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The Honorable Ron Harding, Mayor of Yelm

The Pierce County Business Examiner reports in last week’s edition in a story titled:
“Yelm paves the way for retail growth”

Ed Notes:

All of this is very interesting and very ambitious.
International conglomerate Applebee’s Restaurants announced last week that they are withdrawing their plans to build in Yelm according to the current edition of the Nisqually Valley News,
“After submitting an application with the City of Yelm on June 14 to build an Applebees restaurant at the northwest corner of Yelm Avenue and Plaza Drive Northeast, Apple American Group has apparently backed out.

The company had already completed its first civil review with Yelms development department, but the .9 acre lot remains vacant.

According to Apple Americans application, the plan was to build a 6,000-square-foot restaurant with full site improvements, including a parking lot, driveway entrance, pedestrian sidewalks, storm drainage, sewer, water and irrigation facilities…

Sara Martin, of Bush Roed and Hitchings civil engineering group, agreed that comments on the civil review were likely not a factor in Applebees apparent decision not to build in Yelm.

‘That project is kind of dead right now,’ Martin said.

Martin explained that her company hasnt worked on the Yelm project for a while. Martin said she was told that Applebees decided not to build in Yelm because company officials have concerns about whether Yelm would have the clientele to support the business.”

The Applebee’s pullout follows on the heels of Walgreen’s deciding to scrap plans for a Yelm store at 5-Corners. And, Cincinnati-based Kroger pulled the plug and closed Yelm’s QFC grocery store last October leaving a huge empty store in Nisqually Plaza. All of these withdrawals have been since the Yelm Super Wal-Mart opened last Summer. Further, Toscano’s Italian Restaurant closed. The Wal-Mart Effect is alive and well in Yelm, as predicted.

Questions remain as to whether Yelm really has enough water to support all of the developments, as covered here last week with JZ Knight’s appeal of a hearing examiner’s ruling being upheld by the Yelm City Council. The WA. State Dept. of Ecology has yet to officially weigh in on Yelm’s Seattle-based attorney Richard Settle’s comment last week that “downplayed the value of an Aug. 20 letter from Tammy Hall, a hydrogeologist for the state Department of Ecology, in which she specified that Yelm has water rights for a total of 719.66 acre-feet”, quoting The Olympian. HMMM! I wonder what the people over at Ecology think of a city attorney shrugging aside their work and saying the State’s comments about Yelm’s water availability has no relevance.

Plus, will developers be able to sell the glut of housing being approved here?
The Olympian reported last week that “Mortgage foreclosure notices rose nearly 52 percent in Thurston County last year, returning to levels they reached during the recession earlier in the decade, the county auditor’s records show…”

Let’s take an account:

With Yelm facing challenges with respect to water, traffic & storm-water runoff into the aquifer as covered here previously, do you think wise Yelm official’s pushing to make this area a retail hub?

Or, will the traffic and strain on our natural resources push the environmental challenges to the limit?

Do you and the citizens of Yelm even care?

Here is the Pierce County Business Examiner report:

“Yelm officials and business boosters are working hard to encourage residents and tourists who drive through the area to drop their retail sales tax dollars there.

Major renovations of the citys main thoroughfare, Yelm Avenue West, are intended to do just that, by creating a more attractive area for retailers to locate, said Mayor Ron Harding.

‘Yelm is in the center of south county, and we have major retail chains 15 miles away,’ Harding [Yelm Mayor Ron Harding] said of the largely bedroom community that sees its residents travel to jobs in Olympia, Lacey and Tumwater. ‘Were setting ourselves up as the hub for the county to provide opportunities for retailers to look at Yelm.’

The $8.8 million project came about because of a request by developers of Thurston Highlands and Tahoma Terra planned communities to form a Local Improvement District to make street improvements for those projects. But the city required the developers to extend those improvements to the states planned State Route 510/Yelm Loop project in order to better integrate the changes into other traffic improvements in the city. [Ed. Note: There is no funding for the by-pass, as covered here in-depth January 14, so Yelm is well over a decade away from being able to use a by-pass, if at all. Over a third of the Local Improvement District funding was on the backs of adjacent property owners in higher taxes, so the Tahoma Terra developers only paid slightly over half for this project, a project who’s construction was required ONLY BECAUSE OF Tahoma Terra’s traffic. So, a widened road to nowhere for at least a decade will be built on the backs of our taxpayers. Is that fair to the property owners there for many years?]

The project, which is under construction by S.C.I. Construction of Sumner, created Tahoma Boulevard and is realigning the intersection of Killion Road at Yelm Avenue West, which is also called State Route 510. Improvements include moving an intersection and installing a new traffic signal for Killion Road and Yelm Avenue West, as well as roadway widening and utility upgrading. The first phase of the project is complete and the second phase should be finished by this coming fall, Harding said.

The project, which features wider streets, sidewalks and landscaping designed by Skillings Conolly Inc. of Lacey, is helping to pave the way for expected growth, said Grant Beck, community development director.

‘The housing market in Yelm is part of the regional market, and its going to be a more attractive place to be for builders because its cheaper than up north,’ Beck said. December figures from Northwest Multiple Listing Service show the cost of a single-family home in Yelm at $231,000, well below prices for homes in urban areas just a few miles away. Beck pointed out that the wave of retail development linked with residential growth has already begun.

‘Wal-Mart is open now, and were starting to see others come,’ Beck said. Creek Street Development of Seattle is building a 34,000-square-foot center, he said. The five-building center will feature a Starbucks, Anytime Fitness, Taco Bell and Kentucky Fried Chicken. Forbest Partners is building a 13,000-square-foot mixed-use complex nearby consisting of three buildings. And another project under review is a two-building complex totaling 22,000 square feet called Killion Crossing.

Retailers come with population growth, and Yelm has that. With a 6.1 percent population spurt in 2007, the city now has a population of 4,845 not quite the 5,000 it had projected in 2006, but close enough.

Even more important is that Yelm has a surrounding service area of 100,000 residents straddling the border between Pierce and Thurston counties, with unmet shopping needs, according to a retail study carried out for the city in 2005 by consultant Eric Hovee. That study spurred the formation of an ad-hoc economic development committee with members including Harding, Beck, City Administrator Shelly Badger and Thurston County Economic Development Council Executive Director Michael Cade.

But efforts to attract retailers came even before completion of the study and the committee it spawned.

Sewer upgrades allowing for more residential development were completed five years ago, and city officials have been trying to make their processing of development proposals more efficient, Harding said.

With new schools, fire stations and parks expected to begin coming online over the next few years with the Thurston Highlands master planned community, a bright outlook for retail growth is practically guaranteed. Shopping components are planned into the development, including a tentative Retail Street, which may include a farmers market, said spokesman Mike Williams.

‘Thurston Highlands will be an important part of Yelm,’ said Doug Bloom, one of the Thurston Highlands developers. ‘As a master planned community, it will bring new people to our area. But more importantly, it will bring with it a number of diverse opportunities.'”

Posted by Steve on January 27, 2008 at 6:35 am | Permalink

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