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University Place says homeowner with MS can build driveway

Dan Larson looks at the city putting a new sidewalk in front of his house on Elwood Drive West in University Place in early May. Larson wants to put in a new driveway because he has multiple sclerosis, needs a cane to get around and believes he'll be in a wheelchair in three years. The city initially said a hearing examiner would have to make an exception to allow the sidewalk, but after receiving an application from Larson approved his request administratively.
Dan Larson looks at the city putting a new sidewalk in front of his house on Elwood Drive West in University Place in early May. Larson wants to put in a new driveway because he has multiple sclerosis, needs a cane to get around and believes he'll be in a wheelchair in three years. The city initially said a hearing examiner would have to make an exception to allow the sidewalk, but after receiving an application from Larson approved his request administratively. lwong@thenewstribune.com

A University Place homeowner diagnosed with multiple sclerosis can build a driveway to his home after all.

The city notified Dan Larson in late May that he could cut into a newly built sidewalk in front of his Elwood Drive West home to allow access from the street. He must cover all costs associated with the installation.

After The News Tribune reported that University Place had denied Larson’s request for a curb cut, Larson’s attorney Rhys Sterling and University Place City Attorney Steve Victor exchanged emails.

Victor told Sterling the city needed a permit application to consider Larson’s request. Larson submitted the application and asked the city to waive the application fee. The city granted Larson’s request May 25.

“When we finally received a written request on May 16, the relevant city staff reviewed it promptly and determined that we could grant an administrative exemption,” Victor wrote in an email Thursday.

Larson was previously told he would have to seek an exemption from the city hearing examiner. That’s because city code doesn’t allow driveway entrances within 75 feet of each other.

The entire controversy, in my opinion, was caused by the fact that Mr. Larson chose for a couple of months never to submit anything in writing.”

Steve Victor, University Place city attorney

Engineering director Jack Ecklund told a News Tribune reporter the same thing last month, adding there was no guarantee the examiner would approve the request.

Victor said Ecklund gave the wrong information to Larson and The News Tribune because he had to speculate on what was being requested. Ecklund assumed the hearing examiner would be involved based on a phone conversation, Victor said.

“The entire controversy, in my opinion, was caused by the fact that Mr. Larson chose for a couple of months never to submit anything in writing,” Victor said in a phone interview Friday.

Larson acknowledges he made verbal requests initially, but said he was never told in those conversations “you need to request this in writing and then we can go from there.”

“They could have worked with me a little different, I think, and this would have all been done at the time,” Larson said. “Nothing was impolite. We’ve been nice throughout the whole process.”

Larson owns the home on the 4300 block of Elwood Drive West but rents it to family. He lives in Parkland with his wife, but says he will eventually have to return to University Place once his disease progresses.

It would have been a heck of a lot easier if they would have gotten this done earlier.”

Dan Larson, University Place homeowner

Larson wants to install a driveway because he believes the front door will be easiest way into his home once he is in a wheelchair.

Now that the city has given him approval, the next step is for Larson to design the approach. The concrete in front of Larson’s house will need to be broken and repoured.

“It would have been a heck of a lot easier if they would have gotten this done earlier,” Larson said.

The city began planning the $1.14 million sidewalk project in 2014 and sent multiple mailers to residents about the work, Victor said. Larson said he learned about the project only after the work started.

He must submit plans to the city to make sure the proposed location is safe for pedestrians and motorists and that it meets city design standards. A Sumner concrete company has offered to supply the concrete for the project for free.

Brynn Grimley: 253-597-8467, @bgrimley

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