Centralia approves 189-lot housing project near Seminary Hill

Centralia City Council approves plans for Woodland Glen development amid traffic concerns from surrounding neighborhoods


Following more than an hour and a half of discussion Tuesday, including around 50 minutes of public comment mostly in opposition, the Centralia City Council approved plans for the Woodland Glen housing development with a vote of 6-1, with Councilor Mark Westley being the sole opposition.

While the plans were approved, the current developer, Bellevue-based APJJ, LLC, is now in the process of attempting to sell the approved plans to another developer who will actually carry out Woodland Glen’s construction. 

Woodland Glen is a 189-lot mixed-residential housing development featuring townhouses and single-family, three-bedroom homes on nearly 49 acres of land in the Seminary Hill area. It includes an area where the city-owned Armory Hills Golf Course — which closed permanently in the early 2000s — once operated. 

Residents surrounding the property have been pushing back against the development for months in multiple Centralia Planning Commission meetings.

While many said they understand the city’s need for more housing amid the affordable housing crisis, some cited concerns about traffic and pedestrian increases in the area, flooding fears and potential issues with the development’s Washington State Environmental Policy Act approval.

Those concerns were raised again Tuesday.

“All of the things that we have spoken about, either in writing or orally, have had to do with the public safety aspect of this project,” Centralia resident Richard Mack said during public comment. “We are in support of the planned-unit development proposed. We are opposed to the current access that is proposed.”

Currently, the planned development has two proposed entrance roads that, once constructed, will both empty onto Duffy Street at different points, which meets the legal requirements dictated by city code.

“They might, however, meet the letter of the law, but as has been stated, moving Duffy 20 feet, plus or minus, could potentially make two legal streets,” Centralia resident Claudia Kienholz said. “But anyone who’s ever had to evacuate in an emergency, those intersections, after they’ve been changed, are not two access points.”

Not everyone who spoke during public comment was in opposition, as Gary Larson, a Tumwater resident looking to move to Centralia, supported the development.

“I grew up here … and as of recently have been trying to get full-time employment here,” Larson said. “One thing that concerns me though is housing, trying to find a place to live down here.”

He acknowledged the concerns being raised, but still wanted the development to be approved to help create more housing for the middle class.

One of the owners of APJJ, John Mastandrea, was in attendance Tuesday. He said he and his partners have explored other options, including purchasing other properties surrounding the golf course to create an access point on Gold Street. Mastandrea claimed the property owner was asking for a stipulation he just couldn’t agree to.

“It says in (an email), ‘I would like to have in the agreement that you would delay putting houses on the northern hilltop area for at least seven years. We would like to keep some privacy until our youngest graduates,’” Mastandrea said. “You have to look at everything two ways, one, economically, and the other is, I can’t wait seven years … It’s not the $1.6 million dollars. It’s tying my hands to seven years for 30 house lots.”

Drew Harris, a civil engineer for Momentum Civil, which helped APJJ create the plans, added another access point was considered.

“Let me just remind you all this piece of property only has one legal access point at this time, without the acquisition of additional property that must be purchased from a private party on Byrd Street,” Harris said.

As for the traffic concerns, Centralia City Engineer Patty Page broke down the traffic impact analysis performed by the developers.

The analysis was based on a total of 215 proposed homes being developed.

“It’s going to be less than what they estimated because they’re building less homes,” Page said. “But based on their traffic impact analysis they did, it was 2,042 weekday daily trips, split, 1,021 in and 1,021 out.”

Discussion continued back and forth among the council, city staff and developers until the council prepared to take a vote where Westley explained his opposition.

“I’m still stuck on the whole point of the choke point that Byrd (Street), Duffy (Street) and Seminary Hill (Road) will create … I can’t envision what the problem or possibility could be, but to put all our eggs in one basket and have one single area where all the cars will be going back and forth from really concerns me,” Westly said.

An additional vote approving the legal facts and findings of conclusions of law for the development was approved unanimously following the Woodland Glen development plans’ approval vote of 6-1.

To watch the discussion of Woodland Glen’s development plans on Tuesday, visit https://tinyurl.com/37jdrtrj and start the video at the 52:05 mark.