By Marianne Lincoln
[Editor Note: This is my testimony to the Planning Commission for 1-3-2023. RR (Rural Resource) Zone is has a maximum density of three housing units per acre with a extenuating circumstances. Normally, two per acre. So with nearly 400 on 27 acres they’re over limit, even though they say they count four units as one house because their shared shower and kitchen facility.]
The County holds public hearings, but is the County doing anything more than listening. Are you hearing? Will you actually take action on the needs of the many versus the proposals of the rich and few?
Since 2016, the public that has commented seems to get nothing more than a pat on the head for fulfilling a requirement (checked off the box), but does not get any mitigations or corrective courses for the projects.
Developers turned a grassland bird refuge into a forested pond on 208th Street. That was a complete change in the ecosystem and no one did a thing to correct this when told. The birds are now landing in the grass at a nearby private airport and are an imminent danger to planes and pilots. Please convince me what is happening isn’t completely asinine. County inactions on mistakes are screaming for correction all over the unincorporated area.
The construction of the Spanaway Tiny Homes Village at the current location, permanently stops the possible future construction Cross Base Highway, which several vocal leaders from Lakewood have been against for decades, but the communities of Spanaway, Frederickson and Elk Plain have been hoping for and promised by many officials since the 1980’s. This is hurtful to a community that desperately needs to lessen the road loads that are in “D & F” stages. In other words, maxed out in WSDOT codes.
This project would essentially put a ground lock on transportation alternatives in the Spanaway community. Spanaway Loop Road is over capacity and the Cross Base was part of fixing that. North Tacoma and Seattle environmentalists don’t understand the transportation problems already created here. From SR512, it’s another 17.5 miles to a west road access point. That is Yelm. When the I-5 freeway is blocked, Yelm, McKenna, Roy and Spanaway suffer miserably from traffic overload.
A road at least can be designed not to destroy a wetland; the water can be redirected. 285 homes with septics certainly would be disruptive. There may be 27 “dry” acres but there is wetland that is parts of a system flow on every side of it! That land affects Coffee Creek, Spanaway Lake, Spanaway Creek, Morey Creek, Tule Lake, Clover and Chambers Creek and the groundwater aquifer all around the area.
I have been a frequent visitor to the suggested build site. It is part of a historic and original road to Fort Nisqually from Spanueh Station in 1946. There is a map in the Hudson Bay archives showing this. The road, just beyond the boundary of JBLM from this property, has a historic split to Sastuc Station to the north and Muck Station to the South. That split is still visible dirt roadways on JBLM. It later was the road to Hillhurst, a community that no longer exists because of the construction of the base. There is bound to be archeological artifacts in the area. The Whittier School was up there also. It was started the same time as Spanaway Elementary School. Adam Benston’s farm was there. The Benstons were Fort Nisqually families.
I am concerned about those who has this idea in the first place. Steve O’Ban was a Senator for the 28th Legislative District and Don Anderson, a Mayor of Lakewood. Both were legal advisors to the County Executive. Since they incorporated, Lakewood has been trying to exert a unilateral relationship with the military base by controlling as much of the border property within its city boundaries and, or the same legislative and council district as Lakewood. I worked with Dupont, Roy and Parkland, to stop this relationship from blocking the influence of other communities around the base perimeter.
American Lake Gardens in Lakewood lost a large number of low income housing units and Lakewood planners have replaced them with large warehouses, helping create the lack of affordable housing units in the area. At the same time, they boosted the overall average income of city residents because the poor have been forced out. In removing the poor, it also shifted a certain political demographic, that of Republican, within the district. I see some conniving political methodology to what has been occurring in the housing displacement.
Taking an unincorporated area like Spanaway, that is known to want to consider incorporation, but was stopped by pandemic rules from proceeding, and placing a large population of poor, homeless, and specifically stated, those with mental health and drug addiction issues within its stated boundaries, essentially makes the prospects of its proposal to incorporate far more difficult. The great increase in seriously needy folks within its boundaries changes the likelihood of feasibility and reduces the likelihood of success. As the person who has worked on the incorporation I see this as a direct affront to our efforts.
People in the Spanaway and Elk Plain area know about being lied to and harmed by actions of Pierce County and local city officials. Much of our population was relocated farmers and families, whose properties were condemned and they were moved from their homes in order to establish the Military Base within Pierce County. We know, because 1915 to 1942 was not really that long ago. We know the damage you have caused in the past and the great lengths you take to pretend it’s something pretty. Attempting to destroy the evidence does not erase it from the minds of those you hurt. The evidence was saved and still exists. I have seen it.
We, the active citizens of unincorporated Pierce County, have lost trust in county planning.
We see wetlands surrounding this property on every side, sensitive wetlands that are part of a hydrologic system for the entire area. The area floods. I have photos from March 2019 when water was over the road in several places.
285 septic tanks and people’s excrement with medicines and drugs of all kinds will flow into this sensitive water system.
Trees, very, very big trees will be lost. There are eagles, osprey and owls in the area that will become homeless. An Environmental Impact Statement was required for the Cross Base Highway and should have been required for this development. Whoever decided SEPA was non-significant was nuts or pressured to do so. An EIS should be mandated as it was before. The Western Gray Squirrely and the Garry Oak are both protected and should be considered, along with other native species.
About the walk. I have peripheral neuropathy from chemotherapy treatment in 2022. I took trekking poles to make that walk last week, but it was truly exhausting and painful. Anyone diabetic would have a similar issue. It was a 2 mile round trip from Spanaway Loop Road. It is an additional mile to Pacific Avenue bus service. Why would this be convenient to a disadvantaged population? Is Pierce Transit going to provide them special service that they were unwilling to provide the community of Spanaway? Or would they take that service away from them within two or three years like the routes on 224th in Graham? Pierce Transit is profit driven and will not maintain a losing service route for long.
The neighbors nearest the site are in fear of increased crime. The area is already suffering a great increase in break-ins. Placing so many poor and resource-less minds together will very likely make the surrounding neighborhoods vulnerable to additional crime risks and insurance rate increases or cancellations.
Risk: Changing the meaning and parameters of the Rural Resource Zoning will not just affect this site, it will affect all of Parkland, Spanaway and Midland and possibly county wide, opening many sensitive areas to development that should be left alone.
Another concern I have, is there are many in the planning office that fear losing their jobs if they do anything that displeases those above them. As a member of the executive board of the Chamber Clover Watershed Council, I have heard many times, “County employees do not want to get involved in anything political.” They do not want the group to speak out against something the planners are doing. I hear that as people fearing their jobs will be lost if they point out the executive are breaking the rules. I see, from my 40+ years of experience, that is exactly what is taking place. I hear the testimonies, I hear rules read out loud that are not being enforced. I am weary and wary of the bad development going on. We must take a stand to not let it continue to happen, not even when the wolf is wearing a sheep’s coat of helping the homeless.
Please make it be done in a better place. This location is not the right answer. Do not change the zoning.