Does anybody know who Mildred Street is named after? Because she’s proving to be troublesome!
We’re making progress, but it’s slower than some of us would like, and it remains to be seen if we’ll resolve some issues before the deadline to apply for the transportation grant. We’re still focused on making it a three-lane road (one lane in each direction, plus a center turn lane), which was the compromise that came up during a recent joint meeting of the Fircrest and University Place city councils. Here are the main questions and concerns voiced by various Fircrest staff and councilmembers at this past Tuesday’s City Council meeting:
University Place did the preliminary design plan without any input from our staff. That’s true. It’s been true since this issue came up in 2010. UP owns the entire roadway, so they didn’t have to approach us (although it would have been the neighborly thing to do). But there’s still plenty of time. The design on the table is preliminary – there is a long way to go, and we could condition our support for the project using what’s known as an Interlocal Agreement (IA) that includes a requirement to include us in the final design. This should be one of the easier issues to resolve, but for some reason it’s not.
UP’s design follows that city’s guidelines, which means the streetlights would be UP’s choice, etc, and we need to make sure our side looks like Fircrest. Again, this could be addressed in an Interlocal Agreement and during final design.
More right-of-way acquisition is necessary on the Fircrest side of the street than the UP side. This is true because UP’s side is against a steep slope and therefore would cost much more to change. That’s always going to be the case due to the topography, so it seems to me we should just accept this issue. And besides, by shifting the project to three lanes instead of five, less right of way is needed.
Would the improvements covered by this project have to be ripped up if the vacant property between Columbia Bank and Sunrise Center sells after the project is constructed? This is a risk to this, but it seems to be small. Construction wouldn’t start for two years, so that’s two years to see who buys it, which provides time to alter the design to accommodate development. The property owner is supportive of this project because he figures improving Mildred Street will lead to a faster sale.
Fircrest can’t afford its share of the cost, which could be as much as $126,000. This is true. But what if a property owner who stands to benefit from this project paid for the city’s share? I don’t know if this will happen, but if it does, then the cost issue would seem to be moot.
University Place still intends to charge traffic impact fees to anyone who puts a sizable development on that vacant property. This is a big sticking point. UP and Fircrest have disagreed for years over whether UP, which owns the entire roadway, has the legal authority to assess fees on a property owner in Fircrest. Fircrest folks say UP’s fees have chased away at least two potential developments on Fircrest’s side of the street. We maintain that one jurisdiction cannot assess a fee to a business inside another jurisdiction (see Nolte v. City of Olympia). That’s not to say UP can’t seek relief for traffic impacts within its borders, but it should do that via other means allowed by state law, not traffic impact fees. Still, UP leaders made it clear this week they will not change their stance. Could this fee issue be negotiated as part of the Interlocal Agreement?
The Fircrest City Council will discuss the Mildred Street project at our study session on Monday, April 16. It’s at the end of a hefty agenda, which includes a first quarter financial report and a report on our fiscal outlook through 2013. Those are not expected to be glowing reports.
We are scheduled to vote on whether to sign onto UP’s project at our April 24 meeting. If you have thoughts about this, now is the time to share them with the City Council and/or staff.