Lacey resident: Living next to Walmart not easy

Noisy, ugly and unsafe. That’s what a Lacey resident had to say about living next to a new Walmart on Yelm Highway.

Karla Wooster says the city needs to do more to address her concerns and those shared by several of her neighbors.

“I am here to ask the council for help,” said Wooster, 52, during Thursday’s Lacey City Council meeting.

Wooster has lived in the Summerwalk subdivision, which is also off Yelm Highway and east of College Street, since 2008. That subdivision also was designed for future commercial development. She was aware of the commercial zoning, but thought it would become professional offices, such as for a medical practice.

Or, she said, if it was to become home to a store, she expected it would be developed in a way that she would look out and see the back of the store, not the side of it and a large parking lot.

But that’s the orientation of the smaller-format Walmart grocery store that opened there about five months ago. It operates 24 hours a day.

“We had no idea how 250 parking lot stalls on a raised parking lot, less than 30 feet from our living room and bedroom windows, would impact our daily lives,” she told the council.

After her testimony, she said it’s noisy, with car doors opening and shutting at all hours. She said it’s ugly because unsightly black material applied to a fence to help reduce noise will hurt property values. And she said it’s unsafe because the 8-foot fence that was erected between the residences and the store tapers off at the west end, making it easy for people to jump over.

“It is an ongoing process and we’re still working on it,” said Lacey City Manager Scott Spence, in response to Wooster’s testimony. He said the city has worked with the homeowners’ association, the developer — Hall Equities Group of Walnut Creek, California — and Walmart, and that effort produced the 8-foot fence.

Lacey Mayor Andy Ryder said the city paid one-third of those fencing costs. “We’re definitely open to helping mitigate the situation,” Ryder said.

He described the current dispute as “growing pains.” Everyone loves the idea of living close to amenities, but there’s always the initial shock once the development gets underway, he said.

“I get it,” he said. “It’s a huge adjustment.”

Trees, too, have been planted to block noise, and the black material was added to one side of the fence. Wooster questions whether trees will block noise, and she also disputes the results of a recently completed city noise-level check.

Wooster wants a professional noise study completed; Walmart employee-only parking along the fence line; the height of the fence extended to the west; and the black material on the fence to be addressed.

“I am not expecting preferential treatment as a resident,” she said. “I am asking that current city codes be implemented and enforced because we all know there’s going to be some noise.”

Also at Thursday night’s council meeting:

• The council remembered former Councilman Ron Lawson, who died last Friday at age 76.

“He was always quick to offer a handshake and a smile,” said Councilman Michael Steadman, who won Lawson’s seat in November 2013. “He was a Lacey man through and through. I hope I do justice to his position in the future.”

• The Lacey City Council retreat is an all-day gathering set for April 30 at Cebula Hall at Saint Martin’s University. The retreat largely will focus on a six-year budget plan for the city.