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My Take on the Gate

Tillicum declares at least a partial victory in it's appeal of a permit granted the City to allow Camp Murray to run its traffic through the neighborhood. Here's why.

In rendering his decision on what remains an ongoing, unresolved, frustratingly-long near-three-year controversy as to whether Camp Murray gets its gate or not, Lakewood’s Hearing Examiner James O’Conner ruled March 1st that the so-called rationale and validity of the Washington Military Department (WMD) gate-relocate were outside his purview, scope and analysis (p.8).

That’s too bad because had the WMD’s underlying motive been revealed, I wager the general public would’ve been repulsed. 

Since we are under no such restrictions as to what was unexamined by the Examiner, it should be of great interest to the skeptical tax-paying public - in this current economic downtrend especially - that the WMD wants to spend near $5 million to move its gate because they want a walk-able campus. 

“The SDP (Site Development Plan) moves Camp Murray towards a pedestrian-friendly campus with most vehicular traffic relocated to the perimeter of the campus.”

That’s page one of the WMD’s 2011 Environmental Assessment (EA).  One year ago David Bugher, Lakewood’s Assistant City Manager of Community Development, complained  that Camp Murray’s existing gate could be set back further to accommodate vehicle stacking.   To which Camp Murray responded this year:  “The existing location was determined to not meet project objectives, including plans for making Camp Murray an exclusively administrative and pedestrian friendly campus” (p.216).

From the very first page of the 2011 EA, to near the very last of the 268 pages, Camp Murray makes unmistakably clear - no option is acceptable that does not meet its overriding, self-serving purpose.

So what then are we to make of the seven-hours of legal wrangling between the tax-supported staff attorneys of Camp Murray and the City on the one hand, and that of the significantly-out-of-pocket Tillicum residents on the other?  If it wasn’t about safety - which it isn’t, though the WMD claims it is, after all there has been but five fender-benders since 1976 at the current gate entrance; and if it’s not about security - which it isn’t, as Bugher himself declares, along with a host of other rebuttals to Camp Murray (see PDF attached);  and since O’Conner couldn’t base his decision on “the benefits likely to accrue (to Camp Murray)”, why then did he send the permit back to the drawing board – essentially declaring at least a partial victory to the Tillicum community and requiring of the city that they explain themselves? 

Here’s why: the gate-relocate impacts are not-supported-by-nor-compatible-with the city’s own criteria for neighborhood development.  In remanding Right of Way Permit No. 11192 to the Public Works Department, O’Conner wrote “If the provisions of the Comprehensive Plan were overlooked in the review of the permit (and there is no evidence in the hearing record,” O’Conner inserted, “that they were considered and applied), that is not a harmless oversight.” 

The Comprehensive Plan to which O’Conner refers is a 1,000-plus page document that brings Lakewood into compliance with the Growth Management Act (GMA) of 1990.  The City states it is not possible to put the entirety of the Comprehensive Plan on the City website and that if you want to see it you can go ask the City Clerk.  But it should be possible to put the very specific classifications to which O’Conner referred – that he found in conflict with the permit – on the city website.  O’Conner wrote, “Comprehensive Plan road classifications and Goals T-3 and T-5 do relate, inter alia, to safety issues.”  These the city needs to explain says O’Conner.  These the city needs to put on its website. After all, O’Conner’s 10 page decision can be found there.

The City’s Comprehensive Plan “is a vision for achieving a healthy and vibrant city over the coming 20 years.”  The onus of responsibility according to the GMA - to ensure that growth is not “uncoordinated and unplanned pos(ing) a threat to the environment, sustainable economic development, and the health, safety, and high quality of life enjoyed by residents” – lies squarely on the shoulders of the City. 

That Lakewood has given due diligence to this duty is seriously in doubt,  Hence the ball swatted somewhat emphatically back to their court.

“All applicable provisions of the Comprehensive Plan,” wrote O’Conner must be “given appropriate consideration in the City’s action (to grant the permit).  To not do so would be clearly erroneous.” 

In his above-the-rim-rejection of Lakewood’s attempt to slam dunk over the under-sized and over-matched Tillicum residents, O’Conner wrote, “the hearing record does not demonstrate that these provisions were considered.”

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

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