The question of whether a proposed, 300-unit senior housing project in Lacey would generate more traffic was among several topics raised during a daylong hearing on Tuesday before the city’s hearings examiner.
The hearing was instigated by neighbors, including Joe Panesko, who live near the proposed project. Panesko, who is an attorney, and others took issue with the city’s decisions regarding a site plan review for the project, as well as its mitigated decision of non-significance — meaning the project could proceed without an environmental impact statement.
Panesko and others filed an appeal, raising concerns about traffic, views, noise and trees, and that the size of the building — about 290,000 square feet — is simply out of scale for the area. The project has been proposed for Carpenter Road and Pacific Avenue, the site of a now-defunct Albertsons store.
About 50 people observed the Tuesday hearing, where there was no public comment, although some spoke as witnesses. The appellants made their case in the morning, followed by the city in the afternoon. The city was represented by attorney Dave Schneider, while the developer, AVS Communities, was represented by Glenn Amster. Both sides were allowed to cross-examine witnesses.
In the afternoon, Panesko questioned Lacey Community Development Director Rick Walk about traffic: The city, in studying traffic generated by the proposed senior housing project, compared it to traffic generated by the Albertsons store. The store closed a few years ago.
“So even though this new project is taking over an abandoned site and it’s adding new (traffic) trips, your position is it’s not adding trips?” Panesko asked Walk.
“It’s not intensifying the trip pattern that was generated from the (Albertsons) site,” Walk said.
The city used the Albertsons traffic data in their traffic modeling, but the city also looks at other built projects and those in the pipeline to arrive at a conclusion, Walk said. He said earlier in the day that senior housing doesn’t generate as much traffic as typical multi-family developments.
Panesko produced an exhibit that showed the project will generate 100 additional trips at Carpenter Road and Pacific Avenue. Walk stood by the city’s data, saying compared to Albertsons, it is not a “net increase of 100 trips.”
Neighbors opposed to the project spoke in the morning, including Chuck Downey, who had flown a drone over the development site and showed the resulting video to illustrate his points. Downey said he would like to see new development on the site, but not the senior housing project.
“It’s totally out of character,” he said. “It doesn’t blend in at all, it’s not harmonious, and would tower over other structures. Nothing in the area comes close to a building of that size. It just doesn’t fit.”
Hearings Examiner Ted Hunter said he expects to issue a written decision about the appeal in 10 days.