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Eminent Domain Coming to Lakewood?

Some time ago I heard Major General Bret D. Daugherty speak at the Transportation Club of Tacoma. As the commander of the entire Washington National Guard, including both the Washington Army National Guard and the Washington Air National Guard, he knows about disasters. Quite often our National Guard helps our communities when emergencies strike. General Daugherty spoke about a possible category nine earthquake happening in our area.

Major General Bret D. Daugherty at the Transportation Club of Tacoma

The Pacific Northwest and the lower Puget Sound area have had them before and we are over-due for a big one. The general drove home the point exquisitely as he talked about his journey from Camp Murray to Fife where he spoke at the Emerald Queen convention center. He counted the number of bridges, trestles, and overpasses as he traveled. He stopped once he reached a dozen. He pointed out that in a category nine quake, those bridges, trestles, and overpasses would fail and make I-5 impassable. In addition to the number of deaths that would be caused immediately, the overall problem would be transportation. Our highways and roads would be useless. Each community would be on their own.

Tillicum Community Disaster Preparedness

My wife, Peg and I have a small group of friends who generally have Sunday breakfast together. We had driven to Hawks Prairie and were returning when our friend Jan asked to detour to visit Woodbrook and Tillicum. Both communities are dependent on I-5 for most services. Woodbrook does offer a roadway southeast to Spanaway, but Tillicum is completely cut off without I-5. Actually they already suffer from isolation.

The road from Tillicum could almost be a straight shot and connect fairly easily with Gravelly Lake Drive just outside of Ponders Corner.

Jan Runbeck, RN, MN – Faculty, School of Nursing and Healthcare Leadership, reveals,”In Spring of 2018, our UW Tacoma BSN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing) students did door-to-door surveys in partnership with the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department. Physical isolation results in several untoward consequences. We were studying emergency preparedness, but social cohesion as a whole is at risk when physical isolation is a factor.”

Here is a photograph looking down on one parcel designated as “open space” which runs approximately forty feet from the fence on the left to the trees on the right.

In May I wrote an article about eminent domain and condemnation, which is the process by which private property is taken by the government for the purpose of public use. There were numerous comments. Malcolm Russell, a friend from the Rotary Club of Tacoma #8, commented that while generally very cautious about any use of eminent domain, said that perhaps two locations in Lakewood might be areas used to serve the public good. Since Peg and I were already booked at the Best Western in Lakewood for five days, I suggested that Malcolm and I meet and look over these options. One dealt with Tillicum, but both were intriguing.

There are three parcels (between twenty-five to forty-feet wide) owned by the Tacoma Country and Golf Club. Each parcel is designated as “open space.” A separate surface road from Tillicum could potentially connect there with Gravelly Lake Drive just outside of Ponders Corner. The three narrow parcels run along with the railroad right-of-way there. Working with the state owned rail right-of-way and the private property owner there abutting I-5 could potentially provide the width needed for an two-lane city road with at least one side walk and a bike lane.

The second suggestion for an eminent domain project runs eastward along 100th to South Tacoma Way.

Currently the State of Washington is already working on the project: I-5 – Mounts Road to Thorne Ln I/C – Corridor Improvements – wsdot.wa.gov/Projects/I5/MountsRdThorneLn/default.htm

Stage 4 of the project is to build a new local connector road between Gravelly Lake Drive and Thorne Lane. Next steps for this design-build project include a compatibility report, right-of-way acquisition and a competitive bidding process. Project construction will then occur beginning 2022. The project is funded through 2025.

People live on the south side of the street where mothers struggle with baby strollers on the foot paths.

The second suggestion with potential as an eminent domain project runs eastward along 100th to South Tacoma Way. Currently there are sidewalks on the north side of the street, which is mostly an industrial park and commercial buildings; however people live on the south side of the street with no sidewalk, and the parcel lines there are extremely close to the roadway edge. There are worn narrow pathways alongside the road edge. Malcolm says he occasionally sees mothers struggling with baby strollers on the little dirt pathway and pushing them around the telephone poles.

Eminent domain could be used to push property lines back and build a uniform wall and sound baffle like is used along areas of I-5.

Sidewalks along a major access way into Lakewood on 100th Street and where the people actually are would be a good improvement for the community. In addition, either in negotiation or by eminent domain it could allow the property lines back enough from the roadway edge to also build a uniform solid wall and sound baffle to reduce noise like what is often used along areas of I-5. A sidewalk and attractive uniform sound baffle wall there would help make the city and the neighborhood more safe and livable, and help protect property owners along there from excessive traffic noise and reduce the cost of standard fence upkeep.

An appraiser from GPA Valuation commented that sound walls can be an effective cure for proximity to road noise/peril which might otherwise be compensated for with a monetary award of damages in a partial acquisition of right-of-way. If you have any questions about property value and eminent domain, you might want to contact GPA Valuation – gpavaluation.net

An appraiser from GPA Valuation commented that sound walls can be an effective cure for proximity to road noise/peril which might otherwise be compensated for with a monetary award of damages in a partial acquisition of right-of-way. (Mock up courtesy of Malcolm Russell)

Taking land for the public good can provide good results for all. These two projects could certainly improve the city of Lakewood and the neighborhoods involved. The connecting road between Tillicum and Lakewood would surely benefit the Tillicum neighborhood and help residents in emergencies and freeway blockages. In addition, the sidewalks and baffle wall along 100th would make life safer and more bearable for families living along that road as well as improve the look and appeal of Lakewood.

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