Traffic issues take center stage at Hicks Lake hearing

Two Hicks Lake apartment proposals were submitted to the Lacey Hearing Reviewer this week, including testimony from residents who frequently raised concerns about potential traffic impacts.

In addition to residents who live near the lake, Thursday’s more than four-hour hearing also heard testimony from city staff and developer representatives. The two proposals total over 300 apartments, which have been proposed for the west shore of the lake near Hicks Lake Road. The proposals were submitted to the Hearing Reviewer due to certain permits required for the projects.

The Hearing Reviewer will ultimately make a recommendation to Lacey Town Council, and then the council will vote on whether or not to approve these permits.

Although the property is zoned high-density residential, that hasn’t stopped residents from voicing concerns about the proposals. They’ve submitted written comments, they’ve launched a website, they’ve raised funds, they’ve hired a lawyer, and they even staged a recent protest at 22nd Avenue Southeast and Ruddell Road Southeast, which isn’t far from the lake. .

And they spoke in person and remotely during the hearing.

As for traffic, Lacey’s lead planner, Samra Seymour, pointed out that a condition of approval is the construction of a footpath along Hicks Lake Road from the northern boundary of the development to 25th Avenue. South East.

But the inhabitants remained indifferent.

“Big deal,” Victoria Byington said. “There are more streets that kids have to cross to get to Lacey Elementary School.”

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

“Just because something is possible doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do,” she said.

Residents Scott Goddard and Robert O’Keefe raised similar concerns. Goddard also had a problem with increased traffic and O’Keefe pointed to the impacts of construction vehicles if the developments were approved.

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People enjoy a pleasant Thursday afternoon fishing at the Hicks Lake boat launch near Wanschers Park in Lacey, WA. May 26, 2022. Both locations are close to a controversial housing project that many nearby residents oppose Steve Bloom [email protected]

“Residents of these new apartments will be forced to rely on a patchwork of neighborhood streets and intersections that are unable to handle the increased traffic volume, and this will lead to unacceptable levels of nuisance and danger,” Goddard said.

He added: “There will be accidents and I fear accidents with serious injuries.”

O’Keefe pointed to the potential wear and tear on city streets caused by heavy equipment and neighborhood safety, saying kids are used to it being a quiet neighborhood.

“They are unprepared and not paying attention,” he said.

Attorney Ben Cushman, who said at the hearing that he represented a neighborhood group, criticized part of the traffic impact analysis, saying it relied on data produced during COVID-19 social distancing.

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Both Wanchers Park and the Hicks Lake boat launch are close to a controversial housing project underway in Lacey. Steve Bloom [email protected]

“We know traffic has been significantly reduced from normal levels,” he said. “There is a statistical way to fit 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 – 178 units versus 132 units – responded to concerns raised by residents.

The traffic counts for his study took place between 2016 and 2018 because his work started then and the data was current at the time, he said. He also thinks construction vehicles would operate during off-peak hours. As for safety, he looked at collision data at Southeast 25th Avenue and Ruddell Road from 2014 to 2018 and found 15 total crashes, or three per year.

“None resulted in serious or fatal collisions,” he said.

A resident also asked why Shady Lane, which connects the Hicks Lake area to Carpenter Road, was not included in the traffic study.

Due to declining traffic volumes on Shady Lane, this did not trigger the analysis threshold required by the city to be included in the study, Shea said.

About 20 people spoke at the hearing, although more attended than spoke.

Almost all of these voices criticized the development proposals, except one: James Geluso.

Geluso spoke out in favor of the proposals because housing in Thurston County remains scarce and expensive.

“We need housing,” he said.

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A fisherman enjoys a pleasant Thursday afternoon along the shore at Wanschers Park in Lacey, WA. on May 26, 2022. The park is close to a controversial housing project that many locals oppose Steve Bloom [email protected]

Rolf has worked for The Olympian since August 2005. He covers breaking news, the town of Lacey and business for the newspaper. Rolf graduated from Evergreen State College in 1990.