December 28, 1998
DUVALL--It was to be the biggest development ever for this small but rapidly-growing town. On 40 acres on the corner of Big Rock Road and SR-203, a new Safeway store was going to be built, along with a number of other, smaller, but "nationally known" businesses.
Plans for the development were announced a year ago. Since then, not much, or a lot has happened, depending on one's point of view.
Safeway's original plans indicated a 42,000-square-foot food and drug store. The company hoped to break ground last spring and be finished in time for a grand opening about a month ago.
But time dragged on, and the only indication that anything was planned for the site was a billboard saying a new Safeway store was "coming soon." And last month the sign was suddenly removed, much to the surprise of city officials.
Duvall City Director Jim Bourasa said that when the town leaders reached the Safeway corporate headquarters in California by phone, management there said there were too many problems with the site, including difficulties with the realignment of Big Rock Road and sensitive areas that needed extra time and effort. The stunning announcement sent city officials scrambling to bring the governmental agencies involved and Safeway planners back to the table.
Bourasa said the main stumbling block appeared to be problems with communication between Safeway engineers and the state Department of Transportation (DOT) regarding the required moving of Big Rock Road. In order to increase sight distance for safety and make traffic function properly when entering and exiting the new development, Big Rock Road needed to exit farther north on SR-203.
"We are back to working with Safeway and the DOT with the road problem," Bourasa said.
He said troubles surfaced when the Safeway engineers apparently presented their designs to DOT staff using the wrong computer format. "It appeared to be a misunderstanding between their engineer and the DOT," Bourasa added. "Everything the DOT uses is in special forms in their computers. I think Safeway just got frustrated with the DOT."
City Planner Eric Jensen said Safeway and the DOT have agreed on some changes with the Big Rock Road realignment. "The distances for driveway access had to be greater to meet the DOT's standards." he said. "We have relocated Big Rock Road a little farther to the north and the driveway access farther to the south." The driveway access is now 40 feet south of where it was located in the original design.
Bourasa said Safeway is back to doing some sensitive areas projects on the site, including moving one small sensitive area and building a bridge across a stream. That work also has to pass stringent standards set by the state Departments of Ecology and Fisheries.
"We still don't have definite word on what Safeway is going to do," said Bourasa. "But things are looking better. Hopefully the sign will be back up after the first of the year and they can start groundbreaking in the spring."