The Yelm City Council held a Public Hearing on the amendments to the Comprehensive Plan last night. There were three people that expressed comments on the Transportation Chapter of the Plan: this writer, Matthew Schubart representing JZ Knight and Professional Engineer Ed Wiltsie.
The Council seemed quite agitated with our remarks and one member exhibited outright anger towards what was said. When the Mayor asked for comments from the Council prior to the hearing, Council member John Thompson said he had heard this all before and proceeded to quote a letter from absent Council member Bob Isom that Isom would vote to approve the Comp. Plan. This was before the Public Hearing. Clearly, the entire Council had decided how they would vote prior to the Public Hearing.
I have NEVER heard of such a thing in all my years of community involvement dating back 35+ years attending city’s meetings wherever I lived in the USA; in Kentucky, Florida, California, Texas & New York.
So much for listening to the public that they have been given the mantle to serve, although most of this Council are the same people that motioned for a moratorium on moratoriums from the public during the Wal-Mart application and voted to restrict the public from mentioning the word “Wal-Mart” in Council Chambers a few years back.
So, the Thurston County Board of Commissioners Public Hearing on Yelm’s Comp Plan Dec. 4 plus the Growth Management Hearings Board are the next steps to shining the light on the traffic issues here, yet this time from Yelm’s partners in the Regional Plan, who are likely to delve into why their own Thurston County Planning Commission rejected the Yelm Comp Plan and called it “irresponsible.” Yes, there have been a few improvements in what the city has done, however to deny there is a traffic issue here is in conflict with public safety and taking responsibility for the public well-being, which this Council was elected to preserve and protect.
And frankly, I am amazed that there have been no professional traffic numbers done here in over 2 years.
The Nisqually Valley News ran a very abridged story on this Public Hearing titled “Former mayoral candidate accuses city of deception,” omitting an important interaction invited by Council member Don Miller between the Mayor, City Council and Mr. Schubart. HMMM! This former mayoral candidate learned a great deal about this town in running to serve as its Mayor in 2005 and how it’s run, so I have been speaking up on issues based on a wealth of knowledge gathered from being active as an observer in this city’s government for 3 years. For those of you interested in reading what I said Tuesday evening (Nov. 13), instead of relying on the NVN’s spin with its omissions, below is the full, unabridged testimony:
To: Yelm City Council
From: Steve Klein
Subject: Public Hearing on Comp. Plan Amendments
Date: November 13, 2007
I have some additions to add at this Hearing regarding the Transportation Chapter of the Yelm Comprehensive Plan.
Your Nov. 5th Staff Report on the Comprehensive Plan Update states, It appeared by TCPC comments that they did not have a clear understanding of what was presented to them. They voted to not recommend approval of the Yelm Comprehensive Plan Transportation and Introduction update to the Thurston County Board of Commissioners.”
I would like to say I find this assessment totally false, as the Thurston County Planning Commission knew exactly what they were talking about as they deal regularly with these issues in the larger cities of Olympia, Lacey & Tumwater. Asking questions for more information does not denote they did not understand clearly. Yet, Ms. Merriman told the Yelm Planning Commission Oct. 15th that more education of what was presented to them should have been provided. Then that is Yelms responsibility for not preparing them better. Chris Lane commented he is a commercial realtor, yet he is for responsible development. He said that to do nothing to restrict development and not address transportation impacts is irresponsible. He was unable to comprehend another 5,000 vehicle trips per day from 568 new residential units from separate proposals, in a town that cant handle their traffic now.
Further, the Nov. 6th Staff Report on Level of Service Methodology states, Because there has been much confusion during the 2007 Comprehensive Plan update surrounding transportation levels of service, the Community Development Department has prepared this memo
I would say the confusion has originated from Yelms own Community Development Department as exhibited by the following:
A. On July 24, Grant Beck told the Council that there was a concurrency issue at Longmire because Tahoma Terra divisions when properly added all together showed Longmire failed with a LOS F, where individually they did not fail. The developer had to be notified they were required to mitigate this by sharing the cost of a traffic light, thanks to the hearing examiner calling this to Mr. Becks attention after a public comment the day before. Yelm had incorrectly separated the phases to achieve a passing LOS without developer mitigation.
