Concerns abound proposed residential development near Sapp Road and Crosby Boulevard


A proposal to develop 10.72 acres of land near Sapp Road and Crosby Boulevard in Tumwater drew concerns from residents who live near the area.     

Residents wrote to the city staff and spoke during a public hearing on Wednesday, May 24, to inform city staff about their issues with stormwater management, future blasting operations, traffic flow, and environmental degradation should the project be approved.

Sunrise Hills LLC, represented by Chul Kim, is seeking to divide the property into 36 single-family lots. The proposed development, which is on a vacant plot of deciduous and coniferous forest located southwest of Tumwater Hills Parks, would also have seven community tracts for open space and access.

Fourteen lots would be accessible through a new road from Sapp Road. An extension of Woodland Driveway would provide access to the other 22 lots on the northern portion of the development. Both roads would end in a cul-de-sac and provide shared driveways. The two roads would not meet due to topographical constraints.

The company previously sent an application to divide the lot in 2019, but was rejected by Hearing Examiner Andrew Reeves due to the city’s density requirements.

The area contains steep sloping features, which the company had included as they calculated the project’s lot density.

City staff and Reeves disagreed with the company’s density calculation, believing that without these sloping areas, the maximum number of lots allowed for the project was 4.76 dwelling units per acre, which meant the project could only have a total of 30 lots.

What is the company doing differently this time around? Kim is now proposing the development as a “clustered subdivision” which means that 30% of the site would be set aside for open space to preserve environmentally sensitive areas. Half of the area should also be useful for passive recreation.

Residential zones that are clustered are permitted to have a heavier density than what is normally allowed. A clustered subdivision increases permissible density up to 125%, allowing the project to have up to 37 units.

“The plan should allow me to leave all the steep slopes intact… so that we’ll have less environmental impact,” Kim testified during the hearing.

Staff is now recommending that Reeves approve the application. Reeves has not given an exact date for the release of his decision but said it would come out within a couple of weeks.

During the company’s previous application, Kim testified that the proposal was already approved by the previous hearing examiner all the way back in 2005. The company did not pursue the project due to the economic conditions at that time, so the application expired around 2016. Reeves rejected the 2019 application, writing in his decision that “while mistakes concerning density calculations were made in 2005, they need not be repeated.”

Stormwater runoff

One of the many issues nearby residents have with the development project is the impact of stormwater runoff, especially due to the variation of elevation in the area. Darin and Denise Rice sent a written comment to city staff, stating that their property receives a major share of water runoff during the winter from the slopy regions of the area.

“When we bought our house/property almost 25 years ago, the city required an engineered collection system in our yard, designed to capture and redirect that runoff. As we have experienced more extreme weather events over the years, that collection system cannot keep up with all the runoff that comes onto our property during a wet winter and/or extreme rain events,” the Rice family wrote.

The Rices believed that it is critical to establish a stormwater retention system to alleviate their issue if the development ensues. “We want to avoid [a] situation where an underdesigned system/development makes our runoff problem worse,” the Rices stated in their email.

Permit Manager Tami Merriman said during the hearing that any new impervious surfaces would be piped to the stormwater system. Water runoff from simple-family homes and rooftops would also be connected to individual dry wells. Kim’s latest application also comes with a preliminary stormwater site plan that has been updated for 2022 city standards.

Blasting operations and seismic study request

Merriman said that they received 12 letters requesting a seismic study before any blasting operations are carried out in the area. Resident Sydne Cogburn believes that the blasting operations could cause damage to nearby properties.

“We oppose the development of lots #33 and 32. These lots are located on top of a very steep and rocky hill on the east edge of the property. We suspect that developing these lots will require extensive rock removal by heavy machinery and/or blasting,” Cogburn wrote in his email.

Cogburn acknowledged that blasting was done in other nearby developments, including their own property in the 1990s and earlier years, but argued that there were fewer residents and homes back then.

“Today, blasting and other industrial rock removal could cause damage to many nearby homes and property. In some cases, the damages caused might not appear for some years after the developer has sold the property and released their liability,” Cogburn added.

