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Glen Cunningham, Planning Commission Chair called the meeting to order at 6:30pm. on Monday, August 21st & clearly did not know how to handle the protocols of this meeting and asked staff for assistance several times. Besides city staff, the only people in audience were new City Councilman Hendrickson, Yael & Steve Klein, Cindy Teixeira of the Nisqually Valley News (NVN), Jean Handley and only 2 others. This writer raised these issues on the record:

1. According to the WA. State DOT website, the Y3 Loop will not begin construction until 2013 subject to funding, with the first cars to use it a decade away. I requested the Comprehensive Plan be updated to note that all traffic studies include and traffic mitigation explained that a Y3 Loop will not operational for 10 years, instead of the way it currently is — where the Y3 Bypass is used to support all traffic issues here. Such is not the case & that that needs to be updated immediately to give a more accurate portrayal of the traffic situation here for planning purposes.

2. The Comprehensive Plan should have a separate section dealing with shallow groundwater hazards. Two specific areas that were impacted were the properties immediately downstream from the proposed Wal-Mart site and the area upstream from the Hawks Landing Subdivision and the new Ridgeline School. This past winter required that City of Yelm staff deal with a number of high groundwater and drainage issues. The present approach for handling shallow groundwater rise was totally inadequate. The Comprehensive Plan needs to be updated to reflect this.

3. Developer’s Impact Fees are going to have to be dealt with in Yelm as they are in other areas, providing a quote from the Tacoma News Tribune article of August 20, 2006. Further, Rep. Tom Campbell sat in this very chamber on Saturday, April 29, 2006 and stated publicly in his Town Hall Meeting that the traffic numbers the City of Yelm used for the Wal-Mart project were skewered downward and differ from the numbers supplied to him by State Highway officials.

The only other public comment was from Jean Handley who stated that the 6-year concurrence stats in Chapter 14 of the Comp Plan for the Y3 Loop are not clear in that the goal-posts of that 6-year period is moved continually or not stated at all. She stated that Rep. Campbell told her that if there is a winter storm, earthquake and/or major issue requiring the State of WA. to pony up money for the Alaskan Way Viaduct, the 520 floating bridge or I-5, the money will be taken away from Y-3 and the Loop will not be funded – that info. needs to be in the Comp Plan, too.

Cindy Teixeira of the NVN asked:
“Is it true that the City of Yelm charges developers impact fees of developers now, Mr. Beck?”
“Would you say these fees are fair & in alignment with city requirements?”
Kathy McCormick, the City’s Comp Plan contracted adviser from Thurston Regional Planning Council (TRPC) comes to the podium and interjects that the Yelm Comp Plan Traffic Section will be amended after the Thurston Regional Planning Commission (TRPC) holds their Comp Plan Public Hearing on Sept. 20th and both the County & Yelm update their plans in conjunction with each other, in “about a year” or so. HMMM!

This writer called Cindy of the NVN to say I wished to add the following information to provide a more detailed report to the NVN readers and Planning Commission as to my Impact Fee comment. Here are my emailed remarks, from doing more homework after the Hearing, which were provided to the NVN, the Planning Commission, City Development Diector Beck and now for you, the public:

1. Developer’s impact fees imposed by the City of Yelm are handled through a fixed impact fee of $750 per PM Peak Trip per each development. This approach would be reasonable if the existing infrastructure load were exactly the same for all development environments. Such is not the case. Per the Yelm Transportation Comprehensive Plan, the Yelm System is in a state of overload with intersections already designated as Level of Service F (lowest grade possible). As the existing Yelm Road Infrastructure is progressively more overloaded, the relative impact increases exponentially. This is why the Wal-Mart Traffic Studies had to rely on the Y3 Loop to achieve compliance with operating standards. Wal-Mart was assessed something over $400,000 in traffic impact fees based on a PM Peak Trip estimate of about 550. This may cover the inside Yelm improvements, but does not include the value of their reliance on the Y3 Loop in the Traffic Studies. If you assume that the Y3 Loop will accommodate 25,000 trips (Average Daily Traffic High Estimate) and that about 25% of the 8000 trips (ADT) generated by Wal-Mart use the Y3, then Wal-Mart may be calculated to use 8% of the Y3 capacity. At a total cost of $70,000,000, the Wal-Mart prorate share of the Y3 should then be $5.6 million. Wal-Mart is being permitted to cash in on road development paid for by Washington State residents with no reimbursement to the State residents. Until Y3 is competed (Wa. DOT estimated CONSTRUCTION START = 2013, from their website), the City of Yelm will be forced to deal with the additional traffic and accommodate the interim adverse impacts from their taxpayer-supported coffers at some point for intra-city road expansion to add more vehicle capacity.

