After a public hearing on a rezoning application with about 30 folks present — where two Mineral residents held up signs reading “NO Rezone in Mineral” and one resident even took to yelling at a Lewis County Planning Commission member outside of the allotted public comment period — the commission voted Tuesday to hold yet another hearing on July 12.
Besides those in person at the meeting, there were also many attendees on Zoom and over 40 written testimonies previously submitted to the county community development department.
The volunteer advisory commission is currently facing the decision of whether or not to recommend or reject the rezoning of about 500 acres of land north of Mineral Lake.
Once completed, the recommendation will move to the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC), meaning the planning commission ultimately does not have authority to do anything other than make a suggestion.
The rezone, if adopted, would change the land’s designation from forest resource land to a master planned resort.
The site-specific rezone is being requested by the property owner, YMCA of Greater Seattle. The land was purchased from Forecastle Timber company (pronounced FOHK-syl). The YMCA has previously stated its intention for the land is to create its first new overnight camp in over 100 years. Backed with the support of the Nisqually Tribe, Chairman Willie Frank III attended Tuesday’s hearing via Zoom and spoke to the benefits he believed the camp would bring to Nisqually youth, including giving them more opportunity to interact with non-native kids in their age group.
But the decision currently in front of the planning commission is not whether the YMCA camp should be built. Instead, the commission has four criteria to sift through to determine whether or not to recommend the rezone.
The board is supposed to recommend the rezone if:
• Growth Management Act and county planning policies would be met under the rezone
• There is a demonstrated need for the amendment
• Public interest would be served by the action
• The rezone is not spot-zoning, meaning it is consistent with the zoning in land around the plats being rezoned
As it was put by Lewis County Senior Long-Range Planner Mindy Brooks, the third category is the most subjective. Community development staff had already recommended to the commission that the YMCA’s rezone application does meet all those listed criteria.
Asking YMCA representatives or the Nisqually Chairman, the public interest would be served by the action, as it would be a step toward building a camp meant to increase education and opportunity for children.
However, if one asks Mineral residents who spoke at the hearing, they would not get the same answer. Residents voiced opposition ranging from concerns about the environmental impacts and impacts to the town’s aquifer to being adamantly opposed to the YMCA as an organization.
After public comments wrapped up nearly two hours past the start of the meeting, planning commissioners discussed whether to reject or recommend the proposal or to continue the hearing process. Four members voted for the latter option, with two out of the six voting against continuation of the record.
The public hearing process will continue in person on July 12 at 6 p.m. at the Lewis County Courthouse. Written testimony will also continue to be accepted until 5 p.m. that day.