Widening of Hwy. 502 is unnecessary and sad loss for property owners - The Reflector: Opinion

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Widening of Hwy. 502 is unnecessary and sad loss for property owners

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Posted: Wednesday, October 3, 2012 9:00 am | Updated: 12:28 pm, Tue Oct 23, 2012.

After a lengthy divorce, my younger children and I were fortunate to be able to relocate to a very old farm near Battle Ground a year ago, after 26 years of (for me) living in Vancouver. It was a homecoming of sorts to end up living very near where I spent my teen years as an often-barefoot country kid at home, and a very involved high school student at BGHS. (And through all the intervening years I had kept up with BG news and people who I still knew in the area.)

But almost immediately I realized how many places that I had taken for granted were being, or were soon going to be, destroyed by WSDOT.

I am fortunately not one of those property or business owners being forced to deal with the widening of the main route into town...but I am almost as angry as I know many of those individuals are! These are PEOPLE we are talking about, not just "PARCELS"!! Most of those being displaced have been here for decades in their homes and places of income...

And I honestly don't understand how any of the rest of us can sit back on our relatively safe setbacks from our own individual roads, to view this as "positive" or "a good idea"-- when so many people who make up this historic and unique "community" are losing everything that they have worked for for most of their lives.

Of course I could have forgotten things that I read or heard (I do do that, at this time of my life!), but I don't at all recall much, if any, complaining from anyone who lives here about traffic stacked up to the point of intense annoyance, on this two-lane highway-- certainly not enough anyway to justify $88 million of our taxpayer dollars and all of the heartache, expense and loss to individuals, of so much of the character of this place that I grew up in and loved.

During the last year I have driven the route straight west to I-5 at least once and often up to three times a day, including during "rush" hours--and never have I had to wait anywhere for long enough to even think frustration! Anyone who has driven north or south on Andresen (or any of many other clogged areas in the county--each of you could cite an example!) during that time should know how little traffic there is here in BG in comparison!! In Battle Ground proper, of course there is often congestion-- but this will not be solved by the widening happening outside of town...

The whole situation is awful enough in practical reality, as well as principle--but I have also heard many first-hand descriptions of how incredibly rude, belligerent, arrogant, mean, and heartless the personnel involved in the land acquisitions and offers have been to the owners. (Did any of you have a pleasant experience with this, or even being treated with civility??)

And what about the glaring inequality which has appeared in some cases? I am very happy for VK Stables, one of the few businesses which seemed to be treated fairly...They are already back in business at their new location, barely a few weeks after their entire property was demolished (and as a previous scathing editorial stated, a wetland was made out of a wetland!...). They got an incredibly good deal, since most of their original land was very poor for horses to begin with anyway, usable for only a short season out of the year--and therefore pretty ugly most of the time....

Yet a second training stable, located just a little more than a mile to the west, will be losing an entire acre of its highest, driest, prettiest and most useful land-- with practically no compensation. (How seriously would you view losing fully one sixth of your business site and assets??) The many and huge Douglas firs (most likely at least 100 years old) shielding the house from the highway are of course slated to be destroyed and never to be replaced, anywhere, even on the "mitigation" sites. Even if they do become someone's useful firewood,

they will never again stop the wind or make long shadows for the people who enjoy sitting under them, or provide a landing or nesting sight for hawks or owls...But WSDOT doesn't care.

So instead of at least offering to pay for the whole ranch (and therefore facilitate relocation of the business), apparently not needing this entire piece for a "retention pond"!, the state intends instead to pay the owner a fraction of what that one acre of land is worth even in today's market. And that is not even considering the future hardship in maintaining a high-traffic business with its driveway and parking space wiped out. (This is the same thing happening all up and down the route, for the businesses which are being "allowed" to stay.)

In another words, not only is the state not even paying what it should for the land alone, it is also not taking into account the negative ramifications for the business. And these are all family endeavors, not some Walmart etc. that can absorb some minor losses within its huge corporation...These people have no retirement coming--except in the value of continuing to operate their businesses, and their (used-to-be) land values...

Here's another thing that makes no sense, and makes me angry as well...I remember that when the first phase of the widening began near the I-5 interchange, Don and Joe's was definitely in the bulldozer's path just like O'Brady's now is. Yet in the end, WSDOT managed to tweak the plan so that this little iconic hamburger joint was left in place, with just some minor access adjustments. I am really glad! But WHY could not something similar have been managed in Dollar's Corner???

O'Brady's was the prettiest (some would say the only nice-looking!) part of Dollar's Corner and definitely the place to save if possible. (Obviously all of this is unfair and horrible to someone--which is why I don't think WSDOT should have done any of it in the first place...)

So with all of the other businesses at the corner bulldozed, I refuse to believe that there was no way that the highway could have gone north of O'Brady's, to save Susan's little Irish gem. It doesn't take an engineering degree to pace off the certain number of feet needed, or to realize that they ought to stay away from the creek anyway. WSDOT's "reasons" are fallible, plain and simple.

Obviously the deed is done, despite years of legal battles by land and business owners to save what is rightfully theirs...So--what should we, or can we, fight for now?? The bulldozers and chainsaws have already begun their awful work. Acres and acres of wildlife-habitat trees have been wiped out for "stormwater treatment ponds" (how ironic is that???) to be dug in multiple places, beloved buildings are boarded up and then torn down, businesses and historic places are completely deleted in just one or two days...

Well, driving by O'Brady's today and seeing the very impressive painted "billboard" across her boarded-up windows, I was inspired by Susan's continued courage to keep on fighting, to let everyone know that our Constitutional rights are worth struggling for, and proclaiming--even when the powers that be seem to be empowered (by their own selves??) to ignore them...!

So good for you, Susan--and like I wrote in your autograph book on your last day, if you ever come up with the desire (and financial ability--which of course is still dependent on WSDOT's integrity in seeing this deal through!!) to open your wonderful little restaurant somewhere else in our old-fashioned community (which some of us still want to STAY old-fashioned!), put a notice in The Reflector and we will come!!!

And hang in there, all of the rest of you who have had to move, or close your lifelong family endeavor, or maybe "get" to stay but will have to deal with multiple headaches in the future trying to keep your doors (or rather driveways!) open for customers and deliveries...

This is not a completely "free" country, unfortunately!

But maybe the rest of us can help--by making a special effort to support the businesses that will be allowed to remain, in the practical way of becoming (or remaining) customers and clients of theirs... We all need to stick together--to overcome, or at least mitigate, the tyranny of our supposedly democratic governments and agencies...

 

LeAnn (nee’ Burnett) Spicer

Battle Ground

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