Bottom line: For example, the City (not Wal-Mart) will end up paying for road widening to Yelm Hwy. between the Wal-Mart site and Five Corners in the near future to add capacity because of Wal-Mart generated traffic.

2. The existing connector roads serving as ingress/egress for the Tahoma Terra development are substandard for the projected volume of traffic this subdivision will require, and that they convey to State Hwy 510 (Yelm Ave. West). As a result, these roadways have to be brought up to standards to safely handle that traffic. The required upgrade is prompted by the new subdivision. Hence, the developer should be responsible for bringing city streets (i.e. the two routes serving the subdivision and the Killion intersection with Yelm Ave. West) up to standards. In nearly every other local jurisdiction (Olympia, Lacey, Tumwater, Thurston County) the full cost of such roadway access improvements would be borne by the subdivision developer as a mitigation fee. The fixed impact fees assessed by Yelm, which should be about $560,000, apparently do not cover the required improvements. Rather than increase the assessment to the developer, it seems that the City has seen fit to shift the extra cost burden on to the local residents that live along the roads to be improved through the development of an LID. It seems clear that again the developer has been allowed to pass on their responsibility to the taxpayer to fund road improvements and in particular, a LID specifically requested of the City by said developer.

I believe these clarifications need to be made to provide a complete context for my remarks about impact fees for the Planning Commission, the public & NVN readers in a story that Ms. Teixeira will write for this weeks newspaper.

Posted by Steve on August 23, 2006 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

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  1. Regarding the Monday evening Planning Commission Meeting on the joint City of Yelm and Thurston County Comprehensive Plan which I attended, I have these ideas. Yelm has a Strong Mayor type of city government. That means he, or she, is the boss. He directs Staff, who then direct Council. He is in charge of appointments, hiring and firing. As the Ladies from the Rainier Fair noted the other evening, he is the exalted, almighty one.

    This is the third mayor since I began attending City Council meetings l2 years ago. It is amazing to me. I would say at least 60% of City Government time and resources have been devoted to promotion of one corporation, Thurston Highlands Development. I will say they seem not to have gained much for Highlands during that time. The City has ballooned into a large staff to manage water, sewer, road and finance problems for other small projects. The recent EIS for Highlands has prompted l2 new employees.

    Yelm, inc., is surrounded by urban growth area. The UGA is subject to both City and County. The UGA includes, more or less, the Highlands Development. The required EIS on this massive project has triggered the Joint Comprehensive Update.

    The EIS and Plan are firsts for Yelm. There hasn’t been much planning so maybe not much interest.

    I am hopeful this Plan will focus State and County attention on what has been, I am sorry to say, promotion of one, big corporate project by Yelm. I think City Government is more in line with recent federal policies which maybe don’t comply with State and County rules and regulations. All of which makes City Planning a whole lot more interesting.

    Comment by Gail Cane on August 24, 2006 at 9:07 am

  2. Here in Whitefish we have had similar issues with flooding that occurred last winter and spring related to shallow groundwater, high precipitation and increased development. How have you handled this problem? We are trying to prevent this problem by increasing regulations on new development in relation to groundwater depths.

    Comment by Karin Hilding on October 2, 2006 at 1:44 pm

  3. Hi Karen,

    In response to your comment posted on my blog,
    I, along with others have brought this issue before the Yelm City Council and Planning Commission & I received a reply from the City of Yelm Community Development Department dated September 19, 2006 stating “The policies related to frequently flooded areas are consistent with the Growth
    Management Act and adequately address high ground water flooding.”

    Did you get this?
    They answered my on-the-record question [that the Comprehensive Plan should have a separate section dealing with
    shallow ground water hazards] speaking of high ground water flooding. Bottom line: the City did not address my comment at all.

    So, next year (2007), we will be before the City Staff during the Comprehensive Plan update and officially
    submit this again. If City Staff answer this way then, I will submit all of this info I am keeping on file to the Washington State Dept. of Ecology requesting an investigation.

    We are attempting to get this city to do the same thing as you state:
    “by increasing regulations on new development in relation to groundwater depths”, however with no avail.

    I have forwarded your letter to two colleagues of mine requesting further comments to provide you, should they have any more insight to offer, Ms. Hilding. One is a geo-engineer and another is an official at the Wa. State Dept. of Ecology who works on water quality issues.

    Steve Klein

    Comment by Steve Klein on October 3, 2006 at 11:17 am

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