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CITY COUNCIL ‘STANDING ROOM ONLY’ FOR WATER ISSUES

The Yelm City Council meeting tonight was standing room only with 2 major and contentious issues on tonight’s agenda:

1. Issue one: Ordinance No. 914, Eminent Domain McMonigle Water Rights

The discussion opened with a public comment Mayor Harding permitted (usually, no public comments are permitted for an agenda item) by Glenn Schorno, President of Schorno Agri Business. Mr Schorno introduced himself as the son of Larry Schrono and made a very spirited and impassioned plea to the City Council and spoke eloquently about a farmer’s livelihood and how their land means everything to them — and the assets of the land, like the water rights.

Mr. Schorno stated, “When it comes to farmers land, tread lightly.”
He continued by saying if the City Council approves this measure, this will be an uphill battle for the city. Schorno reminded city officials the City of Yelm has spent alot of money in the last few years on legal fees and will spend alot more if they approve this Ordinance.

He went on to describe how the City of Winlock pursued a course of action to condemn a farmer’s water right and lost. He suggested that Yelm beware of a similar fate. Schorno added, “Farm use – there’s not alot of use that says it’s better [than using water for farming]. When you [Yelm City Council] make the decision to condemnation, fully explore what you are looking at.”

Mayor Harding wanted to clarify for the record that the city’s interest is only in the transferable amount of water rights, and not all of the water rights possessed by the McMonigles. Then, the Mayor asked for a briefing by City Administrator Shelly Badger.

Next, Mayor Harding gave the floor to two of the McMonigle family members [Charlotte (McMonigle) Zinski & Elbert J McMonigle] to address the Council, who stated they were the owners of the McMonigle Water Rights and that their rights have been the subject of a contract with the City of Yelm since May, 2009, yet the city has not been willing to pay the asking price. Mentioned was a letter the city sent to McMonigle’s neighbors advising them of the condemnation and saying the letter stipulated that if the city prevails, every other neighbor’s water rights are at risk.
SEE THAT LETTER – CLICK HERE & HERE
And the map attached to the letter: CLICK HERE
Elbert McMonigle said he could not understand how the city could seize his water rights on his land that is outside of city limits. He was dismayed that the city sent a letter to his neighbors acknowledging their water rights may be at risk, too. He closed by saying, “I agree with my sister, you [City of Yelm] had the right to assume the contract [to secure the water rights for the city]. I find it irritating you have a contract and have not followed it.”

The Mayor called on the city’s Seattle-based legal counsel on this issue Steve DiJulio of Foster Pepper to explain condemnation & eminent domain procedures.

Mr. DiJulio stated there are three parts of the eminent domain process that will begin if the Council approves this Ordinance, each process must be approved before continuing to the next:
A. The Court considers and confirms (or not) the public use of necessity of the water rights. This is determined by the Washington State Constitution through consideration given to the Legislative branch.
If the Court confirms the public use of necessity, then the 2nd process is triggered.
B. Valuation of the water rights, at fair market value. Once this is completed, the 3rd process is triggered.
C. Actual entry of judgment by a jury and payment.

Questions from the City Council were as follows:
1. Mike McGowan asked who determines the price of the water rights?
In absence of an agreement, the process goes before a jury to determine the value, equally weighing evidence from both sides.
2. Mayor Harding stated “It’s a long process and in some cases we come to an agreement before the processes.”
3. Mayor Pro-tem Bob Isom expressed his consternation that the city was not part of the contract negotiation nor assumption of the contract. He said this was not in the best interest of the city with those that negotiated the contract.
4. Don Miller asked how far apart were the sides.
The answer from the Charlotte (McMonigle) Zinski was that the city had offered half the asking price, which was way below the other water rights values in the area. Mayor Harding seemed to not want a discussion on this issue from the Council. He commented he did not want Don Miller’s question discussed in-chambers, and several times told the Council he had conducted many talks with the family and he had everything under control.

Bottom Line: John Thompson motioned to vote on the Ordinance, seconded by Mike McGowan. As is usually the case, there was no discussion when asked by the Mayor and Ordinance 914 passed unanimously!

