June 19, 2000
DUVALL--The Safeway project has been idle for almost four months now due to a lawsuit filed by a neighbor, but now that a study ordered by the judge in the case is completed, city staff are optimistic that construction will begin again in the coming weeks.
"We will review the study with the consultants, and look at the existing mitigation measures to see if we need to add anything or even whether or not the projects can be mitigated below the level of significance," said City Engineer Elizabeth Goode. "There will be opportunities for public comment and then the City Council will make a determination. I am optimistic that work will resume sometime this summer."
Difficulties began with the site when, as part of the project, Safeway agreed to relocate Big Rock Road so it would intersect SR-203 at a point farther north for safety reasons. An early agreement with Bob and Marise Schader, who own Boxhill Farm nursery across the highway, put the intersection about 90 feet south of their main driveway. Safeway proposed to move some of the Shaders' buildings, making room for a wider driveway for the nursery, and adding landscape and fences to reduce light and glare.
But then the decision was made by Safeway to move the intersection farther north, right at the nursery driveway. The Schaders sued, complaining that their concerns over safety, lights, and glare were not properly addressed by the city when the project was approved.
In a March 10 ruling, Superior Court Judge Kathleen Learned found that a Mitigated Determination of Nonsignificance done in 1998 indeed did not consider enough impacts of the project to the Schaders and ordered further studies, which were completed about two weeks ago. The study focused mainly on mitigation measures planned to reduce light, glare, and noise, and looked at traffic safety, but did not address moving the intersection south to where it had been previously planned.
Goode said that the state Department of Transportation (WSDOT) signed off on moving the intersection north after doing a full review on the sight distances. "The city has signed off on the road farther north, as well," she said. "And the traffic light will improve the sight distance problems. Boxhill Farm will still get fences and screening."
Goode said the light and glare analysis concluded that an eight-foot fence on top of a three-foot earthen berm or a mesh fence would be sufficient to block glare from the lights and traffic.
"That is more than the six-foot fence with landscape screening that Safeway had proposed," she said. "The consultants also studied traffic and delivery trucks and found there would be no adverse noise impacts because delivery will be behind the building." The traffic safety analysis concluded that a full traffic light at the intersection would improve conditions for the operating public and the nursery in terms of safety.
"The existing Big Rock Road intersection is not safe now," Goode said. "There is a vertical and horizontal curve so that drivers can't see around the bend and up. We all agree that Big Rock Road should be moved. It's either that, or get rid of the rock and Sequoias, and no one wants that. The Schaders' driveway, because of the dip to the north, is unsafe the way it is, as well. I think it will be safer at the currently approved location. We would like to fix those problems."
Goode said the Schaders are concerned about pulling into traffic, "but that they will be able to pull out safely with the protection of signalized lights."
But the three-inch thick book of consultants' findings has yet to be reviewed by the Schaders, who still contend that the proposed intersection is unsafe, and that mitigation measures designed to reduce noise and glare are insufficient.
Marise Schader said she was "disappointed" in the fact the study did not address moving the intersection back farther south. "We don't think the intersection is safe where it is," she said. "People will speed up to go through the red light, and not see someone pulling out of our driveway to make a right turn on red. A lot of people think that lights will make it safe, but a lot of accidents happen at lighted intersections. We have paid fees to traffic engineers to study this and have letters from the DOT that say they left the location of the intersection up to the city and Safeway."
She did agree that the berm "is a good solution, but I don't know what configuration they have. It seems the best way to stop noise is to have two fences with a berm in the middle. And aesthetically, it should look good, since we are in the business of making people's yards look nicer."
But, she said, they really haven't been notified of anything. "It is a design problem that can be solved," she said. "If we can't be satisfied, we will be back in court again. But we are into solving it, not prolonging it. We would like to solve it and go on."