THE HONORABLE MAYOR RON HARDING
October 28, 2008
To Mayor Harding & the Yelm City Council;
Many of you have lived most or all of your lives in Yelm and have given much of your time and energy to serving your friends, neighbors and families in this community each of you so dearly cherish and call home. Certainly being elected as Mayor and City Council is a reflection of the trust this towns voters have put in your stewardship. Thats why the Citys October 10th Water Press Release and this NVN headline Lawsuit Ruling: Business as usual is so baffling to me.
Thurston County Superior Court Judge Chris Wickham issued his Letter Opinion in the case of JZ Knight vs. the City of Yelm et al on October 7 agreeing with petitioner Knight that the City does not have sufficient water to support the five developments at issue. City attorney Richard Settle is quoted saying he is pleased and not surprised by Judge Wickhams favorable decision.
Favorable decision for the City?
Thats not what the Judge stated when he instructed the City of Yelm needs to make clear that proof of adequate potable water must be made at the time of final plat approval and not as late as the issuance of a building permit.
Wickhams decisions were not mentioned at all by the City or the NVN. Quite the contrary, quoting the Press Release, To set aside water rights at a time other than building permit does not make sense. In essence, the City would have to set aside water for lots that might not ever be developed, said Yelm Mayor Ron Harding, who is happy with the decision.
If the judge had agreed with Knight, Harding explained, all growth in Yelm, including the construction of new homes and businesses would stop.
Reading this, I can either ascertain one of three things happened:
1. The Letter Opinion was not read by the City and Mayor,
2. The Letter Opinion was read and not understood, or
3. The Press Release was a not-so-subtle, calculated and deliberate attempt at subterfuge of the truth and public trust.
All three of these options are not indicative of responsible leaders and the third one is a flagrant violation of the very community you swore to serve.
For City Administrator Badger to say the $145,000 the city has spent on legal fees responding to Knights lawsuit boils down to being ironic that the decision equates to Yelm doing business as usual strains the credibility of this Chamber & City Hall. The Judge cited the Washington Water Code, the Revised Code of Washington and the Yelm Municipal Code all required by the City to be followed on this issue. If the City would have followed these Codes enacted to protect public welfare, this case would not have been necessary. Myself and others have spoken for years on the record about this issue, all while the City kept defending an interpretation that water would only have to be proven at the building permit phase and not before.
Steve Chamberlain & Doug Blooms Letter to the Editor saying they spent hundreds of thousands of dollars of our hard-earned money in attorney and consultant fees defending our livelihood shows that they threw their bags in with the City without proper due-diligence & foresight. I would never spend my hard-earned money developing land unless I had confirmed from the State that a City could supply the water they say they could, lest I be holding the bag and not be able to recoup my development costs [Ed. Note: The State Dept. of Ecology determines water rights availability for the City, NOT the City of Yelm. Therefore, to rely on the City of Yelm’s determination of water rights was a key flaw by these two men in spending their money to develop here. Why did they not go to Ecology first, since they were proposing such large projects requiring alot of water?]
Well, the State Dept. of Ecology in an Amicus Brief signed by the Asst. Attorney General and entered into the record by the Judge states, the City of Yelm does not currently have sufficient primary water rights to supply the new residences associated with the subject preliminary subdivision approvals. Ecology has the authority to issue enforcement orders and penalties to those who violate the Washington Water Code or the terms and conditions of water rights. Ecology notes it has the authority to enforce against the City of Yelm if it exceeds its water limitations.
Business as usual?
Perhaps, if subterfuge, not coming clean with the public and giving the citys newspaper of record a less than complete Press Release of the Judges Opinion are ways City Hall continues to conduct itself in this case.
Frankly, I have not seen such a black eye bestowed upon this city since this Council voted to restrict the public from mentioning the word Wal-Mart in its chambers in 2005.
Judge Wickhams decision is expected next week making his Letter final. Then, will the City conduct business as usual?
[Ed. Note: When I sat down, Mayor Harding said,
“I want to say this for the record.
The NVN received the Judge’s Letter as well,
and came to the same conclusion as the City.”
I said, “I noticed.”
NVN reporter Megan Hansen was there.
For the Mayor to call me anti-growth and Bloom/Chamberlain to make me and others the issue is a very good distraction for them to present, however I have always stated and am on-the-record for years speaking of Yelm’s City Hall following the laws, Comp. Plans & Codes enacted to protect the public. I am for providing developments with proper road, water, sewage infrastructure BEFORE moving forward and straining the resources and environment.
Sounds like the City should consider a new attorney and if “Business as usual” is going to be the direction Mayor Harding is going to lead, the City would be wise to increase their budget for more litigation and attorney fees!]
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What the City has been doing is taking the stand that water availability does not have to be proven/provided until the building permit phase — which they say could be years after plat approval — and where they do not have water now, they contend there is a “reasonable expectation” (their words to the court, not mine), they could have water then.
Of course, Ecology stepped in and said we are authorized by the State to handle water rights and you, Yelm, do not have enough now.
Who knows what happens & how good people are swayed in government and forget their oaths to serve the public welfare.
After 2 decades of distinguished public service and a grand reputation, County Commissioner Diane Oberquell leaves with a tarnished legacy:
Will Yelm officials leave behind a tarnished record, as well?
And the Nisqually Valley News is complicit in this story, as they took the City’s Press Release and ran only with that — no investigative journalism award on this one!
As Mayor Harding said, the NVN received the Judge’s Letter Opinion, too.
Where is the NVN’s desire to share the truth for it’s readers & public welfare???
Obviously from so many examples — misplaced at best.
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