The Nisqually Valley News printed in-full this writer’s Letter to the Editor in their September 8, 2006 edition.
The text is printed here. What do you think?
Your August 25th editorial Give City of Yelm credit for credit thats due was very timely since I did attend the August 21st Planning Commission Public Hearing for the Comprehensive Plan Update, was one of two people who commented on-record and provided a detailed written explanation of my remarks the next day to the Planning Commission & your reporter covering the hearing. My comments appear to have been the catalyst for your editorial since your reporter attended, took extensive notes and publicly announced on-record she was from the NVN, asking questions for clarification. Since there was no story printed in your paper about the Planning Hearing, your readers were given no coverage or context as to why you wrote the editorial.
I am all for giving the City of Yelm credit where credit is due, however resting on those laurels when the city is approaching a crisis with the convergence of traffic, water, flooding and quality of life issues is unwise. For example, there has not been an update of the Yelm Vision Statement of 1995 since its inception, a plan that was to be updated every 5 years.
In the Planning Hearing, I requested that the Comprehensive Plan be updated as follows:
A. All traffic studies should address that the Y3 Loop will not be operational for at least 9 years (2015), instead of the present process of including Y3 capacity to achieve compliance. The Y3 can not be used in any traffic analysis until it is operational, which is consistent with the language of the Comprehensive Plan. Even with an added center turn lane, there is still only one through traffic lane in each direction on Yelm Avenue. The turn lane adds minimal capacity on the main thoroughfare and does not improve conditions beyond level of service F. Hence, the even greater volume of traffic that will soon be generated by Wal-Mart and the new housing developments has not been truly been mitigated.
B. Incorporate a separate section dealing with shallow groundwater hazards and related flooding. The City of Yelm staff dealt with a number of high groundwater and drainage issues with last years heavy rains. These rains are showing themselves to be more frequent than originally estimated. The present approach for handling shallow groundwater rise has been totally inadequate.
C. Developer’s Impact (Mitigation) Fees are going to have to be dealt with more aggressively. The impact/mitigation fees were a good idea and I applaud the City of Yelm for embracing them in 1995. However the City was following the general trends of area jurisdictions and the process has not been updated here since that 1995 adoption. With all of the approved growth, the process does not address the introduction of additional loads in substandard Level of Service F areas. For example, a city could easily add more traffic to a Level Service A roadway, justifying one level of impact fee. However the mitigation fees need to be adjusted to be much higher when adding high volumes of traffic to current Level Service of D or F roadways (the Yelm Avenue/SR507 Corridor). I provided written details to the city planning officials and your reporter that Wal-Mart Traffic Studies had to rely on the Y3 Loop to achieve compliance with operating standards to mitigate their traffic, a Loop that does not currently exist and will not for years. The City taxpayer (not Wal-Mart) will end up paying for road widening of Yelm Hwy and continuing streets construction to accommodate Wal-Mart generated traffic, since those vehicles will have no Y3 Loop for years and be forced onto city streets. The city mitigation fees did not require Wal-Mart to cover this condition adequately.
D. A developer should pay fully for road improvements necessitated by their projects as is the case with other major jurisdictions in Thurston County, rather than allowing partial funding through a developer-requested, taxpayer-financed LID.
All of these items, plus the comments from the other speaker of record were not reported in your newspaper, subjects that will affect this city for years to come.
Thank you for allowing me to update these important details.
cc: City of Yelm Planning Commission
The Editor’s response:
“The article on the planning commission hearing appeared on page A3 of the Sept. 1 edition of the Nisqually Valley News [the 2nd edition after the Monday, August 21 hearing].