Residents raise concerns about proposed mega housing development near Lacey

On Tuesday, about 20 residents who live near the site of a proposed 285.5-acre housing development just outside Lacey — which could become the largest subdivision in unincorporated Thurston County — voiced concerns about the project in front of a Thurston County Hearing Examiner.

It was the second day of the county’s hearing for the proposed Oak Preserve housing development. If approved, the developer would subdivide the property into 1,037 single-family residential lots and 44 tracts for stormwater facilities, parks and recreation, open space, landscaping and oak grove preservation.

The first part of the hearing was dedicated to addressing two state Environmental Policy Act appeals that were settled just before the meeting began Monday; the second part of the hearing was based on the proposed plat alteration.

Several of the speakers during Tuesday’s session said they were concerned about traffic impacts.

“On Saturdays, the traffic backs up from I-5 all the way to Pacific Avenue,” said resident Doug Karman. “After phase 2 for this project, there will be another 900 cars thrown into that mix.”

Resident Liz Lyman said she has a problem with the “scope and design” of the project. She said the property has several environmentally sensitive areas, including aquifer recharge areas and Oregon white oak stands.

But even if those areas are addressed, Lyman said she believes that too many homes are planned for the area.

“I believe the maximum density on this property ought to be three units per acre,” she said.

An application for the development (which was known at the time as Freestone Ridge) was submitted to the county in 2009, according to senior planner Robert Smith.

“It’s been in review since then,” he said.

County officials plan to upload all of the testimony, reports, letters and other information relevant to the project onto the county’s website by Friday afternoon. The county will continue to accept public comment on the project until 4 p.m. April 3. A decision on the development is expected by April 24.

Theresa Nation, a habitat biologist with the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, told the hearing examiner that her agency believes the oak stands should remain undeveloped and untouched.

“It’s the largest remaining stand of oak woodlands left in the county,” Nation said.

The trees provide food and shelter for several species, including moths, butterflies, wasps and birds, she said.

“Once it’s gone, it’s pretty much impossible to replace that woodland,” Nation said.