WALLY'S WORLD: Black Diamond mayor wants to do it right

By Wally DuChateau

And since we’re on the subject of Enumclaw as a bedroom/suburban blip in the sphere of Greater Seattle, it should be pointed out that Black Diamond is part of the same complex. This suburban shift will also overtake Buckley, but Buckley isn’t so much influenced by Seattle as by greater Tacoma’s sprawl, which has already swept into Orting and Bonney Lake.

One day last week, I sat down with Black Diamond Mayor Rebecca Olness. Becky is a pleasant, up-front and open lady, who also happens to be a politician. She directly answered my questions without any hesitation or apparent deceit, just like a lady should. (On the side, it’s interesting to note that the mayors of all three towns are women, adding Liz Reynolds in Enumclaw and Pat Johnson in Buckley, who try to get together once a month to discuss problems and projects of mutual interest.)

I asked Becky who the hell YarrowBay is. She said it’s a huge, international corporation that develops whole communities – streets, houses, school, stores, etc. – all over the world. It currently owns much of Black Diamond’s Lawson Hill and a large chunk of land between Green Valley Road and the Auburn/Black Diamond Highway.

Current plans call for 6,000 new, Black Diamond homes in the next 20 years. Though the Environmental Impact Study has been approved, there are still other bureaucratic hurtles that have to be cleared, including final approval by the City Council, which will surely alter the present designs. There’s also the possibility of a lawsuit being mounted by opposing interests.

Owing to such delays, ground won’t be broken for at least another year or two. Then, of course, the infrastructure (streets, sewers, electrical conduits, etc.) has to be laid before any actual homes are built; so for those of you who live in the Black Diamond region and are about to lapse into a panic, sell your homes, and “get outta Dodge” before you’re overrun with Seattle condos, rest assured you have some time before the tsunami hits. Becky doesn’t expect to see the first house for another three or four years.

In the midst of the new neighborhoods, land will be left for a number of small, retail businesses. YarrowBay also owns a triangular piece of land near Diamond Square (where the Swinging Arm is located) and Becky would like to see a major grocery store built there.

Needless to say, these projects will have pretty profound repercussions on the community. Traffic on state Route 167 will surely be effected, slowing the Seattle commute by another 10 or 15 minutes. (Before long, you’ll have to leave a day early to get to work on time.) In 20 or more years, long-range projections include a light-rail system connecting Covington and Maple Valley to the Sounder line.

By then, the major earthquake geologists assure us is coming will have buckled the freeways and the cost of replacing them will be prohibitive, so most of us will catch the train into Seattle, if there’s anything left there, and we’ll come to understand the New Yorkers’ conviction that cars are just a pain in the butt.

And any notion that Black Diamond and Enumclaw are small towns will be flushed down the drain forever.

But before any of that comes to pass, the mayor wants to reassure her Black Diamond constituency that the suburban invasion won’t happen overnight. The city administration is taking its time and carefully analyzing the entire project. It will be done right.

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