By Sue Danver – BHAS implemented its new electronic alert system, SpeakOut!, with an April 23 alert asking that the Thurston County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) deny the NorthPoint request (for industrial rezoning of land near Maytown) to be added to the 2018-2019 Comprehensive Plan Docket. On May 7, 2019, the BOCC adopted a position we supported (2-1) to observe a more normal docket application process. Staff will begin the required work for the 2020/2021 docket on November 15, 2019.
The alert system was quite a success. Thanks to Jim Wilson and Deb Nickerson, our first alert went out to around 750 BHAS members. Members could send our chosen message to the BOCC with the push of a button. They could forward the alert and those recipients could also participate. Anyone could go to our website, and select to send an alert. Friends of Rocky Prairie (FORP) sent their folks to our website. We estimate that the BOCC received over 500 messages in six days. The point that people cared was definitely made.
At the May 7 BOCC vote, perhaps 30 opponents and a few proponents, who may work for NorthPoint, filled the meeting room. FORP handed out “no rezone” signs that people held against their chests for the entire meeting. Commissioner Tye Menser supported no new projects until the County completed their work on the Comp Plan, Habitat Conservation Plan Shoreline Master Plan, and joint city/county plans (our most favored position). Although that position got no further support, Commissioner Hutchings joined Tye to deny NorthPoint’s urgent request to have their project reviewed ASAP. Perhaps the “deny-project” audience and many comment letters from BHAS and FORP helped persuade John Hutchings to his position to keep a normal project application process. Commissioner Edwards was firmly in favor of opening the application process (to NorthPoint and others) without delay.
FORP is reorganizing its group with new, energized and talented individuals. These folks have joined some of the original 2006-2008 leaders. Various plans are in the works, with the goal of getting details out about NorthPoint throughout Thurston County.
Having been seriously involved with West Rocky Prairie and the Port of Tacoma (POT) property since around 2004, BHAS can contribute significantly to legal arguments. We were key to the finalization of the 2005 Settlement Agreement (SA) that resulted from our appeal of the County’s environmental Mitigated Determination of Non-Significance for the gravel mine on the current POT property. The SA conditions are integrated into the mine’s Special Use Permit.
In late April 2019, Patrick Williams, our attorney, provided a letter to the County stating that, as stipulated in the SUP, 450 acres of the land (now owned by the POT) including the mining area need to be reclaimed, with lakes, upland forests, and transitional areas between them. The SUP further states that “When mining is completed, the reclaimed area will be habitat, lakes, and open space, and the remaining part of the site will be non-industrial” and “The Agreement [SA] shall terminate only on the completion of the mining and reclamation ….” In addition, we have collected seven years of groundwater level data within West Rocky Prairie, including sites near the POT border. Reports generated from this data — which indicate a high water table rendering the land sensitive to significant flooding if impervious surfaces are developed nearby — are among the many scientific arguments BHAS has already and will continue to use in contesting the appropriateness of the NorthPoint proposed industrial development.
The ideal remedy to this issue would be to have the POT sell the 745 acres to WDFW to make a contiguous 1555 acre wildlife area, a goal WDFW has been pursuing since the 1990s.