From left to right: Mia Franklin, homeowner in South 344th Street neighborhood; Peter Barbin, GarageTown unit owner; and Brad Thorson, GarageTown Condominium Association president. HENRY STEWART-WOOD/Sound Publishing

From left to right: Mia Franklin, homeowner in South 344th Street neighborhood; Peter Barbin, GarageTown unit owner; and Brad Thorson, GarageTown Condominium Association president. HENRY STEWART-WOOD/Sound Publishing

Residents, city officials say ‘Not in Federal Way’ to Sound Transit’s OMF site

Board to select Kent or Federal Way location in December for light rail facility

When deciding where to build South Transit’s new Operations and Maintenance Facility (OMF) South, local residents and City Council members say, “not in Federal Way.”

Sound Transit has designated three preferred sites for the incoming OMF: One at the Midway Landfill in Kent, and South 336th Street or South 344th Street in Federal Way, according to the draft environmental impact statement from March 5.

Brian Nash, chair of Protect Federal Way, says Sound Transit’s long and complicated process has kept dozens of Federal Way residents in a limbo of wondering: Should they sell their homes? Should they move? Is it worthwhile to stay?

“It’s an impending doom,” said Nash, who has lived in the area for 12 years and owns a business in one of the Federal Way site alternatives. “Residents feel hoodwinked a little bit … they live in limbo.”

The political action committee, comprising 60 to 70 residents, aims to to defend the South 344th Street neighborhood. For months, residents have asked Sound Transit for clarification or indication of which site will be picked, with little to no response, Nash said.

Members of the Protect Federal Way community are looking for reassurance, Nash said, which would allow individuals and businesses to plan for five or 10 years into the future. Instead, the constant worry is who and how many of them will be displaced by the OMF South if placed in Federal Way.

If the landfill in Kent is selected, “that would be the biggest win for our community,” he said. “[It’s] always worth investing in cleaning up a waste site that is prime real estate in the middle of our community.”

Mia Franklin, who owns a home in the South 344th Street neighborhood, has lived in Federal Way for 10 years and moved to the area because of its access to resources for her adult child who has a disability, she said. Being close to St. Francis Hospital was an important factor in her decision to live in the city.

“The reason Sound Transit wants our area is the same reason we want it,” Franklin said. “It’s a great location. They’re not going to move us anywhere, business or resident, where we’ll be allowed to live in another area like this.”

Claudia Balducci, a King County Council member and chair of Sound Transit’s System Expansion Committee, plans to bring a recommendation to the Dec. 9 committee meeting. The recommendation by that eight-member group will then go to the full 18-member board on Dec. 16 for its selection.

“I want us to be ready,” said Balducci, who has toured the three sites. “It is time for us to make a call. No one of the options rises to the top as simple and easy and better than the rest. There’s real considerations on all of them.”

The OMF sites are where light rail trains are cleaned, stored and maintained for the expanding Sound Transit Link routes. The OMF South will operate 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, according to Sound Transit.

A new facility needs approximately 60-plus acres near an operating light rail line, according to Sound Transit.

Benefits of the OMF South site include the addition of more than 470 living-wage jobs in South King County. At the OMF Central site in Seattle, the average employee wage is about $40 per hour, or $80,000 per year.

On Oct. 23, the Federal Way City Council posted a video recommending the OMF South facility be located at the Midway Landfill alternative in Kent. The video shows pictures and video footage of the numerous businesses that would be impacted if either of the two Federal Way locations are selected.

The council has also expressed its support for the Midway Landfill location previously, noting that cost should not overshadow the negative impact residents and business owners will face.

“In considering the overall impacts and a robust environmental review process, cost cannot be a factor in your decision, the impacts to the Federal Way sites are significant and will be far too detrimental to our community,” the city wrote in an April 6 letter to the Sound Transit board.

Residents and businesses displaced by the project, if either Federal Way site is selected, would receive compensation and relocation assistance consistent with federal and state relocation requirements, along with Sound Transit’s Real Property Acquisition and Relocation policies.

