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March 13, 2017 Town Council Report...

by Dixie A. Walter
March 17, 2017


All council members were present. Other than one Fire District 17 employee, there were no members of the public in the audience until late in the meeting, when two citizens came in and sat down.

Police Chief Brian Witt reported that the leader of a crime spree in town last summer has been convicted on five counts and given a sentence of 72 months.

Assistant Fire Chief Sam Yount reported on, among other things, conducting drug awareness education for Eatonville School District students.

Town Administrator Abby Gribi said the Nisqually Land Trust has gifted another parcel of land to the town, this one being along Alder Cutoff Road just beyond the Mashell River bridge, designated for open space. She also said the staff has set the regular meeting time for the Airport Commission to be the fourth Tuesday of each month at 6 p.m., at the community center.

The town is now participating in the “8-1-1, Call Before You Dig” program. Someone apparently emptied several five-gallon buckets of used motor oil along the side of Lynch Creek Road. The vactor truck and incident spill kits were used, and staff was able to clean up and arrest the spread of the oil, which had contaminated the ground for 150 feet down below the road.

Councilmember James Schrimpsher reported on the Public Safety Committee’s work bringing the town’s code up to date and streamlining it, including some of the penalty sections and general provisions. He urged the council to stay abreast of the progress of the proposed quarry expansion affecting Lynch Creek Road and others, including road maintenance, traffic impacts including tourism, and safety concerns.

Councilmember Bob Walter urged everyone to study the final environmental impact statement, and added that in his opinion, the best option to alleviate the traffic issues on Lynch Creek Road and at the intersection with Washington Avenue would have been for the applicants to work something out with private landowners between the existing quarry and the proposed quarry area, to enable the trucks to use Weyerhaeuser Road. Gribi said one five-acre parcel owner had refused to sell.

Gribi said two more public hearings will be conducted by County Planning, on April 19 and 20, the latter one in Eatonville.

Mayor Mike Schaub thanked Assistant Town Clerk Christina Dargan for her work ensuring the town once again qualified as a “well city.” There will be a council budget retreat on Saturday, April 29 from 9 a.m. to noon at the visitor center.

Business Conducted...

In unfinished business, Ordinance 2017-1, on its second reading, reducing the number of planning commissioners from seven to five, was passed unanimously..

In new business were three resolutions. Resolution 2017-H approved a utility bill late payment reversal and payment extension policy. Late payment penalties can be reversed or waived upon request of the rate payer once every 24 months, and in cases of extenuating circumstances. The waiver will have to be requested by the customer. Passed unanimously.

Resolution 2017-I approved a driving policy for town staff. Passed unanimously.

Resolution 2017-J approved a policy for the newly re-instituted airport commission. The policy  had been reviewed by the Finance Committee. Schaub apologized for the oversight in not allowing the Airport Committee to also review the policy before it was brought to council. Gribi said that though staff will create the agendas for the commission, just as they do for the planning commission, staff will work with commission members to included items they recommend for the agendas. Passed unanimously.

In councilmember comments, Walter pointed out this is National Canine Veterans’ Day, and that they have saved a lot of lives. He also reported on the February 28 Parks/Cemetery Committee meeting, saying the committee was happy to hear a surveillance camera will be purchased for the trailhead, funded by a grant from the Association of Washington Cities’ Risk Management Service Agency. He said this will help provide more security for trail users.

Councilmember Bill Dunn thanked the staff for their work in cleaning up the dumped oil on  Lynch Creek Road, and thanked the person, whoever it was, who reported the spill to town authorities.

The meeting was adjourned at 7:49 p.m.



February 27, 2017 Town Council Report
Study Session - Discussion of Hangers at Airport Hazardous Height According to Federal Aviation Administration
Planning Commission Reduced to Five Members


Study Session...

by Dixie A. Walter
March 3, 2017


The regular meeting was preceded by a study session at 6:45 to discuss the parapets or facades on the four-unit hangar at the southeast corner of Swanson Field. (Councilmember Bob Thomas, also chair of the airport committee, was absent from the study session and did attend the regular meeting.)

An attorney for Dan Simon and Pacific Northwest Land Development LLC spoke first. The parapets on the front wall of the four existing hangars could be removed, but they don’t feel that is necessary, and their team feels the hangars look more attractive, more like hangars instead of warehouses, with the facades.

She distributed handouts and displayed enlarged posters showing similar buildings at other airports for comparison. Removing the parapets would take about four and a half feet off of their height.

The applicant Dan Simon also said he is willing to remove the parapets, but he feels after talking with pilots that it would be unnecessary. He also said one of the reasons he has entered the purchase and sale agreement (the building and property are in receivership) is that he would like to acquire a plane some day, have a hangar for it, and get a pilot’s license.

The town clerk said she has prepared two versions of Resolution 2017-D (that was tabled at the last meeting) to enter an agreement between the town and the applicant for occupancy of the hangar units. The original version concerns the hangar as built; the second incorporates the amendment being suggested for consideration by the applicant (removal of the parapets).

