Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Thursday, November 01, 2007

The League of Anti-Wal-Mart Vipers

Last night, the streets of the Paradise Ridge subdivision in Pullman were filled with the laughter of hundreds of trick-or-treaters.

Many of those children, including my own, after consuming far too much candy, settled down to sleep in safe, clean, new affordable homes in that same housing development.

But if Cheryl Morgan had had her way, my house, and all the others up here, would still be the site of Steve Mader's wheat stubble.

I first had a hint of this latest League of Women Voters' moonbattery back in June at Dino Rossi's Washington Idea Bank event. Pullman LWV President Alice Schroeder's great "idea" was wouldn't it be nice if the Growth Management Act and Critical Area Ordinances applied all over Washington, not just the urban areas. The Growth Management Act and Critical Area Ordinances, as you may know, are the satanic spawn of Olympia Democrats that have urban King County residents saddled with nationally-ranked high home prices and traffic congestion, while rural King County residents fear to trim weeds on their own property.

Why in the hell would we need more discussion about development in Pullman? Haven't three years, three appeals, three days of public hearings, 150 plus stories and editorials in the Daily News, innumerable press conferences and press releases, petitions from people in Perth, Australia, position papers, booths at the Lentil Festival, and about a gazillion angry letters to the editor bashing Wal-Mart been enough? Is there anyone in Pullman who thinks PARD has not had more than ample opportunity to make their case, over and over and over again, ad nauseam? Isn't developing anything in Pullman in particular, and Washington State in general, hard enough already? I quote from a story in today's Daily Evergreen:
Affordable Housing Glenn Crellin [sic], director of the Washington Center for Real Estate Research at WSU, said buying a first home is out of reach for many Pullman residents who earn a median income of approximately $33,600.

Housing in Whitman County is one of the least affordable in Washington, even though housing prices in Pullman are about $90,000 less than the average $316,700 in Washington, Crellin told the city council.

Many factors contribute to the problem. Pullman’s high student population lowers the median income, while relatively well-paid university employees drive up the price of housing with their demand. Interest rates, which reached 40-year lows in 2005, are again on the rise. Although land is comparatively cheap in Pullman, there is a lack of property owners interested in developing their land.

From a development point of view, building a home in Pullman is more expensive than in other areas, said Steve White, president of Coeur d’Alene-based Copper Basin Construction. Issues such as tough soil quality, a limited construction season, a shortage of laborers and a lack of locally available building materials make construction in Pullman more expensive then elsewhere.

“There is no magic wand we can wave to reduce costs,” White said.

Although there is no easy solution to such a complex issue, there are numerous options available. Inclusionary zoning, freeing up more land for development, mixed zoning and townhouse developments all might be used to create more affordable housing.

Pullman organizations have also worked to combat the issues. Tammy Lewis of the Palouse Economic Development Council has organized forums to increase awareness of alternative development concepts, zoning and land use policy and to inform landowners of their developmental options.

The Community Action Center is another Pullman organization working to address Pullman’s need for affordable housing. Karl Cozad, executive director of the group, said the CAC is working on a project to provide 26 low-cost family housing units.

Addressing affordable housing needs and adopting a comprehensive downtown plan were among city goals adopted this year.
Let's get something out of the way. There is NO SUCH THING as a perfect development. SOMEONE will always be against it. SOMEONE will always be negatively affected in some way. That is the nature of progress. It is painful sometimes. It can be disruptive, chaotic even. But that doesn't mean it shouldn't happen.

This LWV proposal shows the hypocrisy of these latte liberals. Many of the LWV members are comfortably retired from the university, with no small children at home and mortgages long since paid off. On issues that do not affect them directly, such as foreign policy, immigration, abortion, health care, education, etc. they have no problem backing the socialistic, collectivist solutions that ease consciences during their coffee klatches. But, by God, if they are going to be personally inconvenienced by two seconds more of traffic, driving 5 feet further to find a parking spot, having their favorite view of a moose in the wheatfield blocked by ugly cookie cutter tract houses, or Heaven forbid, seeing more disgusting rednecks shopping here in town, then they become the biggest advocates of individual rights since Friedrich Hayek.

The (Chester County, PA) Daily Local News said it all in an editorial a few years ago.
If individuals can afford to buy up open space and keep it open, I say God bless 'em. The problem is that nobody is rich enough to preserve the "character" of a whole township, so the gentry wants to make decisions about other people's property, not just their own.
Of course, there is a role for public comment concerning development in a democracy. But that comment has to be proportional to the individual's involvement and the impact of the project upon the indvidual, not the minority veto the LWV envisions. In my mind, the rights of the landowner come first, followed by the greater good of the community. And the greater good sometimes means sucking it up and keeping your mouth shut. Your nice view of the sunset going to get blocked? Buy the land yourself then. Otherwise, keep your pie hole shut. You think a certain housing development is ugly? Fine. Don't live there. You don't like a certain store's "cheap Chinese crap?" Good for you. Don't shop there. My God, have we become such a nation of selfish whiners that we expect everything to go our way all the time, and when it doesn't, bitch all the way to city hall?

