This writer’s letter of Wednesday, August 27 to State Senator Rasmussen and Reps. Campbell & McCune sums up the City of Yelm’s official, on-the-record response to the public commenters on the Thurston Highlands Draft EIS. This is the first response the community has heard from the City on this matter:
Dear Elected Representatives of the Yelm District,
I am dismayed at the arrogance of City of Yelm officials in their blatant disregard of the public last night [August 26], as they officially went on the record at their regular City Council meeting denying there will be any response to public input on the Thurston Highlands Draft EIS prior to the final EIS, for a 5,000 home proposed development and one of the State’s largest, that would effectively quadruple the size of Yelm.
Area resident Diane D’Acuti asked the Yelm City Council during the public comment section:
1. Why were the city’s SEPA rules not followed in the length & conciseness of the DEIS?
2. When will the over 50 commenters questions & concerns be addressed and why have they not been answered before now?
Yelm Community Development Director Grant Beck stated,
“I will address all of the comments and SEPA rules in the final EIS.”
Ms. D’Acuti said the Draft EIS does not follow the city’s own rules regarding the SEPA and requested that issue be addressed.
Mayor Harding answered, “In the appearance of fairness, we (the Council) can’t get into that.”
[Ed. Note: WHAT??? Where is the appearance of fairness in denying the commenters a response? What about “fairness” for the public that elected all of you into office? You appear to bend-over backwards for the developer, rather than to your constituents!].
This is a major rejection of the SEPA, which is devoted to encouraging community participation and comment. Public input is of vital importance on a project such as this. That nothing will be addressed until the Final EIS means the public and commenters will not know where, if at all, Mr. Beck made any changes from the Draft EIS, without a full reading of the Final EIS.
This development will not only quadruple Yelm’s population, it will choke the city with traffic even further, add the equivalent of 7 Super Wal-Mart’s of commercial space, impact the aquifer and create a second downtown, all in direct violation of the City of Yelm Vision Statement in the Comprehensive Plan.
That the rules and intent of the SEPA in public participation are being shoved aside, is indicative of the reason the Yelm City Council was awarded the egregious Jefferson Muzzle Award in 2006 for prohibiting public comment on a then-planned Wal-Mart application. Mayor Harding (then as Mayor Pro-tem) & most of the current City Council members were then serving on that Council.
Just to be clear, I wish to make known that I am not running for Mayor of Yelm in 2009.
I have heard that Yelm issues require an inordinate amount of your time and attention percentage-wise, compared to the rest of your jurisdiction. With this Thurston Highlands EIS coming down the pike as the only vehicle that addresses public concerns, I suggest you will be hearing even more from this area’s constituents.
I have attached my Letter to the Editor of the Nisqually Valley News published this week with more details.
Can you suggest anything to have our voices heard in Yelm’s City Hall?
Stephen R. Klein
P. O. Box 1971
Yelm, WA. 98597
cc: Candidates for public office (Romero, Edmondson, Christenson, Powell, Becker)
Nisqually Valley News
Yelm Planning Commission Chair Carlos Perez
Yelm Mayor & City Council
Yelm Community Development Department
Yelm Community Affairs
Ed. Note: The then-newly appointed Yelm Planning Commission Chair Carlos Perez asked the public for solutions and input on key issues affecting the community in his December 14, 2007 Letter to the Editor published in the NVN. The silence from Mr. Perez and the Planning Commission on the Thurston Highlands DEIS is indicative of their compliance with the city about not responding to public comments or following the SEPA rules. Interesting that the Planning Commission Meeting for August, 2008 was canceled, what with the Thurston Draft EIS creating a second downtown that usurps the city’s own Vision Statement in the Comprehensive Plan. HMMM!
UPDATE: Friday, August 29th at 1:30pm
Unfortunately, the NVN in today’s edition did not report on this turn of events, rather focusing on the “slam-dunk” approval of the next phase of Tahoma Terra, a 1,200 development by the same owners of Thurston Highlands and a lawsuit by JZ Knight.
The newspaper misreported two weeks ago when the NVN stated, “On July 18, Knights petition was denied in a summary judgment hearing.”
The NVN printed a correction in a small box last week on page 2, instead of the large incorrect box on their front page the week prior.
Finally, the NVN got it right in today’s edition, though in the last 2 lines of this story:
“On July 18, a petition for a summary judgment hearing made by the City of Yelm was denied.
The next court hearing, on the merits of the case, is set for 9 a.m., Wednesday, Oct. 1.”
Ed. Note: This means that the courts found Ms. Knight’s case had sufficient grounds against the city to move forward and the city’s request to have the case dismissed was what was denied. Why did THIS story not get front-page copy, in particular from a newspaper that reports on the front page every time the city has rejected Ms. Knight’s cases?!