Submitted by Claudia Riiff Finseth.
At their public meeting on November 15, the Parkland-Spanaway-Midland Land Use Advisory Commission voted unanimously to recommend to the Hearing Examiner to deny the placement of the county executive’s priority project tiny home village on the Spanaway Wetlands.
They ultimately felt, as the greater community feels, that high density development on an important wetland is a land use mistake, and violates the Parkland-Spanaway-Midland Communities Plan.
I would like to take a minute to speak to process.
In a public meeting that was long on staff presentation of the project and way too short on community comments time, it became clear that the county is trying to take up the majority of meeting time.
This also happened at the County Council meeting of March 25 of this year. By the time the Council opened the meeting to public comment, they had to cut the time each community member could have the microphone from 3 minutes to 90 seconds.
3 minutes is already a very short time. 90 seconds is impossible.
Last night at the LUAC meeting, the county staff took the first forty-five minutes to yet again go through the proposed project in unnecessary detail. Then the Tacoma Rescue Mission was given the floor to basically do it all over again.
TRM’s executive director, Duke Paulson, took the opportunity to preach to the community (before we even had a chance to speak!) about the needs of the chronically homeless, when in all our on-line comments we were objecting specifically to the inappropriateness of using the Spanaway Marsh for any high density purpose. For the community it is a land use issue, period. And the fact that the zoning of the Marsh had to be changed to allow TRM’s project is proof of that.
At the LUAC meeting time again ran out. The first few community speakers were given the standard 3 minutes. With time running short to use the Sprinker facility, the LUAC then cut the time to 2 minutes each. Finally, in the end, about half of the people who wanted to speak simply did not have their chance to do so.
Over and over again on this Executive Priority project, the rights of the people who live in this community or care about the Chambers-Clover Creek Watershed to be heard have been grossly curtailed.
This is wrong. It has to stop.
The County Council, the Land Use Advisory Commissions, and the County Parks Department have all been at fault, and need to review their use of public meeting time and space. The Parks Department should be ashamed of itself for cutting short an important county hearing. That should never happen again.
In addition, if the County (whether in the form of the Council or the LUACs) wants to limit the length of public meetings, then they must limit the proportion of time for staff presentations and project presentations to ensure the community has an equivalent and appropriate share of the time. County staff does not run these meetings: the chairperson does. I lay it squarely on the chairpersons to be more equitable with time.
The Hearing Examiner needs to make note of this. A greater priority must be given to the public hearing chance for community comment when that hearing convenes.