Buckley National Guard armory plans canceled

Plans to build a second National Guard armory in Buckley – a $32 million investment identified for the Rainier School grounds – have been dashed.

Instead, the new facility will spring to life at Camp Murray in Lakewood. The news broke late last week that the Buckley plans had been scrapped.

News of a second armory in Buckley first arrived in June, announced by Mayor Pat Johnson. The intent was to construct a two-story facility on 20 acres of land on the rural edge of Buckley.

An enthused mayor called the development “a win, win, win” for the entire Plateau, citing the immediate potential for perhaps 200 construction jobs, the long-term outlook of up to 40 permanent jobs at the site and the hundreds of weekend warriors who would flock to the armory for drill weekends.

Details of the proposed facility were spelled out in a letter to Johnson from Col. Duane L. Coffey, a construction facilities management officer for the Guard.

In his letter, Coffey said plans called for:

• a 50-year lease on acreage owned by the state’s Department of Social and Health Services;

• construction of a main building totaling 97,515 square feet, plus a storage building and parking areas;

• approximately 339 WANG soldiers on site for their monthly drill weekend.

Specifically, the new armory was to be a “readiness center,” serving an entirely different purpose than the current armory on Buckley’s north side. The new center was to be built along the northern edge of Ryan Road, immediately west of the Rainier School campus.

Plans took a u-turn when it was discovered much of the Rainier School parcel was an identified wetland. Also, the land was deemed unstable in the event of an earthquake.

Timing also was an issue, Johnson said, explaining that money for a new armory had to be committed quickly. Buckley would have liked to call in its own experts to support the Rainier School site, she said, but time didn’t allow for such a delay. Putting off the project would have meant no armory at all, as the appropriation would have been lost.

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