And make no mistake. The anti-Wal-Mart agenda is written all over this proposal. Last year's Pullman LWV Secretary was PARDner Marj Grunewald. Marj and her husband Bob testified at last year's public hearing they didn't want to "spend eternity at the ass-end of a Wal-Mart." This year's Pullman LWV Membership/Hospitality Chair is none other than our old friend Judy "The Trolley Conductor" Krueger.

I'm glad the Pullman City Council and Pullman Planning Commission will give this proposal the place it so richly deserves: the wastebasket.

From Monday's Moscow-Pullman Daily News:

Group pushes for more input; Pullman League of Women Voters submits proposal that would require public meetings on all development projects

The Pullman League of Women Voters want residents to have more input in local development projects.

Organization President Alice Schroeder presented a proposed ordinance to the Pullman City Council last week that would require developers to host public meetings before submitting significant project applications.

The goal of the "Pre-land Development Application Community Meeting Ordinance" is to open the line of communication between developers and the public - an area Schroeder said city requirements lack.

"There are flaws communicating what is going to happen (with a project,)" Schroeder said. "We don't think that's good for the community or any of us citizens. The community should be involved in proposed development early."

The council did not discuss the proposal during its meeting last week. Schroeder also presented the Pullman Planning Commission with the idea Wednesday.

City Planner Pete Dickinson said he has not read the proposed ordinance in full. Discussions both internally and publicly will need to occur before anything is written into code. Similar proposals have been brought to the city in the past, but Dickinson said "to see a proposed ordinance with the language like (the Pullman League Of Women Voters draft) is uncommon."

The proposed ordinance is similar to ordinances in place in Spokane and Bellingham, Wash. It mandates that community meetings be scheduled prior to any development project applications are submitted, except that of single-family homes, duplexes, triplexes or manufactured homes on one lot. Amendments to the comprehensive plan and permits for signs also could be conducted without a meeting.

Residents living within 300 feet of the subject property would have to be notified of the meeting along with most city officials. A newspaper notice and sign installed on the property 30 days prior to the meeting also would be required. Developers would be required to submit an audio tape and written summary sheet of the meeting's proceedings and list of attendees to the city.

Schroeder said rumors and misinformation tend to circulate around the community regarding proposed developments, often resulting in heated public hearings, name calling and hurt feelings. If the public was able to weigh in on projects before the application process, the developer would likely deal with "more level headed people" and know the community's stance on the project before going through the lengthy application process.

Munir Daud, a Pullman-based architect, engineer and founder of Munir Daud and Associates, doesn't see it that way.

He said developers already have enough hoops to jump through to proceed with projects in Pullman. Environmental check lists, zone changes and reviews by the City Council and planning commission are challenging and time consuming. Each step, requires a meeting that provides the public a chance to voice their opinion.

"They have opportunities. You can go and say whatever you want ... If you're really concerned, you could write a letter. You don't have to add another (meeting,)" he said.

Dickinson said he has deferred the draft to City Attorney Laura McAloon for review.

Daud said adding another meeting into the mix could cause extended delays on some projects. Any alteration to a plan could add three to six months to a development.

"Every time you delay it, it's extremely costly," Daud said. "A six-month delay could kill the project."

Schroeder said she doesn't expect the process would delay projects, and developers wouldn't have to follow any of the public's suggestions. She noted a project may even benefit from resident input.

"It's a matter of a few hours to send (a meeting notification) out, put up a sign and have the meeting. I think in the long run, it's kind of an insurance policy for developers. I don't think it would delay at all. It's a courtesy," she said.

Schroeder used a 50-unit mixed use development - proposed for the intersection of Paradise and High streets earlier this year - as an example. The proposal, submitted by Paradise Downtown, LLC and H and R Development, LLC, was greatly opposed by the community because of potential effects to the Pioneer Hill neighborhood and area parking. H and R Development eventually withdrew its conditional use application, but Schroeder said both time and money could have been saved if the developers had met with the public before putting in an application.

"If they had talked to the community earlier, not only would it have saved effort and money ... they might well have come up with solutions," she said.

Planning Commission Chairman Stephen Garl said the commission and city staff recommend that developers talk to neighbors around a project site. The city also takes note of public comments, be it formally in a meeting, casually in conversation or by mail. Project applications also are public record, which can be accessed in the city planning office.

"We know that the public wants to be involved," he said. "The good developers - the 95 to 98 percent of them - are going to be talking to their neighbors and such anyway. This was to address the 2 to 5 percent."

Garl said he believes the proposed ordinance could invite opportunities to deviate from the city's comprehensive plan if the public is able to weigh in on each step of the process.

"Planning needs to be both long-range vision - which is the comprehensive plan - and its day-to-day implementation, which is the zoning ordinance. (The proposed ordinance) potentially brings in a piecemeal chopping up of each project, rather than setting the vision in the comprehensive plan and writing code that implements it," he said.

"If you start making every project revealable at a public meeting - for good or bad - what you're doing is you no longer are planning and keeping the big vision picture in front of you," Garl added. "If there is a change of the vision, it should be written in the comprehensive plan and zone code, rather than project by project."

1 comment:

Mattwi said...

Well they way things are going around here, I doubt I'll ever own a house or a condo in Pullman... Pretty sad!