On May 26, 4 community leaders from Midland, Frederickson, Waller and Spanaway met with County Executive Bruce Dammeier and Dennis Hanberg, Director of Planning and Land Services (PALS) and Public Works. The message was simple, our quality of life matters, we need roads and other infrastructure if you build out the Centers and Corridors project, formerly dubbed “City of Pierce.”
PALS is currently taking their plan on the road to residents in the mid-county area that includes Midland, Parkland, Spanaway, Frederickson and South Hill and also affects parts of Summit-Waller and North Clover Creek Collins in the rural separator. They are seeking community input.
The community leaders, Dan Haire, David Artis, Terry Hurd and Marianne Lincoln represented a coalition that formed a year ago with the passage of 2016-79s at the County Council. It was a timeline to create annexations and incorporations in the county urban growth designated areas. That timeline ends December of this year. Members of all the affected communities got together and paid a consultant to do a study on the infrastructure of the area. The Growth Management Act (GMA) written by the state legislature requires counties and cities to plan growth and contain sprawl. It also directs them to build roads, sewers, and other facilities concurrently with the housing. And lastly, and perhaps, most importantly, it is about not changing the character of the community as it grows.
The community leaders asked the executive to spend the time listening and if he had questions to ask at a later time, unless he needed clarification. Lincoln pointed out that when she was a child, Canyon Road was two lanes and the state bought out her neighbors and friends for SR512 to be built. At that same time, they said they would extend Canyon Road to the North. That road extension to I-5 has not been built 55 years later. Nor had the Cross Base Highway since its first introduction around 1980. She stated the roads south of the urban growth area (UGA – 208th St.) especially 224th are terribly crowded and the parking lot at the little Safeway in Graham is packed all the time. This area wasn’t supposed to grow and it is even worse inside the boundaries. In the rural separator, traffic from the more urban southern communities jams their roads on the way to Tacoma and jobs farther north.
Dan Haire went on to point out that Dammeier and Handberg inherited problems left to them by other council members and executives that couldn’t get the roads built either. The issue now is that lack of investment in the roads is reaching critical mass. Currently, Pierce County is one of the hottest real estate markets in the entire USA. But, the community leaders pointed out, the roads, sewers, surface water management and jobs aren’t in place. With the low unemployment in King and Thurston counties and high unemployment in Pierce, the commuting issues are only going to get worse.
The study the leaders commissioned is listed on the website for the Pierce Communities Coalition. Terry Hurd stressed that for Pierce County to be livable, they absolutely must find a way to start getting that infrastructure in place. They requested the county put forth a serious road construction and corridor plan to go along with the housing construction plan they are taking to the public. Without it they forewarned, the quality of life is only downhill from here. That is not the kind of place we want to live, they noted. We don’t think it is where you want to live either, they stressed to the Executive. Even more, they summed up, we don’t think you want to be the on blamed for not doing something about it.
The Executive noted they are working on an economic plan to bring more business and jobs to the area. The community leaders expressed their appreciation for that, but added they would like to see it. They noted they want to be part of promoting the area and helping ensure it continues to be a desirable place to live. They expressed they are not against growth, but interested in ensuring the county grows wisely.
These community members and the others in their group are the people that worked for years on individual community plans and have spent hours of volunteer service on community events, community history and programs as well as on land use planning committees (LUAC’s) for their areas. They are quick to point out they have lifetimes of subject matter experience in land use for their areas. Compared to elected council members and other elected positions in the county, their subject matter experience is extensive. But when it comes to county input at meetings, they only get 3 minutes to say their piece, unlike the councilmembers voting on the decisions. They asked that the Executive respect the concerns and knowledge they bring to the table because of this experience. This was not an effort to complain, but a desire to help move forward much needed solutions.