For many, the potential loss of Thurston County’s largest remaining stand of Oregon White Oak, just over 76 acres, and 177 total acres of wooded area, home to a wide range of animals and plants, would be a devastating environmental legacy.
Notification about the development's March 24 public hearing was sent out on March 9. Hundreds of homeowners in subdivisions who live along the site’s perimeter on Marvin Road, 19th Avenue SE, 27th Avenue SE, and Priority Street SE were not notified because they live outside of the required notification area of 300 feet, which is roughly the length of a football field.
On March 4, county hearing examiner Sharon Rice threw out the nearby McAllister Park Homeowners Association State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) appeal on stormwater and oak habitat issues saying it “lacked standing.”
In the county’s response, its attorney rebuked Nation for her strong words, saying that “very seldom are we this far apart…” and criticized her for judging the project and the Habitat Management Plan (HMP) under the new county Critical Areas Ordinance (CAO). She was cross examined at length by the applicant.
During a walk through the woodlands on Saturday, they stepped over a wandering newt, excitedly pointed out new buds, and lamented the tenacity of Scot’s Broom, a noxious weed. They also expressed disappointment that the Oak Tree Preserve LLC habitat wildlife biologist, Curtis Wambach, only came to the property three times to make his formal observations, devoting just one day each on prairie plants, the Western Gray Squirrel, and the Mazama Gopher.
As he testified at the March 24 plat hearing, Wambach said he only observed facilitative species on the property, meaning species that would occur on the site, developed or not.
After our walk through the woodlands, neighbor William Koopman, who also attended the hearing, said:
Mobilized to act by what they heard at the hearing, and given the extended deadline for written public comment, Smith and Carroll and several other neighbors have started a petition at http://tinyurl.com/thurston-oak which will be submitted to the hearing examiner as public comment. The image used to illustrate the petition is a White Fawn Lily, Erythronium oregonum, located on Oak Tree Preserve LLC property.