- Editor’s note: I sounded the alarm here 15 years ago in 2004-2005, along with Ed Wiltsie, PE, and Bill Hashim, that the City of Yelm’s Community Development Department was using home building permits as the single largest source of revenue for this city, without diversification of this city’s economy, which would create untold problems in the future. Back then, the city had a population of 4,500, or half of what we have here today. Now, under the tutelage of the same Community Development Director, Yelm leaders are on the same old mind-set of using building permits to grow this town to support their ever-burgeoning budget! The music is going to stop some day soon, as happened in 2008-2009, and the folly of this mind-set will then be seen from a future perspective looking back. The Olympian Editorial Board “gets it” and focused on exposing this Yelm issue in their Op-Ed last week. Let me reiterate my response to officials’ accusations in 2005 – I support growth here, though balanced Smart Growth, which has been anathema to most of this city’s leaders.
“How will Yelm preserve its heritage when growth again picks up in the area?”
“In 2000, the city of Yelm was home to 3,289 people. Today it’s population is just under 10,000. That’s a remarkable amount of growth for what used to be a small farm town far from I-5.
“Now it’s sprouting big new subdivisions of tightly packed single-family houses with perfectly manicured lawns. These perfect developments rise cheek by jowl with areas of much older, smaller, more modest homes – homes on much bigger lots, with yards one might politely describe as more informal.
“All over Yelm the contrast between old and new is acute.”
“But there is pressure for growth and change – and, not surprisingly, resistance to growth and change.
“The most significant act of resistance was an appeal of a municipal water permit that would accommodate growth. That appeal wound its way to the state Supreme Court, and then to the Legislature. The Legislature created a path to resolving it, which is now being followed. But today, Yelm has the capacity for just 267 additional water connections.”
“Right now, its city government is preparing for [new waster rights], and for the surge of growth that is likely to follow. Mayor J. W. Foster, the city council, and city administrator Michael Grayum are working on an economic development plan.”
“But the most difficult challenge will be for Yelm to preserve its farm town heritage – its old soul – as new subdivisions and fast food franchises spring up like mushrooms,” quoting The Olympian Editorial Board.