For residents and businesses, relocation opportunities may be offered in the project vicinity and Sound Transit plans to work with impacted residents to keep them in the same general area if they wish. Factors of relocation include identifying replacement housing with consideration of proximity to commercial and community facilities, schools, an individual’s place of employment, and accessibility to transit, according to Sound Transit.

South 336th Street site

The South 336th Street alternative location is a 59-acre site between S. 336th Street and S. 341st Place and between I-5 and Pacific Highway 99. The option is projected to cost about $1.2 billion to $1.4 billion and will be finished completely in about three and a half years, the Mirror previously reported.

If selected, it includes the removal of two churches and two businesses with about 94 employees. This site would cause 73 residential evictions.

The study area for the South 336th Street alternative site in Federal Way has a minority population of 7,973 persons, accounting for 61 percent of the population, which is higher than the 39 percent minority population for the Sound Transit District as a whole and the 53 percent minority population for the South Corridor.

To build the OMF South facility at either Federal Way site would require less than 80 truck trips per day, whereas the Midway site could require more than 560 truck trips per day in order to prepare the site for construction.

Sound Transit’s Summary of Preference study shows approximately 80 people expressed an opinion regarding the South 336th Street alternative. The preferences were split, with 47% of people supporting the site and 53% of people opposing the site. Those in support mentioned its fewer impacts to residents, employees and businesses than the S. 344th Street alternative. They also noted it would cost less, be completed faster and would be “less risky” than the landfill option.

South 344th Street site

The South 344th Street alternative is a 62-acre location between S. 336th Street and S. 344th Street and between I-5 and 18th Place South. The alternative is projected to cost about $1.2 billion to $1.4 billion in total and is set to be finished in about three years and four months.

If selected, this location removes the Ellenos Yogurt manufacturing facility and GarageTown private storage, along with 11 businesses (217 employees and 60 unit owners). It also displaces three churches.

“Choosing the South 344th Site would be the worst thing for Federal Way and for all the people who have businesses and residence located here,” said Brad Thorson, who owns a GarageTown unit.

As for residential impact, this location would lead to 79 residential evictions if selected. The study area for the South 344th Street alternative in Federal Way includes the lowest proportion of minority residents as compared with the other two alternatives: 9,336 persons, or 57 percent. As with the other build alternatives, this proportion is larger than the 39 percent minority population for the Sound Transit District as a whole and the 53 percent minority population for the South Corridor.

“The South 344th Street alternative would impact the most social resources and would have the greatest number of business and residential displacements as compared with the other build alternatives,” according to the Draft EIS report published on March 5.

About 93% of people opposed the S. 344th Street site, based off of Sound Transit’s Summary of Preference study consulting 120 people.

Midway Landfill site

The Midway Landfill is a 68-acre site in Kent between South 252nd Street and South 246th Street and between Pacific Highway South and I-5. The publicly owned and vacant site is also a Superfund waste location. The alternative site is projected to cost about $1.8 billion to $2.4 billion. Placing the OMF South site here would be completed in about six to eight years depending on the design.

There are no residential evictions associated with this location.

In gathering input from numerous local agencies, businesses and community members, many Federal Way-based companies rejected the idea of either Federal Way site being chosen for the facility due to the disruption to dozens of livelihoods in the area, according to Sound Transit documents.

Pacific Christian Academy, which would be impacted by either Federal Way alternative, stated they have looked for other options for a new school site in case Federal Way is selected and has been unable to find an available site in the area. Officials from Ellenos Yogurt, which opened a manufacturing headquarters in Federal Way in 2019, said relocating their facility would be “catastrophic” to their business, costing millions and would take over a year to build.

The Puyallup Tribe of Indians prefers the Midway Landfill site to house the OMF South facility due to potential impacts to ecosystems, fish habitats and water resources if placed in Federal Way. The City of Kent told Sound Transit they wouldn’t be opposed to the OMF South being built at the landfill location.

The Sound Transit Board will identify a site as a “preferred alternative” for the Final EIS Dec. 16. A preferred alternative is a statement of where the agency is leaning based on information available at the time, but is not a final decision.

The Sound Transit Board will make a final decision on the site and the project to be built after the Final EIS report is issued in 2022.

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