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YELM ENACTS BUILDING “MORATORIUM” – TEMPORARILY?

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED HERE SUNDAY, MAY 2, 2010, 3PM

Websters define Moratorium:
“A period of time in which there is a suspension of a specific activity until future events warrant a removal of the suspension or issues regarding the activity have been resolved.”

The headline story in this weeks NVN states:
“Yelm building permits placed on hold”

The City of Yelm is temporarily suspending the processing of building permits.

The city is waiting for the Department of Health to issue the city a number of water connections for its water system, said City Administrator Shelly Badger.”
Ed. Note: Interesting that the NVN chose NOT to put this headline story on their website. HMMMM!
UPDATE: The NVN finally did post their story on their website Monday, May 3, 2010 3:55 PM PDT. HMMM!

The Yelm Community Blog broke this story on April 26, 2010:
“On April 8, 2010, City Administrator Shelly Badger received a letter from the Dept, of Health stating that on April 23rd, (last Friday) they will set the city’s water system “at capacity”. That means the Office of Drinking Water (ODW) will designate the current number of connections served as being all that will be allowed. Health stated, “The decision is based on the the fact that this system has exceeded its physical source capacity”.
CLICK HERE for the Dept. of Health letter to Yelm.

On April 13, 2005 [YES, in 2005] the Yelm City Council heard from two citizens suggesting the city put a moratorium on approving permits, so growth here could be planned in balance with resources (water, roads, groundwater runoff, sewage, etc.). Immediately, Council member Isom put forth a no moratorium resolution. The Council’s Minutes of April 13, 2005 state:
“MOTION BY BOB ISOM, SECONDED BY JOE BAKER THAT NO MORATORIAMS (sic) BE IMPOSED AND THAT THE ISSUE NOT BE BROUGHT BEFORE COUNCIL AGAIN. CARRIED.”

Listen to Mr. Isom, in his own words from the April 13, 2005 City Council audio record:

Then, on March 24, 2009, I asked the Council to rescind the resolution imposed against moratoriums and that this City Council start to take a look at a growth moratorium, until the city has sufficient water rights to support hooking-up all of the previously approved homes to the city’s water supply. I was rebuffed, of course.

Interesting then, that the City of Yelm has imposed its own moratorium on building here because:
– the city over-pumped their 2009 Ecology water allocation.
– the city has no approved Water System Plan.
– because of such the Dept, of Health has capped the connections to the April 23, 2010 number.
Unfortunately and as is typical, none of this is being shared with the public, either by the city or the NVN.
Well, city water users will find out the cost of not speaking-up about this, as their water bills arrive this week with another 16% water rate increase, the 2nd such increase in 9 months.

In other recent & related news:
On April 30: 2010,
the primary lending bank of Yelm’s defaulted 5,000-home Thurston Highlands development was seized by the FDIC and their assets sold. Frontier Bank joins the recent Venture Bank failure, both with heavy investments here.

On April 29, 2010:
the Washington State Department of Revenue reported overall taxable retail sales declined 11.2 percent to $100.5 billion during 2009.

“The retail trade component of all taxable retail sales dropped 7.2 percent to $44.9 billion,” quoting the Washington State Dept, of Revenue.
Yelm’s overall taxable retail sales decline of -11.80% was greater than the state’s average drop.

On April 28, 2010,
“The number of single-family residential building permits issued in Thurston County’s three largest cities rose sharply in the first quarter of the year, a sign that the local homebuilding industry is set for a rebound after a slow 2009, according to data compiled by The Olympian.

However, Yelm’s building permits issued dropped 56%.
“The year-over-year first-quarter building permit data show:

Olympia: Rose 209 percent to 34 from 11

Lacey: Rose 52 percent to 70 from 46

Tumwater: Rose 687 percent to 63 from 8

Thurston County: Fell 9 percent to 105 from 116

Yelm: Fell 56 percent to 10 from 23

“Yelm, the countys fourth-largest city, issued fewer single-family building permits than a year ago, but the city still is on pace for 75 housing starts this year, Community Development Director Grant Beck said. He said the first-quarter data were skewed a little because many builders waited until later in the year before picking up their permits. Although 10 were issued in the January through March period, 12 have been issued this month, Beck said,” quoting The Olympian.

Ed. Note: Funny that Beck failed to mention to The Olympian that Health issued a letter limiting water connections in the city and Yelm over-pumped their Ecology allocation in 2009. 75 new housing starts times 3.5 acre feet per year (afy) per home = 262.50 afy of new additional demands for water.
The city’s Staff Report says conservation will save 35 acre feet per year, enough to supply 144 homes. The city over-pumped almost 14 afy in 2009, so 35 afy is not going to be enough for Yelm to get within its allocation by adding 75 new homes in 2010, even with mandatory irrigation conservation!

On April 30, 2010:
the NVN finally published a story about Yelm Library’s future. NVN readers now know what was covered here a month ago:
“Funding a facility for the Yelm Timberland Library is entirely up to the City of Yelm come 2012.

Michael Crose, interim executive director of Timberland Regional Library System, notified Yelm Mayor Ron Harding of Timberlands decision on April 7.

‘Following several months of discussion, the Timberland Regional Board of Trustees took action to discontinue providing funding for the rental property where the Yelm Timberland Library currently is located effective Dec. 31, 2011,’ Crose said in a letter.

The current lease is for about $140,000 a year for a state-of-the-art 8,962 square-foot facility…

The city can afford roughly $50,000 a year to put toward a library facility, city officials said.

‘It will be up to the city to determine what action to take as a result of the boards decision,’ Crose said.”

Overall, last week was not a good week for the City of Yelm and they have no one to blame this time for their own self-created troubles!

This quote then, seems pertinent:
“Ignorance, allied with power, is the most ferocious enemy justice can have.”
James Baldwin (1924-1987)
American-born writer. Quoted in the Huffington Post

Posted by Steve on May 3, 2010 at 5:07 am | Permalink

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2 comments

  1. This can’t be a moratorium! The city council specifically forbade the discussion of moratoriums on the city council agenda in that very sound clip you provided!

    So — obviously — this has to be simply “standard procedure” that when you don’t have enough water rights to issue new building permits, you just don’t issue building permits.

    And that’s another reason that building starts in Yelm this year have plummeted: The city OBVIOUSLY recognizes that it doesn’t have enough water rights available, so they couldn’t issue the permits then either.

    Don’t you GET IT, Steve?

    [Now unplanting tongue from cheek]

    So, the only (now) lawful way to discuss moratoria is for the public to raise the idea in the public comments section of the meeting. Since it’s not on the agenda, you can bring it up. (Nanner-nanner, city council!)

    Comment by James Zukowski on May 2, 2010 at 5:55 pm

  2. Mr. Zukowski,

    They can issue all the permits they want, however, they can not connect any more to the city’s water system.
    I say they stopped issuing building permits because of the potential lawsuits.

    How would you like to be issued a permit only to get refused a water connection, and be forbidden to occupy your house?
    Go tell the bank that loaned you the money for the house.

    I’d say the city knows they’re in hot water, pun intended, with more lawsuits over and above the current one coming their way. See this link:
    http://yelm.com/2010/01/city-gets-hit-between-the-eyes.html

    Comment by Steve klein on May 2, 2010 at 7:15 pm

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