Wetland is promised land for possible development

City: PAPÉ Industries, an exclusive distributor for Kenworth, interested in buying commercially-zoned property

Auburn staff have classified the 8.25 -acre, city-owned property at 302 Lund Road as a Category 2 wetland.

As a soggy, vacant, undeveloped, stand-alone parcel in the M1 Industrial Zone, the land isn’t worth much.

But as a wetland mitigation site for a commercial development that proposes to combine parcels at nearby 922 and 940 West Main St., it could be key to bringing into Auburn a significant new employer and a healthy number of jobs.

In late August, PAPÉ Industries, which leases and maintains heavy-duty equipment and is the exclusive distributor for Kenworth’s 18-wheel trucks, submitted a letter of intent to the City to buy the property.

As Josh Arndt, senior economic development officer for the City, told the City Council about that letter Monday at City Hall, PAPÉ Industries is interested in opening a PAPÉ-Kenworth Dealership in Auburn.

“A business like this would bring an expected 35-to-40 new jobs to our community, spread out among management, sales, technical and operational positions,” Arndt said, adding that the company estimates those positions would pay an hourly wage 40 percent higher than Auburn’s present average.

Of keen interest to city ears, Arndt noted that the company expects to make an initial economic investment in Auburn in the range of $4 to $5 million in land development and construction.

“The best part of all this is that this business not only creates jobs and brings higher wages with it, but produces sales tax revenue. When (PAPÉ) looked at six other properties it owns in the Pacific Northwest Region, each brings in an average of $1.5 to $3 million annually in taxes they pay,” Arndt said.

Of course, there are many hoops to jump through before any of that happens, including completion of estimates of the value of the property acceptable to both sides, and the company’s own feasibility studies, among other steps.

To provide for the overall enhancement of the area, in 2006 the City paid King County $180,000 for the parcel.

In 2011, Auburn environmental staff compiled a wetlands analysis report that determined the property to be a Category 2 wetland but found at the same time it offered a high potential for wetland enhancement to compensate for off-site wetland impacts.

When the city got the deed from King County, a covenant that said the city could use the property for any purpose compatible or associated with water quality, and it applies to any entity that buys the property.

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