Council Legislation

Proposed Resolution No. R2021-92

Title: A Resolution of the Pierce County Council Ratifying Agreement to Sell Certain County-Owned Real Property at 23100 Mountain Highway East, in Spanaway, Washington (Commonly Known as the “Elk Plain Property” or “Elk Plain Road Shop Property”); and Settle Pending Lawsuit Regarding Elk Plain Property.

Status: Completed

Sponsors: Councilmembers Derek Young, Amy Cruver

Final votes

June 15, 2021
Aye Aye Aye Aye Aye Aye Aye

Additional legislative records are available below Collapse All  Expand All

Public Comments

Name Date Comment
James L Halmo 6/6/21 6:34 PM June 6, 2021 Mr. Chairman and Members of the Rules Committee: Re: Proposed Resolution R2021-92 Sale of the Elk Plain Road Shop I have been involved with the appropriate and legal usage of the Elk Plain Road Shop property for over ten years. Having reviewed the applicable policies, codes, and regulations, I wish to comment initially about the legality of the whole sale proceedings of the County and the applicant. Since there are new members to the Council this year, I have provided an expanded background discussion of issues regarding the Elk Plain Road Shop. While it might be argued that some of my comments are not germane to the “sales agreement” per se, I believe that a broader picture of what may occur and its implications is necessary. First, Legality. This property was condemned by Pierces County for public purposes – to be included in the donation of County lands for the formation of a new federal military base, Camp Lewis. That transfer of title was accomplished in late 1919. Subsequently, this land, to the immediate east of State Highway 7, was retuned to the County in 1957 through U.S. congressional legislation. The original county property owners were neither advised personally of this title transfer nor were they or their heirs given the opportunity to return the small amount of public money received (even with interest) for the condemnation, and thus reclaim their rightful property. Instead, the land was delegated to be used once again for public purposes, as confirmed when the County’s Public Works Department began using it as a public road shop. This land was never condemned for commercial or residential uses, but for public uses. Section 9.80 of the Pierce County Charter addresses the use of Eminent Domain and provides how and when property may be taken for “economic development.” That is not the case in this instance. Accordingly, condemned land for public purposes remains condemned for such uses. Second, Other Uses. The Graham Community Plan, part of the County’s Comprehensive Plan, went into effect on March 1, 2007. It calls for a public park on these lands, with a dedicated trail to Bethel High School. There are no sidewalks along 224th Street East for the public to use. A dedicated trail is essential. Acting on direction from the Pierce County Council, the Department of Parks and Recreation conducted a survey of the land at the southern portion of the public lands for a park. There was no analysis of the northern 40 acres of the property by the Park Department. Other uses which the community needs are a ‘Park and Ride’ facility at the corner of 224th Street East and State Highway 7 (The Mountain Highway), plus a public community center (possibly with a swimming pool which the Bethel School District has been trying to establish for many years). Also, the Boys and Girls Club had been considering the local area for a new facility. There has been no dedicated public bus service to the Graham plan area for over one decade! One park-and-ride similar to the one at the "Roy Y” along SR-7 is needed here, at the end of the County’s Urban Growth Area (UGA). That is a public facility. The current bus service along State Highway ends at 204th Street East. It should be extended to the end of the Urban Growth area – to at least 224th Street East. The current ”Corridors” proposal along the State Highway ignores the use of the Elk Plain Road Shop property. In essence, the County has not pursed other options for public uses of the land. In fact, the County has never conducted a true economic cost-benefit analysis about the best public use of the land. I asked a Public Works official if one had been conducted. He said ‘no.” I highlighted those conversations in previous correspondence with the County back in 2007 and again 2019. The current proposed use of the land is contrary to the County’s full Comprehensive Plan, and subject to legal challenge. Third, Community Plan. If this project does go forward, it still does not comply with the legally adopted provisions of the Graham Community Plan. Here are some of the issues. (A) New MHR zoning including single family residential housing, Single family dwelling is limited to four (4) dwelling units per acre. Not more not less. Just four. This was reaffirmed in the last County Comprehensive Plan Update. The allowance of a much larger number of single family