“SR 510 Loop Stage 1 opens to traffic (October 20, 2010)
Photo credit: WSDOT
– “The Reign of Error” is coming to a close, where Yelm sidesteps statutes and ordinances.
One of the many examples where Yelm bypassed ordinances over the last decade was using an unfunded Bypass to mitigate then-proposed Super Wal-Mart traffic, against the WAC.
– Next week on December 29th will begin a new era in the City of Yelm.
Yelm’s newly elected Councilors Molly Carmody and Joe DePinto will be sworn-in by Thurston County Auditor Mary Hall. They join Councilor Tad Stillwell, previous sworn-in filling the unexpired term for Position 4. Each of these Yelm City Council representatives won their seats for their commitments to:
* Open government that will regularly interact publicly with their constituents,
* Transparency in government, i.e no more end-runs around public ballot measures,
* Adhering to the laws of Washington and the ordinances of the Yelm Municipal Code,
* Following “the process” or be an advocate for changing the process.
– With three new Councilors, no longer will end-runs around “the process” get unilaterally approved.
This blog has recorded ten years of publicly accessible stories where “the process” was subverted.
One of the blatant examples was how the City of Yelm and their hired-Hearings Examiner permitted the building of a Super Wal-Mart in Yelm without proper transportation mitigation in-place.
– Yelm sidestepped the process to approve Wal-Mart here, which opened July 18, 2007.
Here’s the back-story:
City of Yelm officials were salivating at the prospect of having a Wal-Mart here in the early mid-2000’s and would do anything to get this store here, regardless of so much outcry and documented issues with the Wal-Mart site. A large, independent group of concerned citizens formed called Protect Yelm to educate City Hall and the pubic on the problems with this project.
In addition to the effects on groundwater from the poisoned, oil/gasoline run-off from a proposed 800 vehicles a day transiting the parking lot, one of the main issues was the Wal-Mart section of the Bypass [Stage 2, he 3.1 miles from Wal-Mart to Cullens Rd. SE] had been bumped to the to 2021-2023 biennium on the Governor’s funding budget, yet Wal-Mart was using that unfunded Bypass to mitigate their traffic, which Yelm approved.
– In 2005, public outcry reached a fever-pitch about the negative effects of approving a Wal-Mart here.
Yelm-area residents such as Professional Engineer (PE) and a then decades-long veteran of the Dept. of Ecology provided official documentation publicly to the Yelm City Council. Public comment continued unabated about the impacts on traffic, air, water, and the local economy.
On April 13, 2005, Yelm area resident Bill Hashim requested of the City Council that a moratorium be placed on any further building here until the Critical Area’s Update could be completed – a moratorium that would have placed the then-proposed Wal-Mart Superstore approval process on hold until more study and compliance with the Growth Management Hearings Board could be accomplished.
– Yelm’s City Council muzzles public comment on Wal-Mart, garnering international attention!
So outraged was the City Council at the continuing public outcry about a Wal-Mart here, on April 13, 2005, City Council member Bob Isom (now Mayor Pro-tem) immediately motioned for a moratorium on moratoriums and at another council session, passed a resolution that the name Wal-Mart and/or big box stores not be brought before the council again. Council member Joe Baker seconded the motion.
That act, voted unanimously joined by then-Mayor-Pro-tem Ron Harding caused the Yelm City Council to receive the egregious Jefferson Muzzle Award for not permitting the public to mention the words “Wal-Mart” or “Big Box Stores” in Council Chambers. This story was picked-up by Amnesty International and the Associated Press, making news around the world. The Seattle P-I summed up this story: Click here
– The Yelm City Council bypassed the statutes, approving Wal-Mart’s traffic plan.
The Yelm City Council took the position that the proposed Yelm Loop project would “significantly reduce delays.” In 2005 and 2006, WSDOT (WA Dept. of Transportation) showed the SR 510 – Yelm Loop Project construction was completely unfunded. At the time, the unfunded construction cost of the project was estimated to be over $56 million, yet the City of Yelm was willing to allow project applicants to assert that traffic impacts would be mitigated by a project that had no construction funding and had no chance of being completed within 6 years of the proposed development, as required to meet the Growth Management Act (GMA) concurrency requirements.
A public document submitted to the Thurston County Planning Commission dated October 10, 2007 stated:
“Under RCW 36.70A.040, local jurisdictions must adopt and enforce ordinances which prohibit development approval if the development causes the level of service [LOS] on a locally owned transportation facility to decline below the standards adopted in the transportation element of the comprehensive plan, unless transportation improvements or strategies to accommodate the impacts of development are made concurrent with the development. . . . For the purposes of this subsection (6) ‘concurrent with the development’ shall mean that improvements or strategies are in place at the time of development, or that a financial commitment is in place to complete the improvements or strategies within six years.
GMA regulations in WAC 365-195-510 state” If concurrency for transportation facilities is not achieved, development may not be approved.
– Yelm placed a stipulation approving the superstore and made an “end-run” around the WAC and RCW.
At the time Yelm Community Development Director Grant Beck said a stipulation for approving the superstore was that a connector between Yelm Hwy (SR 507) and 103rd Aveenue had to be built within 18 months after Yelm purchased the right-of-way for the Bypass. Wal-Mart would also pave 103rd Avenue from Creek Street to the new connection. Once the Yelm Loop was constructed, the connector would be ripped out and replaced to become part of the bypass.
The right-of-way acquisition was completed in July 2007, meaning Wal-Mart must have completed the connector by November 2008.
Editor’s Note: The opinion of this writer was the connector was the city’s way to bypass the Bypass funding requirement to approve Wal-Mart’s transportation plan. However, 103rd Avenue SE between the Connector and Creek St. SE was never designed to carry the volume of traffic from Wal-Mart plus daily through traffic from/to Piece County to bypass Yelm.
– From Yelm’s then-Community and Government Relations Coordinator Cindy Teixeira.
In November 2008, Teixeira wrote this to the Yelm Community Blog:
“The land use approval and MDNS required the connector be constructed within 18 months of the purchase of the right of way. The State DOT closed on the property June 22, 2007, with the deadline being November 22, 2008. Wal-Mart contributed nearly $220,000 to the purchase of the right-of-way and the construction plans are in for review.
Wal-Mart has also submitted a letter of credit toward construction of the connector road.”
Yet Wal-Mart continued to get a “free-pass” from the City of Yelm by not constructing the required connector to 103rd Avenue by the deadline November 22, 2008. Yet Yelm had no requirements in place to enforce Wal-Mart to build the required convector to handle their traffic. Construction of the connector was finally begun in September 2009, more than 2 years AFTER Wal-Mart opened.
– Status of the Bypass adjacent Wal-Mart as of December 2015
“Stage 2 construction was funded by the Connecting Washington revenue package approved by the 2015 Washington State Legislature.
State 2 construction is scheduled to begin during 2021,” quoting WSDOT.
(Stage 2 is the 3.1 mile section from Cullens Rd. SE to SR 507 by Wal-Mart.)
If all goes to plan, the Bypass will begin construction 14 years after Wal-Mart opened and be open for traffic by 2023, 18 years after city approval.
“The Reign of Error” is soon to be over, with three astute new Yelm Councilors: Molly Carmody, Tad Stillwell, Joe DePinto!