Merriman said at the hearing that Sunrise Hills’ future blasting operations have gone through application procedures and that the public would be notified when it happens. As part of the blasting operation, Sunny Hills is required to carry insurance and inspections could be done if requested.

“I do believe that the blasting portion of their concerns is covered under existing application processes,” Merriman said.

Traffic congestion and hazards concern

The city’s Public Works Director issued a transportation concurrency ruling in May 2019, finding that the resulting traffic from the project would not reduce the standard of public transportation services in nearby corridors and intersections.

“By constructing street improvements on Sapp Road along the property’s frontage, building the two internal streets to city standard and payment of transportation impact fees for each dwelling unit, the project is consistent with the Tumwater Transportation Plan,” the staff report stated.

Some residents did not concur with city staff. Resident John Ryan was concerned about the flow of traffic in the area, saying that the traffic would be concentrated on Woodland Drive.

“A larger percentage of the traffic is going to go on to Woodland because they will have no other alternative. The problem with putting them on the Woodland number one is that intersection has a stop sign running up the hill from Crosby and there's no other traffic control at that intersection,” Ryan said.

“We, and all our neighbors will be quite bereft of our privacy if there is a noisy road added within a few feet of our fence line. Not only will it be intrusive, poses significant traffic hazards in the ‘elbow’ adjacent to the Sapp and Crosby intersection. Adding another intersection just a few yards away is bound to cause frequent collisions and possible fatalities,” resident Jeanette Parks commented in an email.

Parks believed that fatalities might occur as only a few drivers regard the stop sign and the speed limit on Sapp Road.

The left portion of the layout represents the northern portion of the development area with Woodland Driveway extending south to provide road access. A new road from Sapp Road would also be built to provide access to the southern lots.
The left portion of the layout represents the northern portion of the development area with Woodland Driveway extending south to provide road access. …

Difficulty in bringing fire and garbage trucks to small roads

There were also concerns about how fire and garbage trucks would reach certain lots in the area. Resident Norma Green questioned the size of the spaces between each cluster.

“I have a concern with what I heard tonight, and that's the size of the lots in the clustering with seven or seven and a half feet between the houses. How is fire engine going to get in there?” Green asked.

The concern was also raised by resident Janine Beaudry, stating that the narrow spaces will pose difficulty for the entry of fire and garbage trucks, especially during fire emergencies.

“I'm right up against the back of the property, and then there's gonna be a house right there with very little setbacks between them. Any ability to get fire trucks or anything in there? Even if they put sprinklers in some of the homes and we don't know which homes that might happen,” Beaudry voiced her worry.

“Our garbage trucks get in there, how do other things access somebody's driveways that are just not accessible? And how can that possibly impact our properties if there's not enough room for vehicles to really maneuver in that amount of space?” Beaudry added.

Outdated State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) Review

City staff already issued the project with a determination of non-significance in June 2019, indicating that the project does not have a significant adverse impact on the environment. Residents are arguing that the review was outdated and that Sunrise Hills would need a new one.

“Five years is a long length of time, to be able to do just default and use a document from five years ago,” resident Angela Garner wrote in an email.

Ryan wrote, “I was tracking with you on the SEPA adoption. The problem I have with that analysis, however, is the stormwater plan is a completely new plan that has an environmental impact plan, and how that is seen by the city as not being a significant change, when in fact, it's a new plan for this part of the proposal.”

“I'm not trying to tell you how to do your job, but it certainly seems that that is a new significant part of the environmental conditions on that property and how they run out,” Ryan added.

Ecological impact concerns

Resident Angela Garner commented that she is also concerned about the ecosystem, not only for the people but the animals that live in that area.

“I really just wanted to get that out there that that's been a huge impact and a huge dissatisfier to those of us that live here,” Garner said.

Another resident Jeffery Parks wrote to city staff, “It is time for the city to finally put a stop to this nonsense. With the continuing development of Tumwater Hill, local wildlife is being squeezed more and more. The land is home to deer, coyotes, raccoons, possums, red-tailed hawks, barred owls, flickers, quail, and numerous species of songbirds.”

Parks also wrote that the land is an excellent example of the local flora and fauna and deserves to be encapsulated as such, and he suggested that the appropriate use of the land is for it to be turned into a parkland with some hiking trails.


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