Walmart case teaching Lacey lessons

Sometimes a good fence makes for good neighbors. In the case of Karla Wooster’s townhouse, the fence erected by Walmart to block noise from its all-night grocery added to discomfort that she and other residents of a southeast Lacey subdivision have endured.

Neighbors have listened to Walmart employees and customers yakking in the next-door parking lot and making other sounds at all hours. After five months, the complaints are being heard at city hall.

The city, the developer of the Summerwalk residential project, and Walmart may be learning from mistakes in the development process. Walmart is taking some corrective actions, and nearby homeowners may end up stuck paying for some of the solution.

According to a briefing given last week to the City Council, Walmart is encouraging employees to take smoking breaks on a side of the store away from the residences; it stopped using a roll-up door for grocery carts; and a parking lot sweeper won’t be run after 10 p.m. or before 7 a.m. There’s also the chance its employees will be required to park in designated stalls along the property line, reducing noise from traffic, slamming doors, and talking.

Those sound like worthwhile steps, and what we’d want from a neighbor, too.

The jury is out on whether that’s enough to redress the noise problem caused by two imperfectly joined land uses. A larger issue may be with the city’s development standards.

Walmart ultimately added an eight-foot fence to block noise, but it sits on a higher grade than the neighboring lot, so it looms over Wooster’s yard. Black soundproofing was added but it is unsightly enough that Wooster says property values are hurt.

One suggestion was to paint the fencing with a mural. But Rick Walk, city community development director, says paint might not stick to the material, and the developer is not willing to do the work – though homeowners could do it through their association.

Sometimes a bad situation festers long enough that a few simple fixes fail to repair broken relations. One hopes this is taken to heart by Lacey city officials – as they work for solutions on this project and try to prevent new ones on future projects.

Telemedicine bill to help

expand access, cut costs

A bipartisan bill that lets doctors more widely use audio and visual technology for some medical consultations is on its way to Gov. Jay Inslee’s desk for signing.

The much-needed measure, sponsored by Republican Sen. Randi Becker of Eatonville, was a significant goal this legislative session for the Washington State Medical Association.

The bill is a step toward getting expert medical advice into remote, medically underserved areas of the state that otherwise would not receive the same level of care. In many cases it can save patients from having to travel.

Telemedicine consultations are already being done, but billing and insurance payments have been an issue. Senate Bill 5175 requires insurers to provide reimbursements for procedures they otherwise would cover were it not for the off-site consultations.

WSMA describes a consultation as a “televised ‘face-to-face’ meeting” between a patient and doctor or provider – for everything from mental health evaluations and skin consultations to stroke interventions and emergency cardiac advice.

The state might also save costs from fewer transports of Medicaid patients.