Both The Olympian and the Nisqually Valley News ran the Thurston Highlands story in their editions out today, which was first brought to public light by the Yelm Community Blog last week.
Interesting that both the NVN & The Olympian chose NOT to report that the City of Yelm used taxpayer money to fund a private developer’s water study, which caught several people’s eyes, including a State Representative, who also wrote the WA. State Auditor & Attorney General requesting they look into that issue. HMMM!
Here is my letter to Yelm City Administrator Badger about her ridiculous comments in the NVN today:
Dear City Administrator Badger,
While I find most unfortunate that the Nisqually Valley News (NVN) chose not to share with their readers the City of Yelm never had a contract with the Thurston Highlands developers to get repaid for the city funding a private developer’s water study, I find even more disturbing your misleading answers to serious water issue questions.
Your comment in the NVN’s print edition out May 15th is just one example:
“Badger said the city needed to conduct the study regardless of the master planned community.
While the water study will impact the Highlands, the study was needed for the development of the city as a whole.”
Mrs. Badger, the Golder Water Study the City Council authorized for Thurston Highlands had only one purpose and that was to find water for a private developer to locate water on their private (not city owned/controlled) land and bring to the city with their 3 applications. As a matter of public policy, developers are supposed to pay for their impacts up front, just like schools, roads, traffic and water. However, the public has paid instead with Thurston Highlands because the city funded the water study up front and has maintained they will be reimbursed by impact fees from building permits in the development as outlined in the EIS or as the City Staff Report in 2006 said, “Through the Conceptual Master Plan process for the Thurston Highlands community, there will be a determination on the pro-rata share of private financial participation towards this project. The Conceptual Master Plan process is on hold, the developers are now gone and left the city with 2/3 of a million dollars the taxpayers will have to swallow, unless the developers somehow cure their $12.5 million default.
Developers are supposed to present all aspects of their project to the city, not the city to the developer. The Mayor, Community Development Dept., City Council and you Mrs. Badger lost sight of that 2 1/2 years ago when I asked you then about a contract with the developer for this water study. Nothing was done and now that decision has come home to roost!
Then you say, “Some ideas the city is looking at rather than charge the developers a lump sum is tacking on an additional charge for every water hook-up.”
Mrs. Badger, even if Thurston Highlands cures the default and moves forward, how are any homes really going to be built out there to pay back the debt via water hook-ups. In this economic environment, getting bank credit for new home building now requires stellar credit qualifications that few have, as demonstrated recently by mounting foreclosures, falling home sales and dropping home values. Your idea for the city to repaid via water hook-ups rests on shifting sands!
Subterfuge continues to be the city’s policy of the day.
The fact that the city did not have a contract with a private developer and used taxpayer money for a water study on private land has been turned over to the Washington State Attorney General & Auditor’s Offices requesting an investigation into these and other city practices.
I own land in Yelm.
Would the city fund a water study on my private land without a contract?
Or for anyone else?
Your first responsibility is to protect your community and constituents from any harm, which you did not do!
Mayor Ron Harding accepts Chamber’s Citizen of the Year Award
Mayor Ron Harding received the Citizen of the Year honor from the Yelm Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday, May 12. Quoting the NVN,
“While Harding said he is humbled by the honor, he says he wishes someone else was being recognize (sic).
He even tried to step aside.”
[Ed. Note: One does not try to step aside; they either step aside or they don’t, period!]
“I’m not sure if the mayor is suppose (sic) to be Citizen of the Year, but I’ll accept it,” Harding said.
[Ed. note: I am sure, as I wrote on May 12th. Why didn’t he just not accept the award when asked, if he really wanted to step aside? HMMM!]
Yelm Chamber’s Executive Director Cecelia Jenkins told the NVN,
“One of the reasons Harding stands out, Jenkins said, is because of the volunteer hours he put into remodeling the new Yelm Historical Museum.”
That is laudable, however to help clarify, a mayor’s duty and indeed, responsibility is to serve his community. The reward is in re-electing him to office. There were others that deserve praise and this award, as well!
The Mayor’s first responsibility is to protect our community and constituents from any harm, which he did not do, tarnishing this award!
IS EVERYTHING JUST SOME KIND OF GAME WITH OUR CITY OFFICIALS?
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In response to Christine, “heck no”, I expect no answer to come forth from City Hall, for if they do, they will have to incriminate themselves. We’ll let them answer the State Auditor and State Attorney General’s offices when they come a knockin’.
And, any answer that did come, would be from Community Development Director Grant Beck. After all, he IS the defacto Mayor and THE single person running this town, as you saw when Mayor Harding turned to him to answer Ed Wiltsie’s rebuttal to Mayor Harding’s ridiculous, unfactual and embarrassing answer!
The more people that write those two offices about this, the better.
Dear Mr. Beck,
The following are my comments relating to the 2008 Revision of the Yelm Comprehensive Water Plan:
1. As Thurston Highlands is now in default, the primary premise of the plan appears to be invalid. The final determination on the default issue appears to be scheduled for 25 May 2009, at which time the subject property may formally change hands, firmly negating the referenced premise. I request that you extend the deadline for these comments one additional week after the 25 May 2009 deadline to allow more specific and poinient comment.
