North Bend public hearing leaves 'glimmer of hope' for truck parking

By Tyson Fisher, Land Line staff writer | Friday, January 29, 2016

It was a full house at the North Bend, Wash., city hall conference room on Thursday, Jan. 28, as the city council addressed a possible amendment that would end future development of truck stops and stifle expansion to the lone truck stop in town.

Opponents stated their case, and the city responded.

Of the 13 people who spoke during the hearing, 10 of them were opposed to the proposed amendment, according to North Bend resident Joyce Hibma, who was present at the meeting. Everyone from new residents to natives showed up to the public hearing.

“There was a lot of emotion from the third-generation natives who spoke about the Truck Town – and how the city was built on logging and service to the general population – and the truckers who run I-90,” Hibma said in an email.

Local citizens may not have been alone in weighing in on the issue. According to Hibma, a city representative mentioned they received a letter from the governor imploring them not to pass the amendment. However, the governor’s office said there is no record of any such letter being sent. On Friday, Jan. 22, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association sent a letter of opposition to Gov. Jay Inslee; Washington State Department of Transportation Secretary Lynn Peterson; and Gina Estep, North Bend’s director of community and economic development.

North Bend is not necessarily opposed to more truck parking. Mirroring a similar explanation expressed by Councilmember Jonathan Rosen earlier this week, the city noted that it is willing to partner with any state or federal organization that is willing to help solve the issue. However, the city claims that those agencies are not responding to its cry for help.

According to WSDOT Freight System Division Director Barbara Ivanov, that is not necessarily the case. Ivanov said that for the past several years, the department conducted studies in 2005 and 2008 that explore truck parking in high demand areas, including Interstate 90 near North Bend.

If it is money North Bend is looking for, they may be out of luck, at least in the short term. At the federal level, money for privately owned land in question at North Bend does not qualify for any assistance.

“Although we sought federal funding, ultimately it turns out it is not available for use on private property,” Ivanov said.

As for funding from the state, North Bend may not get anything from that source anytime soon. Ivanov noted that there is no existing cash to develop new truck parking spaces. However, that does not mean funding can’t pop up in the form of grants in the near future.

There is some progress in truck parking at the state level. Ivanov pointed out that WSDOT plans to finish its first truck parking plan at the end of the year. The plan will address the needs of parking and give recommendations for possible solutions. However, the city gets to determine what to do with its land.

“Washington understands that by our state law local communities have the authority to control land use,” Ivanov explained. “That is their responsibility and we respect that.”

According to Hibma, City Administrator Londi Lindell stated that two senators had informed the city that truck parking sites between Preston and North Bend were being looked into. Sources say the nearest truck stop from North Bend is nearly one hour away to the west in Federal Way, Wash. Preston is less than 15 minutes away west of North Bend.

When asked whether or not the city has received any proposals from developers regarding nearby property, Lindell replied that decisions “cannot be based on that,” according to Hibma.

Public Works Director and City Engineer Mark Rigos was more concerned about the costs of infrastructure maintenance and environmental impact. Among Rigos’ concerns were degradation of city streets by trucks, level of service issues, cost of stop lights due to traffic, hazardous waste spills, effect of water quality, and being too close to neighborhoods and the school, Hibma recounted.

Questions of environmental impact were raised more than three years ago. Hibma reported that one city representative said the ordinance in question has been extended repeatedly since 2012. Since then, the city has requested an extensive environmental impact study. When asked about the study, Estep mentioned only that decisions were based on State Environmental Policy Act guidelines. Environmental impact studies are site specific, whereas SEPA guidelines are geared toward more general use.

Mayor Ken Hearing seemed unimpressed with the economic impact of the truck stop currently in the city. Hibma said that after clarifying that property owners of Truck Town were the ones who asked to be annexed into the city, Mayor Hearing expressed disappointment in the revenue brought in from the truck stop. Mayor Hearing said the city would receive more revenue from an office building or manufacturing.

Thursday’s public hearing was conducted by the North Bend Planning Commission and was not intended to decide on the amendment. The fate of truck parking in North Bend is still up in the air as the city moves forward after receiving the public’s comments.

Members of the planning commission could not immediately be reached for comment.

Hibma feels that at least two people on the commission are not OK with passing the amendment.

“With that said, there may be a glimmer of hope.”

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