residences per acre is up to strong legal challenge before the State’s Growth Management Hearings Board. The land is not currently zoned for the purposes which the applicant desires. It is zoned MUD. That will require future county legal action. (B) Deviation from the Community Standards. As a member of the Graham Community Planning Board and one who has testified in a number of appeals with the State’s Growth Management Hearings Board, I must sharply state my firm opposition to the proposed deviations from the Graham Community Plan and Regulation standards. The architectural designs sought by the citizens of the Graham Community were placed into the Graham Community Plan. They have a purpose. Reducing the ‘garage to front line setback’ from 25 to 15 feet, when there is no public transportation available, means more vehicles must be used by families in the complex. The applicant’s proposal deviates from the visual characteristics sought by the community which expressed very strong opinions for “not wanting to look like South Hill.” Next to the highly controversial 304th Landfill, this concern about the community’s visual appearance was the second most commented upon issue we, on the Graham Community Planning Board, heard from our fellow citizens. The proponents’ project shows a highly flawed adherence to the visual goals sought by the Graham citizenry. Likewise, removing much of the tree lines flanking the property boundaries is not acceptable, given its eastern adjoining of rural zoned lands and the noisy roadways along the western and northern boundaries. The proponents do not reside in the Graham area and thus have little regard for the community. Earlier, in 2007, the State’s Growth Management Hearings Board praised the County for its usage of the sub-area community planning process. In its review of the County’s last Comprehensive Plan Update, the State’s Growth Management Hearings Board stated that the County had “gutted" (its words) the Graham Community Plan’s land use policies. However, the regulations were not ‘gutted’ the same way. According, what remains must be retained. (C) Parking and Transportation is not available and will not be available in the foreseen future to properly accommodate the needs of the increased population. Given the lack of public transportation, there should be no approval of any variance or proposals to restrict residential parking and the size of parking within the residential complex. Inadequate public transportation should be the ‘nail in the coffin’ prohibiting the number of dwelling units being proposed here. Additionally, to allow for parking for residences along the roadways seems to conflict with proper planning in the County. Parking must be accounted for on individual lots – not using the roadways to meet some minimal residential parking standard. (D) Public Road Access will be insufficient for the number of projected vehicles, contrary to information on the applicant’s submitted Environmental Checklist (Items 14-15). 232nd Street is narrow and in less than favorable condition. There is no new proposed acceleration lane after turning right, in a northerly direction from 232nd Street East onto State Highway 7. The traffic traveling north will be going a fast 50 mph. No acceleration lane for a significant number of additional vehicles can only lead to some traffic accidents in the near future. Access onto 224th Street E., going west will be difficult given the closeness to the interchanges with the State Highway. The placement of any new stoplight on 224th Street E., so close to another stoplight at the major interchange between State Highway 7 and 224th Street East, is an unacceptable distance which will result in major traffic jams. There exists the strong potential for the State’s Department of Transportation to require a “roundabout” at the intersection. That cannot be accomplished without some additional land purchase(s) by the applicant or some condemnation, to accommodate a major change to the State Highway. Accordingly, the transportation plan remains in limbo. As regards access to roadway 232nd Street East, the applicant proposes to have access through the County’s land parcels 0318141007 and 0318141058 (Map, Resolution Exhibit B, page 64). The Sales Agreement would permit that project roadway to use used for “construction purposes.” However, to allow that to become a county roadway requires access through Rural 5 land. Can a formal urban project be expanded to include rural lands? That is a serous legal question for which the County’s documented record provides no answer. Fourth, Pipeline Crossing and Pipeline Proximity. The proposal to cross the major transportation pipeline corridor must comply with Federal Regulations and the Williams Company must concur with any proposed changes through their right-of-way and all agreements must become part of the public record and be filed also with the County Auditor’s Office for further public review as part of the