Lacey votes 3-1 in favor of Meridian gas station, residents furious 

Councilmembers: We need to follow the law, not opinions

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The Lacey City Council voted 3-1 in favor of the approval of the controversial Meridian Market Gas Station amid a furious crowd who attended the public meeting last night.

Councilmembers Lenny Greenstein, Robin Vasquez, Kunkel voted in favor of the proposal, while Councilmember Carolyn Cox voted against it.

Deputy Mayor Malcolm Miller and Councilmember Michael Steadman chose to recuse themselves from voting in the appearance of fairness. Lacey Mayor Andy Ryder was not present at the meeting. 

Miller revealed that he went to the actual project site and had conversations with the residents that might affect his bias toward the project.

"I do feel I have been biased by my trip to the property and my communication (with the residents)," said Miller, whose comments received applause from attendees.

City Lawyer David Schneider pointed out that the council's decision should be based solely on the record submitted by the hearings examiner. Councilmembers were not allowed to have any discussion with the public or the proponents of the project about the proposal as part of their "quasi-judicial" role on the matter, Schneider clarified.

Some members of the crowd tried to raise questions and concerns during the meeting but were shut down due to the state's regulation of the council's "quasi-judicial" role.

Recently resigned Board of Park commissioner Sarah Daniels attended the meeting and asked the councilmembers if they had read the whole report so the public could have confidence in their decision.

Daniels announced her resignation on Monday as a protest against the City's process of hearing public comments on the gas station project.

The council then declared a recess as a commotion erupted inside the council chambers as other residents tried to air their questions and concerns.

Councilmember Greenstein reminded the residents that even though they have a duty to be the citizens' voice, they need to follow state laws in making their vote.

"We are following state law," Greenstein said. "We cannot make our decisions based on our opinions or based on public statements."

In a lengthy Facebook post, Vasquez expressed anger towards the process of the council's quasi-judicial role, clarifying that she also opposes the gas station. However, she also explained that she needs to follow the law, that is why she voted in favor of it.

"I was angry last night because of a process that did not allow me to make a choice based on what my constituents want," Vasquez commented.

Councilmember Cox voted against the proposal, citing the project's lack of local traffic analysis.

On April 12, Lacey held a public hearing on the proposed construction of the project, a gas station in the City's northeast corner, at which all residents who showed up expressed opposition to the project.

The Meridian Market Gas Station is based on the Meridian Campus plan of Thurston County in the 1980s. Lacey annexed the land in 1992, which provided varieties of uses such as commercial, residential, industrial, and institutional zones.

Based on its project proposal, the commercial district would have a Chevron gas station and two commercial buildings that provide 9,000 square feet of commercial and office space.

Comments

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  • AugieH

    I find it interesting, disturbing, and puzzling that the local residents' wishes are considered legally irrelevant to this issue in a so-called democratic society. The zoning for this area, including the corner lot zoned for commerce surrounded by residential zoning, was established years ago when (I assume) there were fewer established residents in nearby homes to protest a commercial zone in their midst. Now, it's too late. The inflexibility of the process is unacceptable.

    Saturday, June 4 Report this

  • johngreen

    The City of Lacey is totally out of touch with reality. Not only do citizens not want a retail gas station in their residential neighborhood, but the state in March passed a bill banning gas powered cars by the 2030 model year. Would electrical charging stations be more appropriate? This is local zoning run amok.

    Tuesday, June 7 Report this

  • mathisje

    There was an opportunity for nearby residents to offer opinions during the process. Get a copy of the Hearing Examiners decision. From the article, the council made a just and fair decision. When people move into an area, most don't want change. However, these new businesses will allow closer and quicker access to products and services. Allowing loud voices and biased opinions to override law and due process harms democracy. Conversely, if anyone can discover flaws or shortcuts in the process, then challenge the decision in court.

    Note that NIMBYs will always dominate public responses to new construction. That does not mean they represent the majority of residents that will be served by the project. The Goto arguments against any project are traffic and environmental. However, these studies are done well in advance of the approval process and part of the Hearing Examiners decision process. To make a challenge work, you have to submit substantial evidence the studies are wrong.

    Tuesday, June 7 Report this