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County Commission postpones decision on Beaver Creek rezone

Public outcry may have prompted delay

In February 2021, when members of the public learned that purchasers of the large dairy farm once owned by the Doehlman family wanted to build a warehouse/distribution center, the outcry was immediate. The proposal for the parcel, located at 13333 Case Road SW in South Olympia, was to amend the Thurston County Comprehensive Plan so that a portion of the property could be rezoned as Rural Resource Industrial (RRI).

Loss of farmland and animal habitat

Citizen concerns about the rezone request were numerous. Besides the loss of farmland, a busy warehouse could discourage animals’ use of the east-west wildlife corridor from Capitol Forest to JBLM (animals can currently access a wildlife pass under I-5 at the Maytown exit (Exit 95) next to the farm).

Increased flooding and groundwater contamination

Beaver Creek and its wetlands run along the rezone area. Extensive laying of impervious surface roads might increase downstream flooding on neighboring properties along Maytown Road and/or contaminate private wells.

The creek has coho salmon that migrate upstream to spawn near West Rocky Prairie. Stormwater runoff from roads or the project site could pollute Beaver Creek and kill fish, especially during heavy rain or flooding. Polluted runoff might also negatively impact the threatened Oregon Spotted Frog found in Beaver Creek and its wetlands.

A delay and future opportunities to weigh in

The many negative comments submitted by organizations and citizens may have played a role in the March 24 Thurston County Commissioners vote to call the project a “low priority” on their 2020-2021 docket of items to consider.

It now appears staff will begin the review of this docket item in 2022, which could take a year to consider because the rezone area is large and the issues are complex.

Sometime in 2022 or even 2023, then, citizens will have one or two more opportunities to comment on the rezone request through written comment or oral comments at a public hearing. The first chance will be when the request comes before the Thurston County Planning Commission. If the Commission recommends approval, the public can comment again when it comes before the Thurston County Board of Commissioners.

Charlotte Persons is a member of League of Women Voters Thurston County, a docent at Bigelow House Museum, and is on the board of Black Hills Audubon Society.

View comments previously submitted to the Commission.

While some public comments favored a new warehouse near Maytown Road, the majority were against the project.

“We believe the request is problematic for the following reasons: 1) converting the parcel to a non‐agricultural use is inconsistent with the county‐wide goal of no net loss of farmland; 2) it would be premature to consider this rezoning while the community driven review of agriculture docket item is under way; 3) the County does not need additional Rural Resource Industrial land; 4) the underlying zoning does not offer assurance that the land will remain in agriculture and although RRI would ensure it isn’t developed at residential densities, it would almost certainly preclude ongoing agricultural activities on the property”

“[this is] a rural community and industrial uses don’t belong here. There are millions of unoccupied square feet of warehouse in Lacey. Exit 99 is being built up with other large projects causing traffic increase, which drives residents down to Maytown exit. If semi trucks are added to that it’ll be dangerous for commuters. Lacey warehousing traffic goes north so it doesn’t have to drive through the County—putting a warehouse in South County will pull semi traffic through the entire county. Farmland is disappearing and converting 290 acres of it to industrial is in the wrong direction.”

“Most of the jobs will be temporary jobs with no benefits, no vacation, rarely permanent… Warehouses in Lacey are constantly seeking workers—we can’t even fill these jobs.”

“ We’re facing a serious issue of cumulative impacts in South County. There are already traffic issues at Exit 99 with the Pilot truck stop and a new commercial center warehouse going in. People moved to this area expecting and treasuring the rural character, including farm land, forests, prairies and wetlands. This project would bring thousands of daily truck trips to a sensitive area, destroy farmland and put rural character at stake.”

“What is so lacking in our current resources that could justify this warehouse?”

One Comment

  1. Snoopy Chrysler September 13, 2021

    At a time where housing for the working poor is so desperately needed in harmony with positive stewardship of the land, placing a high-traffic warehouse complex in Beaver Creek is not a good idea. With precious land and resources fading fast due to climate change, as well as losses due to fires and other out of our control phenomena. Building on such a delicate eco-system such as this would bode ill will as well as an environmental as well as dangerously be an SERIOUS traffic disaster just waiting to happen. For the sake of positive development for future generations, let alone by using already doled out parcels that are in areas where NO ecological damage can be done, plus be a fatal traffic accident just waiting to occur. This is NOT acceptable. Being a person of the land, also being part Native myself, a better and wise use of this part of Thurston County must come with a better and justifiable use, or just let it be. With a shortage of land for affordable housing, and/or seeing more commercial spaces outdoing land for all to share, there’s NO WONDER there is a “boiling point” that will only lead to crisis. By looking and gauging correct stewardship of land use, wiser decisions will follow. Please support a better environmental future by opposing high industrial development in sensitive land areas until we use what we ALREADY have, and refrain from out of control random over use of rural settings.

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