need for full transparency. That record must also reflect what is to occur within 660 feet of the center line of the nearest of the three pipelines in the corridor, since that is that is the distance covered under the Federal Regulations to ensure that all construction complies with safety issues, as well as with the Williams Company’s Developer’s Handbook. There are three pipelines plus a major telephone trunk line in the pipeline corridor. One pipeline, installed in 1956, may not in use right now, but can be at any moment by the Williams Company without public knowledge. It was installed the same year (1956) as one at San Bruno, California which experienced a major explosion September 9, 2010, resulting in eight deaths and 38 homes destroyed. According to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), it was the result of “flawed pipe, flawed inspection and flawed emergency response.” Safety measures have definitely been in increased over the years by the Federal Government. However, the actual presence of such a pipeline gives one real pause. Accordingly, construction near the corridor as well as road construction over that corridor must be fully documentation in the County’s electronic and paper files. The public has a right to full transparency on the pipeline issue, particularly for those who might be living adjacent to the corridor. Also, why is there no visual record of the complete pipeline corridor in the Elk Plain Crossing PPD file? The public deserves to see one. Upon seeing the proposed road design some time ago, I called my contacts at the Williams Company. They had no record of any road proposal. They contacted one county official but did not hear back for three weeks. It was clear that the PWW staff had not included the Williams Company in its formal notification process. It is time for a PPW formal training session on pipeline impacts. The County has no policies or regulations on pipelines and pipeline safety. King County does. The small community of Roy has them. I drafted both possible policies and regulations in consultation with the Williams Company, the non-profit Municipal Research and Service Center (MRSC), and Bellingham/Whatcom County officials (who experienced a pipeline disaster) for their guidance and review. One MRSC official served on the NTSB Task Force on pipeline security. The County declined to consider the drafts at the last Comprehensive Plan Update. Your continued silence on pipeline safety is, most frankly, appalling. The proposed Sales Agreement would permit the buyer/applicant the right to build a roadway across the pipeline. For the public record, if this Agreement is approved, there should be a clear Council statement prior to approval, as to who pays for damages resulting from a serious accident during the construction by the private party on public lands of the roadway over the pipeline. We do not need to see, or want to see, another “Bruno” incident. A legal interpretation of the Sales Agreement may be in order. Sixth, Who Benefits. You are asking $8 million for the Road Shop property. Back in 2007, the County tried to sell the property for $17 million dollars. Prior to any sale, County officials assumed it would quickly have the funds. Your former colleagues on the Council made a number of expenditures, including buying the Tacoma Narrows Airport in Gig Harbor from the City of Tacoma. As I recall, it also helped facilitate the creation of a park district in Gig Harbor. It appears the County issued some bonds to pay for the expenditures since no immediate income from a property sale was forthcoming. Thus, Gig Harbor has benefited at the expense the Graham community. In no way does this Sales Agreement benefit the citizens of Graham. Summary. For a variety of reasons, the whole project has serious flaws, beginning with its purported legality and total disrespect for the Graham Community Plan, its policies, its regulations, and most importantly the wishes and desires of the citizens residing in the 77-acre community. They desire protection for what they value, as so stated through their formal plan. Historically, the Graham Community has not been served well by leadership in Pierce County, going back to the total condemnation of the unincorporated community of Kapowsin, and to the location of 304th municipal landfill, which has now been documented as being poorly managed with little required County oversight, resulting in threats to our streams and rivers. Approval of this Resolution sets into motion potential changes which are in conflict with the Graham Community Plan and its regulations. Using the words of the State’s Growth Management Hearings Board, approval of this project will only further ‘gut’ the Graham Community Plan. We will be left with an unacceptable housing ghetto. I recommend that you vote ‘No” on proposed Resolution R2021-92. Thank you for considering my comments. Sincerely, James L. Halmo 9806 247th Street Ct. East Graham, WA 98338 (253) 875-1890