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Last night, the Thurston County Planning Commission held a public hearing on the Annual Thurston County Comprehensive Plan Amendments.

Several letters were received as well as public testimony. The public testimony only concerned Yelm’s Traffic Chapter of the Comprehensive Plan. The Thurston Planning Commission noted that all of the public comments received about Yelm were negative.

After hearing from the public, the Thurston County Planning Commission asked Yelm Community Development Director Grant Beck to step up to answer questions. Key amongst those were:

1. The City of Yelm has specified level of service (LOS) F in the Comp. Plan since 1995?
Beck: Yes

2. The concurrency mark was set in 1998 where LOS D is the Regional Plan and must be followed. What steps have been taken to get roads to LOS D since 1998?
Beck: The Yelm Loop (Bypass) & the inner Loop (side connector streets)

3. The Bypass is not funded, so let’s eliminate that from the discussion.
Beck: It’s out of our control as the largest amount of traffic, 63% comes from outside of the city and its UGA.
Commissioners: We want to see your surveys on the 63% coming from the county and will examine traffic from SE Thurston & Pierce Counties impacting Yelm’s arteries, as well, as we are responsible for and need to know what that impact is.

4. So outside of the Loop, nothing has been done to bring LOS down to level D?
Beck: Fumbles on that one.

5. If traffic is out of your control in the City, then why are you still issuing building permits, and to 500 home developments and larger, asked Chris Lane?
Beck: Fumbles again.

6. About the issue of the unfunded Bypass used to mitigate traffic, how much is unfunded.
Beck: about 30 million. We have received $1 million from the government & $33 million for right-of-way acquisition and are working on getting the rest of the funding package next year.
HMMM! That is most interesting, as Mr. Beck has not read the WSDOT update on the Yelm Bypass, which has now moved the funding requirements to $92 million with $56 million unfunded, a $25 million shortfall reported by Mr. Beck to the County Planning Commission.

7. When do you expect construction to start on the Bypass?
Beck: with funding next year, then 2009
Commissioners: and length of construction?
Beck: 2 years
Commissioners: then you expect in 2011 this road will be operational, which is a full 13 years after the concurrency mark was set in 1998. You should have not been using an unfunded Bypass this long to determine mitigation allowing you to continue to approve large developments.
Once again, if only Mr. Beck had read the WSDOT report on this road so vital to this town, he could have quoted,
“The purchase of Right of way is underway and will continue through 2011.
The construction phase is not currently funded.”
Bottom line: another fumble, as the Yelm Bypass can not possibly be open before 2013 even if funded next year.

8. Why was staff (Thurston County) supporting the Yelm plan.
County Staffer Swenson: Yelm did not have a policy change or a text change.

Chris Lane moved and Tom Cole seconded the motion to NOT move forward in approving Yelm’s Transportation & Introduction Chapter updates that would have sent them on to the Board of County Commissioners.
Mr. Lane commented he is a Realtor, although a commercial Realtor, yet he is for responsible development.
He said, “It’s irresponsible if we don’t look at this. It’s irresponsible to add to the problem when you can’t deal with it (Yelm’s traffic) now.”

The citizens of Yelm got someone else besides Yelm’s Planners to look into Yelm’s traffic problems.
The Thurston County Planning Commission requested traffic analysis and other documents from Yelm to continue to study this, and before making a recommendation to the Board of Commissioners.

Last week in his editorial, NVN editor/publisher Keven Graves stated,
“It’s very easy to stand on the sidelines and carp at city officials about the traffic – a problem that stems from tremendous growth that nobody could have foreseen or planned for decades ago.

Rather than being goaded into pointing fingers and complaining, now is a good time to acknowledge the strides that the city has made, and support the work planned to help alleviate the community’s traffic woes.”

Mr. Graves, now an entity outside of the Yelm cabal has now publicly looked at Yelm’s Comp. Plan and stated,
“It’s irresponsible to add to the problem when you can’t deal with it (Yelm’s traffic) now.”
Further said in open forum,
The City of Yelm has specified level of service (LOS) F in the Comp. Plan since 1995, and the concurrency mark was set in 1998, where LOS D is the Regional Plan and must be followed. Outside of a few connector streets and relying on an unfunded Bypass, little has been done here to achieve concurrency, in almost 10 years, all the while approving mega-developments and accepting applications for more. “All of this problem that stems from tremendous growth [WAS] foreseen” by the public, who have commented on this for years and got little to no response. Now, a County Planning Commissioner has labeled Yelm’s actions since 1998 “irresponsible”.

