[Editorial – Marianne Lincoln 4-10-2019]
Graham, WA — Last night I gave testimony about the Elk Plain Crossing development at 224th & the Mountain Highway. This location is the former Elk Plain County Road Shop. The site is zoned Mixed Use (MUD) and the purchasers want to change it to housing. Not housing like the other neighborhoods in the area, which are zoned rural, but housing including compressed zero lot line duplexes and homes with almost no yards, no porches, too short driveways and no extra parking for visitors.
In an urban area, with urban services, this might work. There, they have mass transit and roadways that are built out. In Graham that does not exist. The transportation problems are endless.
So I testified, but not the way I thought I would. So much for the technical me. No, I testified from real life. I lived for years in homes a few blocks north of the site (217th), a few blocks south of the site (238th) and a few blocks east (46th Ave.) of the site during my life. Because of JBLM that’s on every side of this proposed development.
“I don’t have enough fingers and toes to count all the people I know that have died on that section of highway,” I declared. “You are planning over 300 homes crammed into a space adjacent to a rural area that already has an overcrowded highway that backs up for a mile to the south of 232nd. That was in 2005, 19 years ago. The only reason I could pull out onto the highway to get to work was that someone let me cut in.”
The fact is, even the last time I lived at 217th, the Mountain highway backed up a mile to Bethel High in the morning and at least a mile to the south of 224th. SR7 south of 224th is only a two lane road. That is, one lane for each direction of travel. Even if they make a center lane, there is no space in the traffic to make a turn. There will be risk, accidents, injuries and death from the additional traffic. I was a participant in the WSDOT Mountain Highway Traffic Safety Corridor Project.
One of our problems is the Growth Management Act (GMA) is used for an excuse not to improve 224th Street and SR7 south of 224th. Both are in urgent need of widening, but because the area’s zoning is rural (rural reserve) and outside the Urban Growth Area (UGA), those who allocate the paltry road funds, refuse to make it a priority.
How did this high density development get into a rural area is another problem. The area was a road shop for the county for many years. When it was abandoned, the area kept its level of zoning which allowed it to be part of a narrow strip of Urban Growth Area (UGA) along SR7. Within UGA, houses can be built more densely. However, dense housing is completely out of character to that community. So by requesting the zoning change from MUD to MHR (Moderate-High Density Residential), they put the housing area out of character with the overall community. This is something that should be forbidden through Growth Management. Yet, by using a “variance” which has to get approval, apparently you can magically do anything completely out of context with the community character.
So I have a suggestion. Let’s get a “variance” and put some pressure to put in some major road improvements before any more housing developments go in south of the 208th Street UGA boundary. 224th Street East should be five lanes. The Mountain Highway to 260th Street East should be five lanes. And let’s get an understanding, the commercial zone along SR7 that is inside the UGA is not an invitation to build houses. We need our commercial zones for jobs and sales tax revenue, not to take advantage of it to build urban housing densities in a rural area.
The initial proposal for this development was a Lowe’s. The local area could have made good use of that, but then the developer could not get them to buy in and switched to housing with a small percentage of retail.
The developer wanted variances for all the different development regulations like separation distances, length of driveway, distance from the house to the sidewalk, size of the porch. When the planner finished the description, the developer came to the microphone and spent almost all of his time telling about how profitable the company was and how they are publicly traded. I used to work for a couple investment firms, that diatribe seriously worried me. If they are all about profit, they are not about making the homes the best for the people that live in them. It’s one or the other.
The parcel number is 0318142001. The link to look up parcel development documents is
The proposed Elk Plain Crossing project description:
- 363 single-family detached residential housing units,
- 2,500 square foot (SF) convenience market with 8 vehicle fueling positions,
- Two 3,500 SF fast-food restaurants with drive-through windows (7,000 SF total),
- 4,000 SF urgent care facility,
- 2,000 SF credit union (walk-in bank),
- 1,800 SF coffee shop with drive-through window.
Here is the full traffic impact study. Traffic Impact Elk Plain Crossing 4 4 2019