This was an important piece of information and all of this was omitted from the Council Minutes.
B. On September 17, Yelm Planning Commission advisor & TRPCs Kathy McCormick told the Planning Commission the designation in the Comp. Plan of Highways 507/510 in Yelm as Highways of State Significance (HSS) was incorrect. The State designates these as Highways of Regional Significance (non-HSS) and they are Level of Service (LOS) D mitigated, which is consistent with the regional plan. She said the Traffic Chapter of the Comprehensive Plan was in conflict with the Regional Plan, since it must conform or be consistent with the Thurston County Transportation Plan and they must address that fact. They did nothing, except to remove the word acceptable from level of service F in the urban core. Staff did not remind the Commission they had to resolve the conflict.
All of this was omitted from the Planning Commission Minutes.
Now in your Staff Report, Community Development acknowledges the error on the highway designation and has that finally corrected. However, the Yelm Plan is still in conflict with the Regional Plan.
C. Two days prior to the Thurston County Planning Hearing (Oct. 8), for the very first time in this Comprehensive Plan discussion that began over a year ago, Yelms assistant planner Merriman sent a recommendation to the Yelm Planning Commission to add the Strategy Corridor designation for Yelms 507/510 in the Comprehensive Plan, which she asserted lays aside level of service requirements.
Really? After almost a year of discussion, staff reports, memos, public comments and taxpayer-paid staff hours spent on this, level of service requirements are just shoved aside. Why was this just revealed when another jurisdiction was just 2 days away from looking into Yelms practices? And this just came to Community Developments attention then? Id like to know, as I am certain you would, why they did not know about that and advise the Planning Commission prior to this.
Strategy Corridors aside, the City of Yelm does not have the ability to undermine the level of service intentions of the Growth Management Act.
D. At the October 10th Thurston Planning Commission Public Hearing I mentioned the glaring omissions of the Minutes of Yelms Planning Commission and City Council. The Thurston Planning Commission acknowledged their disturbance about that, too. They asked Mr. Beck about what steps have been taken to get roads to LOS D since the concurrency mark was set 1998, where LOS D is the Regional Plan and must be followed.
Mr. Beck mentioned the Bypass and inner loop (side connector streets). They asked him how the Loop could be considered when not funded. He told them $33 million was funded for right-of-way acquisition and he expected construction funding of $35 million by 2009. Interesting, when the WSDOT package for this highway is now unfunded at $56 million, meaning the total cost has risen to $92 million, so Mr. Beck was $21 million short in his testimony. Do you really think $56 for the Loop is going to be funded for work to begin in 2009, as Mr. Beck theorized?
The Commission asserted that outside of the Loop and connector streets, little has been done to bring LOS down to level D, almost 10 years since the concurrency mark was set, and all while large developments and a big box store were approved. Chris Lane asked Mr. Beck that if traffic is out of your control in the City and from outside of the City, then why are you still issuing building permits, and to 568 new homes?
Bottom line: I am just talking about the Comp Plan Traffic Chapter here with these inadequacies, which leads me to wonder what other issues are not properly addressed relating to water and storm water runoff.
I am therefore requesting that you no longer permit and/or participate in the unsafe transportation situation here allowing more traffic to be added without properly addressing the results of your actions in this Comprehensive Plan. I ask you to table the adoption of this Chapter. I further call into question the development practices within the City of Yelm. I concur with Mr. Lane that it’s irresponsible to add to the problem when Yelm can’t deal with its traffic now.
TCPC Chair Roper said the issue is Yelms comprehensive plan adopting LOS F in 1995 while the regional plan identifies LOS D as an acceptable standard. There appears to be no plans to move towards the target. The plan should meet concurrency or the plan should be changed, she stated. I agree. Thank you.
Stephen R. Klein