boundary Review Board.

The annexation wouldn’t affect Fife’s financial base since the state-owned land is exempt, although the two private properties would momentarily be add to the city’s taxable rolls between when an annexation is approved and when the state finalizes their purchase.