Ed. Note: Amazing that even after Mr. Schorno’s impassioned comments, no discussion was held amongst the Council about his views.
Though Mrs. Badger said the city is appealing Ecology’s decision that the city is not approved to use the McMonigle Water Rights:
[“On July 20, 2009, Ecology REVERSES the decision of the Thurston County Conservancy Board and now says the City of Yelm is not approved to use the privately contracted water from the McMonigle water rights, leaving Yelm in a precarious position where their Draft Water System Plan may not be viable and the city could already be pumping more water than their allocated 796 acre feet per year,” quoting JZ Knight’s website.]
The one question that should have been asked by the Council was why the city is spending the time and resources to condemn water rights Ecology said previously were not approved to use. What makes Mrs. Badger think the city would prevail upon Ecology to again reverse their decision to approve the city’s use of those water rights? Don’t YOU think that is a valid question?
Afterall, the city is embarking down a path of major legal expenses, as pointed out by Mr. Schorno.

2. Issue two of note: Palisades West (tabled from10-27-09)
Mayor Harding wanted this tabled for another 2 weeks without discussion saying the city’s work load was too great to get the City Council answers about this subdivision from previous meetings. Several Council members asked why the hold-up and wanted answers, not accepting the Mayor’s rebuff. The council was told by Community Development Director Grant Beck the attorneys for the home owner [Mr. Smith] in question had not responded to the city’s draft of liability sent to the applicants [Smiths]. Mr. Smith got up and said the city has been going back and forth on this issue for 6 months dragging their feet and how could they expect his lawyers to respond to the large amount of documents within 5 days.
The City Council motioned and voted to table this until Council meeting, Council member Fetterly’s last.

Here is the story on this issue quoting the October 16th NVN:
Yelm officials are looking into whether or not the city is liable after it was asserted they wrongfully issued a building permit.

The permit was for a house in the Palisades West Subdivision, which is located on a hill just past Ridgeline Middle School.

Only one house is built in the 24-lot subdivision.

Stipulations were placed on the final subdivision that a booster pump station and sewer roll seal must be installed before any building permits could be issued.

A building permit for the booster pump station was approved.

About a month later a building permit was issued for Andrew and Cynthia Smith, with a reminder that no certificate of occupancy would be issued without the completion of both conditions…

The family took out a construction loan to have the house built.

The couple are now paying $2,000 a month for a house they cannot live in, on top of rent…

Concerns center around fire and sewer flow requirements and meeting state standards.

The developer [Thurston Highlands & Tahoma Terra’s Steve Chamberlain] could not secure financing to construct the requirements.

Before the subdivision was constructed, two houses previously existed in the location…

The city let them build the house, they went through the expense only to be told they cant move in, said Ben Cushman, the Smiths attorney…

He also pointed out the city has a liability with the house because they wrongfully issued a building permit. The Smiths offered to waive any liability if the city issues a certificate of occupancy.”

The Smith’s home builder told this writer after tonight’s Council meeting that SE Thurston Fire/EMS Chief Rita Hutcheson issued a letter saying their Mill Pond Fire Station could respond to any issue in Pacific Palisades West within 3 minutes, due to the close proximity.

CLICK HERE for the Staff Report dated Oct. 21st for the Oct. 27, 2009 Council Meeting.
CLICK HERE to read the City’s Staff report on this issue, as long as they keep this link active, which upon seeing this posted here, may be for a very short period of time.
UPDATE: November 11th, 6am
The city’s link has been pulled, so this writer has requested a copy under the Freedom of Information Act.
UPDATE: November 12th, 6pm
CLICK HERE for the Staff Report.

Ed. Note: These two issues alone make one pause and shake their head at the actions of city officials. Jeepers – really folks, what ARE Yelm’s leaders thinking? Their actions against their own citizens are becoming VERY pronounced, on the eve of being inaugurated for another term, the very citizens to whom they were elected and appointed to protect and serve.
Have they lost sight of that?
Seems most actions now gloss over their own mistakes and stick the result onto the backs of the citizens & taxpayers, in addition to taxpayer funded exorbitant legal fees and a major defaulted development that did not pay their fees or city taxes.

STAY TUNED!

Posted by Steve on November 10, 2009 at 9:56 pm | Permalink

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