2. In the event that the above deadline does pass and the default conditions is finalized, the next deadline is 05 June 2009 when the subject property will be offered at auction. In which case the ownership of the property will very likely change. As you have no pending agreement with the potential new property owner with regard to the acquisition of water rights or the Master Planning process (City contract is with Thurston Highlands, LLC, signed by Mr. Steve Chamberlain), the Item 1 referenced premise will be further removed from reality. As such, I further request that you extend the deadline for comment until one week after the auction (if the 25 May 2009 deadline passes and the property is offered at auction).
3. Based on the foregoing, it is clear that all of the basic assumptions beyond the 2009 projection made in the Appendix A Golder Report are highly questionable, not from a factual basis necessarily, but from a reality basis. As such, the entire Comprehensive Plan should be returned to the City Staff and its consultants for a complete restructuring and resubmitted to the public in a format and with content that has substance in the reality of the moment.
4. As I pointed out at the City Council meeting last Tuesday, City Code Title 17 clearly states the following:
17.62.045http://nt5.scbbs.com/sd42images/tab.gifMaster plan permit processing.
Applications for conceptual master plans, final master plans, and any project for which environmental review other than DNS or MDNS is required shall follow the guidelines set forth below:
A.http://nt5.scbbs.com/sd42images/tab.gifAt the time the application is filed, the city shall establish an account for permit processing for each major phase of the approval process. In addition to the fees payable with the application, the applicant or applicants as appropriate shall pay to the city the sum of $5,000 for each plan to be reviewed for approval.
B.http://nt5.scbbs.com/sd42images/tab.gifThe funds so paid shall be deposited in an account, for the benefit of the city to pay engineering, legal, and other fees incurred by the city in connection with the project review. Such fees shall be paid at the customary rates and charges applicable under the citys agreements with the consultants. The city shall be responsible for assigning work activities and assuring the work billed is reasonable and appropriate to the project assigned. The citys determination shall be conclusive on such matters.
C.http://nt5.scbbs.com/sd42images/tab.gifConsultants hired to review the project for the city shall be advised that the citys liability is limited to the funds on deposit and that they are to stop work if at any time the funds on deposit are insufficient to pay for work in progress.
D.http://nt5.scbbs.com/sd42images/tab.gifThe city shall advise the applicant whenever funds on deposit are less than $1,000 or are anticipated to be insufficient to pay for required services. The fund may be replenished in increments of $5,000 or more. Any interest earned on the account may be used by the city to pay for services chargeable to the fund.
E.http://nt5.scbbs.com/sd42images/tab.gifAt the conclusion of the planning process, or the expiration of more than one year with no activity, the permit application may be terminated and the balance of the funds, after deducting all charges due the city, may be returned to the applicant.
F.http://nt5.scbbs.com/sd42images/tab.gifThe city is to use reasonable prudence and diligence in the management of the consultants reviewing a project, but the scope and response of such review services shall be solely in the citys discretion. Further, all work done by the consultants shall belong to the city and in the case of work by counsel, the city and the counsel shall retain attorney-client relationship and nothing in this process shall create an attorney-client or other relationship between the applicant and the citys retained consultant or counsel.
G.http://nt5.scbbs.com/sd42images/tab.gifWhere the city has incurred expenses in connection with project review on a property, and said expenses have not been reimbursed, together with interest at 5.6 percent on any sums delinquent over one year, the city shall take no steps to process any application on such properties until such past due payments are paid. (Ord. 651, 1999).
making clear the requirement that the City hold on deposit such funds as are needed to pay the consultants engaged to perform reviews on projects such as the Thurton Highlands Master Planned Community. The City has clearly ignored and violated its own ordinance numerous times in allowing the balance due from Thurston Highlands LLC to climb to over $121,000. Item G of the above clearly states that “the city shall take no steps to process any application on such properties until such past due payments are paid. (Ord. 651, 1999).” This suggests that if the default sticks and the property is auctioned, the subject property is “limbo” until all debts are satisfied, making the schedule deadlines used in the Comprehensive Plan totally inaccurate. On this basis, I again ask that the Comprehensive Plan be remanded back to the City Staff and Consultants for complete revision as the basic assumptions are in error.
5. The Comprehensive Plan and its appendicies clearly indicate that the water levels in the aquifer proposed for development in Thurston Highlands area will be drawndown for a distance of at least 5 miles changing the existing condition of the aquifer in both the downstream and upstream areas. As this aquifer is not solely in the posession of the City of Yelm and is jointly accessed by numerous private landowners and businesses, there will be adverse impacts on these conjoined users. These impacts are predicted to be very real from the Golder Studies. As such, it is highly probable that these other aquifer users could be damaged by the City’s proposed actions, opening the City to a liability for damages. This conditions has not been adequately addressed in the Comprehensive Plan or its supplemental documents. It has certainly not been address by the standard Washington State Department of Ecology
vehicle for such assessing such potentially adverse conditions, a Water Rights Impairment Analysis. I therefore, request that prior to moving forward further and subsequent to satisfying Items 1, 2, 3 and 4 above, that City Staff and Consultants undertake a Water Rights Impairment Analysis and include its results in a revised version of the 2008 Comprehensive Plan.
Edward A. Wiltsie, PE
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