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Traffic concerns take center stage at Lacey hearing on Hicks Lake development

The Olympian logoThe Olympian 5/29/2022 Rolf Boone, The Olympian (Olympia, Wash.)

May 28—Residents, developers and city of Lacey staff gave a Lacey hearings examiner an earful at a four-hour public hearing Thursday on two Hicks Lake apartment complex proposals.

The two proposals aim to build more than 300 apartments on the west shore of the lake near Hicks Lake Road.

The proposals came before the hearings examiner because of permits required for the projects. The hearings examiner will ultimately make a recommendation to Lacey City Council and then the council will vote on the permits.

The property is zoned for high-density residential, but residents have been airing their concerns for weeks, submitting written comments, launching a website, raising money, hiring an attorney and staging a protest at 22nd Avenue Southeast and Ruddell Road.

About 20 people spoke during the hearing, although more attended than spoke. Nearly all of those voices were critical of the development proposals, largely focusing on the impact of increased traffic in the area.

Lacey senior planner Samra Seymour pointed out that one condition of approval is construction of a pedestrian pathway along Hicks Lake Road, from the north boundary of the development to 25th Avenue Southeast.

But residents were unmoved.

"Big deal," said Victoria Byington. "There are more streets that have to be traversed by children to get to Lacey Elementary School."

She also raised concerns about increased traffic zooming through side streets, such as Lilac and Maxine streets, and whether there would ever be mitigation for residents on those streets.

"Just because something is possible doesn't mean it's the right thing to do," she said.

Resident Scott Goddard raised similar concerns.

"The residents of these new apartments will be forced to rely on a patchwork of neighborhood streets and intersections that are not capable of handling the increased volume of traffic, and that will result in unacceptable levels of nuisance and endangerment," Goddard added.

"There will be accidents and I fear accidents with serious injuries."

Robert O'Keefe singled out the impacts of construction vehicles should the developments be approved. He pointed out the potential wear and tear on city streets caused by heavy equipment, and the danger the equipment poses to area children who are used to it being a calm neighborhood.

"They are not prepared and not paying attention," he said.

Attorney Ben Cushman, who said he is representing a neighborhood group, criticized some of the traffic impact analysis, saying it relied on data that was produced during COVID-19 social distancing.

"We know traffic was depressed significantly from its normal levels," he said. "There is a statistical way to adjust the data but it wasn't there."

Transportation planner Ryan Shea, who said he prepared a traffic study for the larger of the two apartment proposals, responded to concerns raised by residents.

Traffic counts for his study took place between 2016 and 2018 because his work started then and that data was current at the time, he said. He also believes that construction vehicles would operate outside peak travel times.

As for safety, he examined collision data at 25th Avenue Southeast and Ruddell Road from 2014 to 2018 and found 15 total crashes, or three per year.

"None resulted in a serious or fatal collision," he said.

A resident questioned why Shady Lane, which connects the Hicks Lake area with Carpenter Road, wasn't included in the traffic study.

Due to lower volumes of traffic on Shady Lane, it did not trigger the analysis threshold the city requires for inclusion in the study, Shea said.

James Geluso was the only resident who spoke in favor of the proposals because housing in Thurston County remains scarce and expensive.

"We need housing," he said.

This story was originally published May 28, 2022 5:30 AM.

(c)2022 The Olympian (Olympia, Wash.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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