Retail plans nixed at Kent development

By Thomas Gallick | Staff Writer Published:

The developer behind the Lakes at Franklin Mills in Kent told residents plans to build a commercial and community center on a vacant 8-acre tract in the development have been abandoned in favor of a plan to build nine single family homes at a Kent Planning Commission meeting Tuesday.

Robert Heimann, of Forest Lakes Development Co., said two main factors made building a commercial center on the tract at the corner of Fairchild Avenue and Stonewater Drive unfeasible: the economic downturn and the re-emergence of retail business in downtown Kent.

"I think people will understand that (commercial center) was a victim of the times," Heimann said. "In my heart, I did everything I could do to make that happen."

Heimann, who originally envisioned the Lakes at Franklin Mills as an all-condo community before it became a mix of condo and single family homes, said a large section of the tract between Fairchild Avenue and Roy Marsh Drive would be used as park or preservation space if his plan is approved.

He said the new home lots, with two fronting on Roy Marsh Drive and seven fronting on Stonewater Drive, would be nine of the biggest lots within the development.

Heimann said a recovering, but still weak housing market required him to plan to build the highest quality houses on those lots as possible in order to secure their future sales.

"What I'm trying to do is make those lots as nice and as valuable as I can," Heimann said.

Not all of the Lakes at Franklin Mills welcomed the new plan for the land.

Clifford Bliss said the potential for commercial or community space at the entrance of the Lakes at Franklin Mills was one factor that led him to move to the development.

"I understand the economic motivations here, but I would prefer to see community activities there," Bliss said.

Jean Meadows said she believed the intersection of Fairchild Avenue and Stonewater Drive needed a traffic light or some other traffic calming device. She said adding new homes near the intersection could make the traffic situation worse.

"The big concern we have is the traffic issue," Meadows said.

Kent Planning Commission did not act on the proposed development because the meeting was a preliminary presentation, but Planning Commissioner Melissa Long asked city staff to re-examine the intersection at Fairchild Avenue and Stonewater Drive.

Contact this reporter at 330-298-1126 or tgallick@recordpub.com

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