Regular Meeting Convened, Lengthy Discussions Regarding Airport...

Once the regular council meeting convened, Mayor Mike Schaub mentioned  that councilmember Robert Thomas had told him he may not make it back in time from a trip to Montana to be at the meeting. Council then excused Thomas. During agenda review Councilmember James Schrimpsher moved to place the tabled Resolution 2017-D back on the agenda.

Before the vote on the motion, Councilmember Bob Walter objected to the move, saying, “I think it would be unfortunate for us to bring this resolution back and make a decision on it with Councilmember Thomas unable to be here, the chair of our Airport Committee, and very much involved in ensuring the future of our airport and the safety of it.” The motion passed 3-1, with Walter voting "No.".

Citizen Louise Van Eaton commented and asked about what was actually being considered tonight, and whether the hangars themselves, being hazardous because of their height, could be removed as a result of this vote, in adherence to the town’s mission statement that says, “…protecting the present and future health, safety and general welfare of the community.”

Schrimpsher replied twice to Van Eaton, first explaining that the tabled – and now untabled - resolution was a contract between the town and the applicant so he could have occupancy. Schrimpsher explained it had been tabled at the last meeting, “so they could do some research and possibly have some discussion about removing the facades.”

Van Eaton then said the resolution before the council is the reason she is commenting now, because it seemed that, by rejecting the resolution tonight, council would have an opportunity to remove the tall, four-hangar building and prevent further hazards at the site.

Schrimpsher then said, “It’s not about removing the building in its entirety. It’s about removing the façade – the humps at the front. That’s it. That’s what that resolution’s about.”

Walter said he wanted to be sure that he, and Citizen Van Eaton, understood the true scope of the resolution to be voted on, that it was not just about the facades. It was about whether or not to enter a contract with the applicant, who could then purchase and use the building according to the contract.

The proposed amendment just pertained to the parapets. But the status of the building itself hinged on the outcome of the vote on Resolution 2017-D, as updated.

The consent agenda was passed unanimously.

Councilmember Thomas arrived during department head reports. Town administrator Abby Gribi
reported that the Association of Washington Cities awarded the town a grant for $5,000 to purchase two more surveillance cameras to add to the new system.

They will be installed at the Bud Blancher Trailhead and at the water plant. She’ll be getting bids in the next few days for setting those up. Mayor Schaub explained those grants are from their risk management division.

Schrimpsher reported on a finance committee meeting, which looked at the driving policy, the late-bill-pay policy, and the airport commission policy, to mirror the planning commission policy.

Councilmember Jennie Hannah reported on a utilities committee meeting, discussing the utility deposit, the late payment policy verbiage, and reviewed some of the water code.

Councilmember Thomas reported on an airport committee meeting, discussing the hangars, top-coating the runway and security. Two airport commission members were also present. The committee and commission both share concern about there being no restrictions in Resolution 2017-D on use of the hangars.

Thomas said he had no problem with their being occupied, as long as it was in compliance with Washington State DOT (Department of Transportation) guidance on appropriate use of a building with regard to that particular zone. He also felt, and the committee consensus was that $3 million liability coverage was insufficient to cover the town in that location.

Mayor Schaub said that Phil Beach and his wife have moved, and he has resigned after many years on the planning commission. Schaub said he emailed Beach thanking him for his service and expertise on the commission.

The cold weather has hindered the success of the cold patch on some of the potholes; more patching will be done as the weather warms. He reported that he, Gribi and Walter all attended the Pierce County Regional Council assembly ten days ago.

In unfinished business was the un-tabled Resolution 2017-D, which would approve a contract allowing the purchase and use of the four-unit hangar on Tract C at Aviator Heights, under certain conditions. Pacific Northwest Land and Development Company LLC has assigned its interest in a purchase agreement on the property, which is in receivership, to Garage Plus Storage Aviation LLC.

Schaub shared with the audience that the study session prior to the meeting concerned the proposal by the applicant Dan Simon to offer, as an amendment to the resolution for council to consider, the removal of the four facades, or parapets, from the front of the hangars, reducing their height by about 4 ½ feet.

The staff report prepared by the town attorney for the February 13, 2017 council meeting  states, in part, “The FAA determined the existing hangar would be a hazard to air navigation because it exceeds the transitional surface area and the visual traffic pattern protected airspace by 23 feet.

"The FAA’s determination is advisory only and the FAA has no power to prevent development. Instead, the authority to prevent construction lies with the Town which in this case issued a construction permit and certificate of occupancy.”

The applicant received supportive testimony from a pilot based at Kapowsin Field, Eric Matthiessen, who has flown many types and sizes of airplanes, and has flown into Swanson Field numerous times over the years. Thomas asked him if he has ever navigated “short final” into Swanson Field with the hangars there and an easterly cross wind, which he, Thomas, says has bounced him around as a result of the facades on the hangars. The Matthiessen said he has not landed in cross winds over 10 or 15 miles per hour, since he avoids landing here in a strong cross wind.

