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].
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While I’ve made these points before, I believe it is worth reiterating them, especially since we want to see our city moving toward positive, progressive change.
In order to have something considered for inclusion in the City’s Comprehensive Plan, it needs to be submitted by December 31, at which time all proposals for the calendar year then ending will be accumulated, coordinated, and debated at one time, which appears to be mid-summer, when many folks are still on vacation.
The Comprehensive Plan includes consideration of all factors within the city, including: retail, commercial, and industrial zoning restrictions (where they are and the rules that govern them); traffic and levels of service; residential zoning and restrictions; and so on.
The Planning Commission then compiles the proposed changes, incorporates citizen comments, and fits it into State Laws to generate proposed ordinances for the Council to vote on. The debate continues there, where changes may be made (though not likely), and the proposal approved (typically) or rejected.
If you want to see the Comprehensive Plan changed to incorporate appropriate traffic mitigation, the time to start for NEXT year is NOW. Any proposed changes need to be submitted by December 31 (actually, December 30 this year). Don’t wait. It comes up very quickly, and the changes you want to see must be “written” as if they were law. This also means getting a copy of the Plan, any ordinances, and any other resources you may need. Then study. Get together with others. Design the City you want to see. Then write it up and get it in.
Along these lines: At the Planning Open House, I was told by Kathy McCormick, Senior Planner for City and County, that Water Experts, Certified Scientists, will determine what areas of the new development will be zoned Wetlands.
Fifteen years ago most of Yelm was zoned Wetlands. The zoning was changed at the State level after Yelm was no longer allowed to release sewage into the Nisqually River.
At a recent Study Session, Staff noted that the surface water in the area is disappearing and the water table is rising. They did not know why.
I’ll make a comment on water quality and rework my previous comments. Altho they were included in the most recent Plan Update.
Hello Mr. Klein, my name is John Rivera. I dont have any comments but actually was wondering if you would be kind enough to share some information with me on a certain issue? I live in the State of GA, and like you, also a concern citizen, would like to find a way to help the small cities around and within my county to address their sewage overflow problem into our lakes and rivers.
I have come to learn there are cities in different States who are trying different ways to address this issue during rainy and stormy season or simply not being able to treat the wastewater fast enough due to unexpected grow.
When I was proposing the idea to Mr. John M. Phillips (Water Quality Planner of King co. in WA) of stopping the flow of the solid waste coming into their plant by placing a two compartment septic tank at every residence or business to allow the treatment process to begin there, this is what he had to say I did say it was a sound idea because the City of Yelm’s sewer system is similar to your proposal. In Yelm, every two to three houses has a tank that removes about 50-60% of the solids and the effluent is transferred to a centralized plant to treat the remaining wastewater to a higher level if your city is the city he referred to, could you help me in sharing with me the benefits, advantages or disadvantages of such, and would they recommend this to other cities as well? If you could do this, it will be very helpful to us all. Thank you
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