A Camp Murray gate-relocate she-said-he-said is back in the news.
Former Lakewood City Councilman Walter Neary called it “one of the most bitter neighborhood debates in recent memory.”
Of it the late-Senator Mike Carrell wrote “this lack of transparency and accessibility of critical information has resulted in a negative perception of the process.”
Then-Deputy Major Don Anderson declared it “grossly deficient.”
What was ‘it’ and why is it in the news again?
The council’s study session of March 24, 2014, p.4 under the topic “Project comparison to Camp Murray Gate project” declares “City Attorney Wachter reviewed the difference between the Camp Murray Gate project and the proposed Ruby Apartments project relative to citizen/community input.”
A Public Disclosure Request for that document reveals several discrepancies between Wachter’s version specific to the gate-relocate and statements to the contrary.
Whose idea was it to move the gate?
Quoting from Wachter’s memo to the Mayor and City Councilmembers by way of John Caulfield, city manager, “Based on planning which began as early as 2009, Camp Murray sought to change the location of the main gate for travel to and from the facility.”
But, in fact, in a September 10, 2010 “open letter to the citizens of Tillicum, Lakewood and Joint Base Lewis McChord” from then- Major General Timothy J. Lowenberg, the Adjutant General at Camp Murray, Lowenberg wrote “More than two (2) years ago, Lakewood officials contacted us about moving our gate further away from Interstate 5 and the RR crossing.”
She (Wachter) said, they – Camp Murray – started it. In 2009.
He (Lowenberg) said, it was the city’s idea. In 2008. Or even earlier.
She said, “City residents who were impacted by this project did not participate in the process of permitting the gate to any significant degree if at all.”
Yes, and why was that?
Tillicum – the “city residents who were impacted by this project” as referenced by Wachter – was first apprised of the proposed gate-relocate in a July 20, 2010 press release from Camp Murray with the planned ground-breaking that fall.
Two months to the commencement of digging dirt, Tillicum discovered for the first time that negotiations between the city and Camp Murray had been underway for two years -or more – depending on who you believe.
Of course the city will say – which Wachter in her memo does – that Camp Murray lies outside city limits in unincorporated Pierce County and therefore the permitting process – which Tillicum did not participate in – did not obligate the county to oh-by-the-way inform, much less involve, “the city residents who were impacted by this project.”
But the city knew.
“Typically a right of way permit” – issued by the city following Pierce County’s permit – “is entirely administrative and involves little process” – in which, say, the city might want to include “the city residents who were impacted by this project.”
“The public would not have input,” wrote Wachter, “on the permit itself.”
Nope. No concern of ours. It is, after all, an administrative matter. The city was handling it. No need to bother others.
Not even the city’s Citizen Transportation Advisory Council (CTAC) had this transportation issue on its transportation agenda, a topic of transportation the transportation council never discussed.
And the liaison at the time between the CTAC and the council? Lakewood City Councilman Walter Neary.
So all can claim they did not know.
But the city knew.
Like a pothole that simply needs some fill-dirt, or as Neary would post-representative service describe “one of the lows of my eight years on the council,” the “Tillicum traffic matter” would finally – for the first time – involve the Tillicum residents.
“By the time this permit is requested from the City, the citizens in the impacted area had become aware of the project and were very concerned about the impact of it.”
Dang. They found out.
Like impacted molars that most commonly involve the wisdom teeth, Tillicum became wise to what was happening in the impacted area, being concerned – “very concerned” – about the impact.
Insert city escape-clause-slash-
“Essentially the City was faced with deep community concerns,” continues Wachter in her recent memo, “which had no process through which to provide input, as the permit for the gate had already been issued by Pierce County.”
Digging deep into their collective pockets the residents of Tillicum – not known for their wealth – shelled out upwards of $20,000 to take their city – and Tillicum’s case – before the Hearing Examiner.
Where Tillicum lost.
Here’s Wachter again:
“An appeal of this decision would go before Pierce County Superior Court but no such appeal was made.”
And why was that?
The Tacoma News Tribune reported July 26, 2012 that “the city and military department had asked the court to dismiss the appeal because state law bars judicial review of right-of-way permits.”
In Wachter’s words, what wisdom, wherewithal, warmth, winsomeness – whatever – was the take-away in the city’s after-action report of this war, as Walter reminisced, “Tillicum was never going to win?”
Here’s Wachter one more time:
“In terms of ‘lessons learned’ the City should be clear with neighboring jurisdictions and other entities whose actions on projects impact our citizens to coordinate with the City early in the process to facilitate effective community input rather than simply following the minimum procedural requirements provided by law.”
Early in the process.
The process the city began discussing early with Camp Murray two years, or more, before the residents to be impacted found out.
Procedural requirements – as issuing permits whether the County to Camp Murray or the City to Camp Murray – were kept to a minimum being, after all, “entirely administrative,” involving “little process.”
With what impact?
The people – the impacted people living in the impacted area – were kept out of the operation.
Like “some professionals (who) believe an impacted tooth pushes on the next tooth, which pushes the next tooth, eventually causing a misalignment,” so a city that can emphasize minimal process over due diligence – administration over communication – is a city that can push on the next, and the next, eventually causing an infection reaching the very roots themselves.
Where’s the wisdom in that?