[Editor note: hard to squeeze in a story with two days of back to back meetings. The County loaded the first two business days of the year for people in Spanaway. 6:30 p.m. in Midland the land use committee will hear about the incorporation study that Rep. Melanie Morgan started]
The room was packed. I don’t think I have seen a meeting in Spanaway attract so many people. The County definitely was not expecting this either, they ran out of flyers to hand out. People were standing in the back and out the doors a bit. And there were men, lots of men. That is unusual; from all the meeting I regularly attend, which are generally 70 percent or more attended by women. These were the guys that usually go to work and come home to hang out in their garage or relax with a movie and their family and their wives were there too. I certainly hope it is not lost on County officials how unusual that fact is.
Typical land use hearings have the same group of people that are paying attention to County planning. Over and over, most people do not have the time to spare for the droll and detail laden drivel of land use planners and engineers trying to squeeze a few extra dollars out of a project by exceeding rules with variances. But try to tamper with the value of their property by placing several hundred people with drug and mental health issues near their homes in a critical wetland laden with birds and bears, it is like you just grabbed their wallet and they saw you do it.
Heckling and backtalk was very prevalent as officials spoke. Cheers and clapping resounded for citizens that threw a zinger or expressed their angst emotionally. It was certainly a test of resilience for the County and Tacoma Rescue Mission representatives in attendance. The was a clear majority of people present who lived in the neighborhood between the project location and the lake. There was also a large representation of land owners from the lake, especially from FOSL (Friends of Spanaway Lake) and board members of the new Spanaway Management District that formed just last year to clean up the lake.
In a few days, the video tape from PCTV (Pierce County TV) will be posted online at this link. (I will update this link to the specific video once it is live.)
What were they saying? The technical voices from FOSL and the LMD (Lake Management District) and CCWC (Chamber Clover Watershed Council) were mostly worried about the pollution and wetlands destruction as they are trying to improve lake health. The chosen site is surrounded by wetlands that feed water to the lake. The iron that makes Coffee Creek brown also helps bind the phosphorus that grows the awful algae blooms that turn the lake toxic in the summer. That iron is critical and must not be disrupted.
There were calls for testing the levels at least 4 times a year. There were also calls that there should be a full EIS (Environmental Impact Statement), just as the Cross Base Highway required to pass through this area. (That would take a couple years it is extremely complex.)
There were a couple that noted the Cross Base Highway project that would be permanently terminated by placing the village on this site. They also were concerned about the already over capacity Spanaway Loop Road taking on more cars and another intersection, suggesting the intersection for traffic should be where 176th Street terminates. This begs a traffic study.
Another group was solidly not in my back yard (NIMBY). These comments were about the drugs, mental health and crime brought to their neighborhood from Tacoma and Lakewood. They want those cities not to burden Spanaway with their problems. They were the “fix it yourself on your own turf” folks.
Many suggestions came out for other locations, those included the old Kmart building, the Spanaway Lake Golf Course and the former golf course at Pacific Lutheran University. Some called for the funds to be used to house these people in existing apartment complexes, a few here and a few there rather than a large concentration in any location.
The meeting went on until about 10 p.m. Originally, the County set the meeting to end at 8:30 p.m. there were too many that wanted to talk and demanded they get a chance. Many stayed and conversed after the meeting. Steve O’Ban Executive Counsel, Bruce Dammeier, County Executive and Amy Cruver, 3rd Council District were very visible. In the back, listening, were 6th District Council member Jani Hitchen of Parkland and 4th District Councilmember Ryan Mello of Tacoma. Planning Commission members Chuck Sundsmo and James Guerrero were also present.
Monday, January 10 the Planning Commission will vote on changing the Residential Resource for just the Parkland, Spanaway Midland area in order to accommodate shared housing villages. The hearing, held earlier the same day was attended by 26 in person and another 5 that testified over Zoom. Only one or two were supportive of changing the zoning to allow this. Most felt it smacked of changing the rules to allow this specific project in the wetlands.
Spanaway is in high alert regarding this project. The Pierce Prairie Post will try to keep posting information as it becomes available.