Posted by Steve on October 11, 2007 at 6:30 am | Permalink

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  1. This may also call into question the hearings examiner’s actions. From what I have heard (so this is technically rumor), there is nothing that has come before him that has not been reaffirmed. So every master planned community, every big box business, every strip mall, every “1-in-5” to “5-in-1” type of rezoning has been approved, and not just for Yelm. Perhaps the TRPC and/or County Commissioners and/or any other organization can check into that as well. After all, he had the opportunity to say “NO” as well.

    James Zukowski

    Comment by James Zukowski on October 11, 2007 at 6:41 am

  2. Say hallelujah!

    Comment by Jean Handley on October 11, 2007 at 8:05 am

  3. The County Planning Commission is to be commended on their thoroughness. Those who wrote letters and testified are responsible for bringing this unplanned building in Yelm (which does nothing to improve LOS F roads) to the Planning Commission’s attention. Without all of us getting involved, the Planning Commission would only have heard one side. Bravo… getting involved does work.

    Comment by Jackie Reid on October 11, 2007 at 12:56 pm

  4. Go steve go!!
    I am so happy to hear what
    happened last night. I had
    intended to be there but I have a foreign exchange student in my home and she needed attention.
    Why have they waited this long to question what Yelm has done? Sounds like they are all in it together.

    Comment by christine hartman on October 11, 2007 at 1:11 pm

  5. In answer, this is the first time all oft heis has been brought before the Thurston County Planning Commisison.

    As Ms. Reid said previously, citizen involvement got this to the forefront on this year’s Comp. Plan Update.

    Further, I have gone to almost every Yelm Planning Commission & City Council meeting for three years and have finally gotten up to speed on the language & intent of the Plan to finally get some of these issues addressed.

    Comment by Steve Klein on October 11, 2007 at 3:18 pm

  6. Steve,
    Thank you for your continuing service to Yelm. It inspired me also email the Thurston County Board of Commissioners. I had previously written to the Thurston County Planning Commission. Here is the text of my email. Thanks
    Dear Thurston County Commissioners:
    I have read both the Nisqually Valley News and other information on the Thurston County Planning Commission. I had also provided my viewpoint to such commission via email since I was unable to attend the meeting. I was dismayed at the report that Mr. Beck of Yelm categorized the Planning Commission report as only advisory. I would have hoped that he would have taken it more seriously but unfortunately, this attitude matches my experience in trying to discuss such matters with Yelm officials including conversations with the previous Mayor. I live outside of Rainier and drive on 507 and 510 every day to go to work. I am the Chief Financial Officer of a Pierce County company and I am both a CPA and an MBA. As noted in the documents 507 and 510 are and have been since 1995 receiving a rating of LOS F yet Yelm has continued and even accelerated their approval of development and projects that make the road congestion even worse. Since F as I understand it is as low as you can go, I would think that the roads are substantially under the requirement to have a rating of LOS D. The city has tried to justify their meeting the Countys planning requirements by including the planning of a loop expansion that is not yet funded and there is no construction that has been awarded. They also understate the amount of funding required as the information is not current. As we all know, the cost will continue to go up and will be made worse by the continued development. I also do not believe there is any justification for when the city claims the loop will be finished.

    I agree with the Thurston County Planning Commission that the actions taken in Yelm are irresponsible.

    As far as traffic coming from outside the community is concerned, the city claims to have no control over this. This comment is somewhat specious since they approved the building of a Wal Mart Superstore in Yelm with the expressed intention of bringing in shoppers from other areas since it was far larger store than can be justified in Yelm (I believe that it doubled Yelm retail space and of course increased traffic congestion). I had participated in the attempt to have this construction not approved until the road would meet a passing grade. This attempt was in vain.

    I believe that the current congestion in Yelm is both dangerous to the safety of people who need medical emergencies and in fact I would suspect that school buses have a great deal of difficulty as well.

    I implore you to support the efforts of the Thurston County Planning Commission on their report to you concerning Yelm. I believe that a moratorium is needed in Yelm until roads can meet the Countys standards for such a road. The actions of the Yelm City Council and Planning Commission are truly irresponsible and they are making it more costly and more difficult to have the funding to improve our roads. We are at a critical point.
    Tom Foley

    Comment by Tom Foley on October 26, 2007 at 10:17 am

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