Lacey council OKs agreement for 623-unit development near River Ridge

Despite a resident’s concerns about tree preservation, Lacey City Council on Thursday unanimously approved a development agreement tied to a residential project that will bring more than 600 multifamily residential units to Martin Way East.

The site address is 8549 Martin Way E., which is just west of River Ridge High School. The 32 acres at that wooded site will be divided into three parcels where a group called Wolff Real Estate Partners III LP will build a 623-unit development, including senior housing.

The council held a public hearing on the development agreement Thursday night, then voted on it.

The only person to speak during the hearing was resident Rob Kavanaugh, who raised concerns about tree preservation and the protection of urban forests in the city.

He read his prepared remarks, saying the “council is not providing the needed oversight and leadership to ensure that the urban forest within this project is properly/lawfully protected as required under the city’s own tree protection ordinance and the Growth Management Act.”

He said the city has been “negligent in its responsibilities to protect this urban forest and its associated wildlife resources and aesthetics.”

City Manager Scott Spence responded to Kavanaugh’s comments, assuring the council that any development in Lacey “goes through a site plan review process, which is overseen by the community development department and a city forester.”

“I respectfully disagree with Rob Kavanaugh,” Spence said.

Meanwhile, development agreements lock in expectations for the city and a developer.

According to the city, the development agreement assures Lacey that site improvements will be completed prior to sale of the parcels to a third party, and that the development provides needed multifamily housing for the community. The agreement also helps the developer with financing options for the project, as well as gives them the option for a shortened timeline for construction.

Mayor Andy Ryder said he’s in favor of development agreements because they “lay out certainties for both parties.”

But Councilman Jeff Gadman wanted to make sure that before the parcels are sold or a certificate of occupancy is granted that the improvements to the site are made. Those include extending Hoh Street Southeast; adding a street signal at Hoh Street and Martin Way; making water and sewer improvements in the area; and installing a lift station.

In the event something happens and the developer can’t finish the improvements, Gadman and Ryder also wanted to make sure that the $3.9 million performance bond would cover the expected cost of improvements.

The bond should be able to complete the improvements, said Tom Stiles, development review manager for the City of Lacey.