This writer is on the record several time in 2006 and on this blog for all to see in trumpeting the abysmal traffic situation in Yelm currently and one which is about to get much worse within a year as Wal-Mart’s opening is expected to bring 8,000 cars per day plus Tahoma Terra and other city approved developments adding thousands more. This same situation is occurring to Thurston County’s big sister to the north Pierce County and now officials there are grappling with adapting developer impact fees to cover road improvements. Yelm officials are still in the dark ages taxing its own citizens with a developer-requested-LID (see entries here for June 12, June 13, June 14 & May 24) with one center turn lane, all the while allowing local traffic to be mitigated on that plus a bypass 10 years away from completion, which does nothing to add capacity in the immediate 10-year future, and approving more development. The time is now for this town to grow up into the city that it has become and start thinking for the future, just as this front page Sunday, August 20th Tacoma News Tribune article outlines what Tacoma, Spanaway and other Pierce County cities are doing with similar growth:
“King, Clark, Kitsap and Snohomish counties charge developers impact fees to help widen roads to handle the extra traffic that comes with new houses, stores and offices.
Pierce County doesnt.
Or, as Bruce Lachney, a county planning commissioner and cranberry grower, puts it: Pierce County has been stuck on stupid for years.
Now, with rapid development overwhelming some roads and threatening more, Pierce County leaders say theyre ready to start charging developers for their share of the cost of building or improving roads to handle all the new neighborhoods and shopping centers.
Except they disagree over what developers share should be.
The Pierce County Council is considering a nearly half-billion-dollar proposal aimed at reducing traffic congestion by widening key roads, rebuilding intersections and making other improvements over the next 20 years.
About 39 percent of the spending plan would come from traffic impact fees charged to developers. The fees would range from $34 to $3,300 per new house, depending on the location and other factors. Gas and property taxes and a real estate sales tax would pay for the remaining 61 percent.
Critics say developers should pay more.
Because of its scope, the proposal has touched off concerns about how it would affect the price of housing, how it would affect growth patterns and how it would affect taxpayers.
A public hearing is scheduled in September, with a final decision expected in October. Meanwhile, politicians are writing op-ed columns and preparing amendments, and developers and environmentalists are staking out their positions.
At issue is the quality of life in some parts of the county. From 94th Avenue East in South Hill to Spanaway Loop Road to Wollochet Drive Northwest on the Gig Harbor Peninsula, an increasing number of roads are exceeding their county-imposed limits on traffic congestion.
The proposal, requested by the seven-member County Council and written by Executive John Ladenburgs administration, would apply to new residential, commercial and industrial development only in areas that are not within a city.
GROWTH LAW GAVE GREEN LIGHT
Washingtons Growth Management Act, passed by the Legislature 16 years ago to curb sprawl, authorized local governments to charge traffic impact fees to help their roads keep pace with the traffic generated by new development.
The law also required local governments to ensure that road improvements or other transportation fixes necessary to serve new growth are made concurrent with, or around the same time as, the development.
If those traffic improvements arent made, local governments must either reject the development that produces the swarm of cars or lower congestion standards to accept even higher levels of traffic.
Other populous Western Washington counties King, Clark, Kitsap and Snohomish have impact fees, as do some cities.
In Pierce County, developers make some contributions toward road improvements, but theyre not consistent.”
Since rejection of development applications has not been done by the City of Yelm, then the city must “lower congestion standards to accept even higher levels of traffic” according to the Tacoma News Tribune article. Is this what Rep. Tom Campbell was suggesting in his Town Hall meeting in Yelm (see April 29th entry on this blog) and why City Councilman Bob Isom bristled at Mr. Campbell on Yelm’s traffic numbers?
What do YOU think?
Will you let City officials know YOUR views?
There is a “The Yelm Planning Commission has scheduled a public hearing to receive public comment on the proposed updates to the City of Yelm Comprehensive Plan. The meeting will take place on Monday, August 21, 2006, at 6:30 p.m. in the Yelm City Hall Council Chambers, 105 Yelm Ave West,” quoting the City of Yelm website.