Op-Ed: Port of Centralia: The Rest of the Story – Centralia Station, Let’s Talk Part 3: The Forgotten ChapterNovember 4, 2016
By Port of Centralia Commissioners Matt Evans, Dan Keahey, and Julie Shaffley, The Chronicle Contributors
Lewis County Commissioner Edna Fund has again appeared on the editorial page regarding Centralia Station with her version of “the story;” how Lewis County appealed the Port’s SEPA and ultimately lost on all counts at hearing. Back in 2014, we believed that The Chronicle did a fine job of reporting on the story and we felt that we had nothing to add. As Fund has decided to rewrite history in her second edition of the saga, we thought it might be helpful to refresh the facts that seem to have been forgotten.
In her most recent editorial, Fund claims that the County Commissioners’ motivation for the appeal was to protect the neighborhood of South Street and that the hearing examiner made no decision as to whether Centralia Station would increase the traffic of that residential street.
Let’s replace emotions with facts.
The Port spent nearly $170,000 on traffic studies that were reviewed by the City of Centralia and WSDOT with no objections.
Hearing Examiner Gary N. McLean wrote in his final report, “None of the witnesses provided substantial or convincing evidence to show specific, probable, significant, adverse impacts on traffic safety, pedestrians, cyclists, schools, or other considerations in the South Street area. In fact, the preponderance of the evidence (including the Examiner’s South Street route) is such that it already has various “traffic calming” features (perhaps unintentionally), such as an elevated rail crossing… that require drivers to slow down, a narrow road surface, and cars and other residential items located along and within the route, making it difficult to speed. The proposed ‘South Street route’ short cut is not intuitive, is not signed, and is not “attractive” as that term is used to imply that is a draw for drivers to search out for a short cut. It just isn’t.”
Fund concludes that if the Port had agreed to the County’s monitoring and to their proposed improvements to South Street, the appeal would have gone away. It sounds simple, until you realize what this demand means. Ultimately, it equals the Port writing a blank check with the County electing to fill in the date and the amount. We refused to our taxpayers’ benefit. A costly hearing is nothing compared to millions of dollars in forced improvements that have no legal connection to the project.
The hearing examiner agreed with our objections. Monitoring is not a requirement in Lewis County code and has never been demanded of another development project.
Fund makes it seem like the decision to appeal was based on this sole issue. It was not. The County appealed the SEPA on two issues. Both were rejected by the hearing examiner. Fund alleged that a Port staff member had conflicts of interest, but the hearing examiner ruled that this claim had no fact or merit. In her defense, Fund may be unaware as she did not attend one minute of the three-day hearing.
Don’t just take our word for it. You can find the full hearing examiner’s report on our website, www.portofcentralia.com.
After their failed appeal, Fund continued her efforts to hinder the Centralia Station project. She encouraged the Chehalis River Basin Flood Authority to question the project, which was wasteful as it had already been reviewed by the Washington State Department of Ecology, City of Centralia, affected tribes, and other entities during the SEPA process. In fact, only Lewis County returned with negative reviews. Fund then further delayed the project by spearheading an appeal of the project’s annexation into the City of Centralia.
In her editorial, Fund wrote that they scheduled a meeting with Port representatives after the appeal and complains that no one came. The Port Commission never agreed to a meeting and therefore was neither absent nor tardy. Prior to the appeal, Port staff and two commissioners separately met with Fund to try to resolve the matter, but were stonewalled and told that she had to listen to her staff regardless.
Ask yourself this: if your neighbor sued you because they did not like a fence that you built on your property, costing you a considerable sum to defend and, following your win in court, would you attend their barbecue the next weekend, no matter how nice the invitation?
If this is to be a war of invitations, let Fund attend a Port of Centralia Commission meeting as she boasts she does with the Port of Chehalis (fun fact: this port is in the district Fund is supposed to represent). Our meetings are open to the public, although she has never attended and we have been waiting in our conference room for the four years she has been in office.
Suffice it to say that the Port considers this book closed.