Thomas said he respected the man’s opinion that the parapets do not have a measurable effect on turbulence, but added that it’s all anecdotal evidence and speculative. Matthiessen asked, didn’t the FAA approve it? Thomas replied the FAA did not approve the hangar as is; the developer was working on the principle that it’s better to ask forgiveness than to beg permission.

He then added that, as the council beat the subject to death in the Aviator Heights discussion, and as he understands it, it’s a Washington State land use violation, and a FAR 77 violation for airspace.

Matthiessen again asked didn’t the FAA resolve it. Thomas replied, “The resolution is a waiver, and you put flashing red lights on all four corners so that the hazard to navigation is obvious.”

The commenter then mentioned there are similar situations at Clover Park and Thun Fields, and a lot of airports have that. He then mentioned an airfield in San Diego where a parking garage was built, “on short final.” Thomas quickly responded, “Now you’re advocating bad government because you’re advocating building a hazard that we’ll later have to spend money to mitigate. So why would we want to do that?”

Walter asked Matthiessen to consider, given his flying  experience, a hypothetical situation in which this hangar was proposed at this location, and what his response would be. He replied that he might say move them a bit further away…but it wouldn’t affect his decision to come in.

Councilmember Bill Dunn asked if the hangar wasn’t there, would there still be an issue for, “the rather tall retaining wall” behind the hangar property.

Simon answered yes, adding that was the reason the FAA determined the hangar was not a hazard as long as it was better lit to be seen. Thomas corrected him by saying the FAA didn’t say the hangar wasn’t a hazard, but that the hangar had to be lit so that pilots were cognizant of the hazard.

Hannah asked Simon to define again, what uses he anticipates for the hangar units. “What the zoning currently allows,” he replied.

Mayor Shaub said those uses will be governed largely by business licensing. Thomas said whatever is allowed there must be consistent with the state transportation department’s aviation section, and what it says is compatible use in that zone.

Schrimpsher asked Thomas, if it’s controlled by our business licensing regulations, why we need to worry about a wrong type of use getting approved. Thomas replied that the Washington State Department of Transportation Aviation Land Use Guidebook shows what’s compatible and what’s not based on the zones around the airport.”

There are appropriate businesses and there inappropriate businesses, and quite frankly, would that get reviewed, during a business license review, in city hall? It doesn’t seem to have happened with the preliminary plat for Aviator Heights, so we don’t have a real good trend on doing that so far.”

Walter said that to him, eliminating as much as possible the absolute risk of the hangars is more important than the amount of insurance coverage on them or how they look (i.e. with or without the facades).

Schrimpsher said the finance committee recently reviewed the new outline for the reinstated airport commission, mirroring off the planning commission, and that that may alleviate Thomas’s concerns about control over uses in the airport zone in the future. Thomas said his immediate concern is these hangars, and the contract being entered allowing any type of occupancy, without any restrictions.

Thomas explained his concern in this way, “As I’ve stated many times before, you can be in compliance with Eatonville Municipal Code, and out of compliance with state law regarding land use around the airport. That’s been the core of my objections to most issues, and again, I don’t see any restrictions in this contract over what those hangars can and can’t be used for.”

Schaub said you would still have to get a building permit. Nothing says residential  is not allowed. “We’re taking an out-of-compliant runway, brought it into as a public facility, that was already out of your normal, what you would consider the compliance of what you would consider an airstrip. And we’re not trying to worsen that, but we are trying to hold it within our code. And we are dealing with what we have as a current code and current land use.”

A lively and at times heated debate continued for some time. In the end, the motion to amend the resolution to require the facades be removed failed by a vote of 2-3, with Thomas and Walter voting "Yes." The resolution to approve the contract for occupancy of the hangar units was then passed by a vote of 3-2, with Hannah, Dunn and Schrimpsher voting "Yes," and Thomas and Walter voting "No."

 In other Business...

Ordinance 2017-1 reduced the number of planning commission members from seven to five, and staggered the expiration dates. The recent resignation of Phil Beach brought the actual number of commissioners to five; it had been at six for awhile, with one unfilled vacancy. The ordinance passed unanimously. The number required for a quorum will now be three instead of four members.

Ordinance 2017-2 adopted interim regulations concerning flood damage prevention. This is a requirement of the Federal Emergency Management Association for municipalities to be in compliance. Since the deadline for compliance, including a public hearing to be conducted by the planning commission, is coming up soon, the council voted to pass the ordinance on the first reading. It passed unanimously.

Resolution 2017-F sets new rates for refuse and recycling collection, passing along the slight rate increases (ranging from sixty cents to $1.73 per month in the residential categories), being implemented by LeMay. It also passed unanimously.

Resolution 2017-G will surplus a bucket truck, an incident response vehicle and a police cruiser – all vehicles that have not been used by the town for some time.

In council comments, Walter asked Gribi for an update on the repair of the surface  of the half-pipe ramp at the skatepark. She responded the material is in hand, but staff has their hands full with severe weather concerns and other issues. When the weather warms a little, it will be installed.

The meeting was adjourned at 8:24 pm.
 

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