News

Cascadia draws a line and city looks for traffic relief

By Dennis Box

The Courier-Herald

A newsletter sent out by Cascadia Corporation has drawn raised eyebrows and questions in the region.

Plateau residents began receiving the six-page newsletter April 13.

Cascadia plans to build 6,500 homes south of Bonney Lake on a 4,700-acre tract of land that was purchased by the corporation about 15 years ago.

The first four pages of the newsletter describe the development and the final two pages bluntly state the company's position concerning a sewer disagreement that has flared with the city of Orting.

Pierce County Superior Court Judge Bryan Chushcoff determined an existing sewer agreement between Orting and Cascadia was invalid, though he ruled Cascadia is in Orting's sewer service area, which means Orting must provide the service with a new contract.

The newsletter describes Cascadia's intention to continue the project despite legal setbacks.

“The advantages of this well-planned approach are numerous and significant. But recent actions by one local government pose a threat to that vision. The City of Orting is looking to renege on their sewer agreement. We hope other governments will not follow suit,” states the Cascadia newsletter.

At the April 18 Bonney Lake City Council workshop, Deputy Mayor Dan Swatman said of Cascadia's newsletter, “if you read between the lines they are trying to paint Bonney Lake with the same sharp brush ... I think they are playing for keeps.”

Chuck Lappenbusch, senior vice president of Cascadia, said he could understand why some may describe the newsletter in those terms, “but the purpose was to provide a summary of all the facts. Cascadia is a total living community. It's jobs, schools and parks ... Some folks would classify it (the newsletter) as hardball. Our intent is to let everyone know what our contract obligations are and we expect others to stand up to their obligations.”

Bonney Lake officials are most concerned about the traffic impact on the city once the development is built.

Phase one calls for about 1,700 homes and construction has started, although Lappenbusch said it is slowed due to the sewer contract problems with Orting.

Mayor Neil Johnson said the length of time the project has taken is a problem for the city.

“Everyone is trying to get their hands around it,” Johnson said. “The city attorney sent a letter to Pierce County talking about the project's delay. This is too important to stand by. We have to make sure we are ahead of the game.”

The city hopes to get a better deal concerning traffic mitigation funds.

“We want a mitigation package that is about today, not what happened yesterday,” Johnson said. “Cascadia can be a great place, but no one has thought through the mitigation effects and the biggest (effect) is traffic.”

The city attorney has asked Pierce County to forward all documents relating to Cascadia's traffic mitigation obligations to the city.

Swatman said a special council meeting is planned to consider the issues surrounding Cascadia's impact and the contracts that have been signed.

“It doesn't mean we are going to do anything,” Swatman said. “But we are going to look in every nook and cranny.”

Dennis Box can be reached at dbox@courierherald.com.

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