Kidder Mathews representatives discuss master planned community at council meeting


The City of Yelm’s plans to develop the 640 acres of land it owns is beginning to take shape.

At a meeting July 2, representatives from Kidder Mathews, a West Coast-based commercial real estate firm, shared with the City Council how they will market the property and help the city formulate a plan to develop it in the future.

The Yelm City Council hired Kidder Mathews to consult and market the 640-acre parcel, located southwest of downtown Yelm, in June. During the study session meeting on July 2, two firm representatives, Blair Howe and Ryan Haddock, spoke to councilors on what they should expect in the consulting and marketing phases.

Howe told the council that the consulting phase of the firm’s work includes understanding what the property is, including its strengths and weaknesses, and getting to a place where they can bring different options to the City Council  on how to move forward.

“In doing that, we’re gathering information from every source that we can find it. The City has already given us everything it has, which is a tremendous start,” Howe said. “We’re going to outside sources, and [looking at] everything from title to wetlands, everything in the alphabet in between, with the idea being that no matter where we go in this endeavor, having as much information we can have about the property will give us a good foundation.”

Howe said that Kidder Mathews will operate with “as full a deck” and collect as much information about the property as it can.

“At some point, we’re going to look for gaps in that information, and we’re going to sit down as a staff and identify what those are. Normally, what we don’t know is just as important as knowing what we do know. At some point, we’re going to get to a place where we summarize the process involved in order to get to a master planned community as an end result,” Howe said. “We’re also beginning to talk to people in the market because we want to understand what they want, and what they’re after. We only have so much we can say because we’re just getting going, but we’re finding people interested.”

Haddock, senior vice president and shareholder for Kidder Mathews, said the firm is reaching out nationally to larger developers with proven examples of developed master planned communities to find out any concerns, what went right and wrong, and to learn of any conflicts with the Washington market.

“We do have several groups that want to know everything. Specifically, they want to know where it is and what it is because they’re very interested,” Haddock said. “Some of those groups, including groups that have recent projects in Washington, are very interested because of the market and some of the opportunities. The one thing I’ve been told thus far that’s probably the biggest thing is flexibility, not only in zoning but uses. They’re finding that they’ve had to change their plan as they got through projects, where they thought a certain section would be single family or commercial, but it moved to more of an industrial.”

Haddock added that developers have included more mixed uses and flexibility in their plans, with the second priority being infrastructure. He’s contacted the spokesperson of a neighboring property, Robert Mack, a former King 5 news investigator, to learn about his property.

“He is their spokesperson. His family, his wife and her sister and her father, own it. The father is based out of China, and one of them is in Vietnam. Everything goes through him, and it takes two to three weeks,” Haddock said. “He has given us approval to tour his property. We’re talking to him about potentially joint marketing and what options we might have, whether they would sell it, and whether they would consider working with the city.”

Howe said that next time Kidder Mathews presents to the council, he’s hopeful that the firm thoroughly understands the property “the best we can” so they can present courses of actions or scenarios for the city to pursue.

“Our goal is to identify all our rational approaches that you could pursue, from selling the property, to partnering, to the city being a master developer, to holding the property,” Howe said. “Our goal is to create a series of paths that you can logically choose to go down.”

Mayor Joe DePinto said the City will host an open house for the public to voice their opinions and offer input regarding what the City should do with the property. The public will also be able to discuss transportation projects.

“There will be a lot of public outreach, especially towards the end when there’s actual decisions to be made,” DePinto said. “They’ll be very open and transparent about which paths they could choose and get feedback from the community about what they’d want to see.”

Haddock said an updated environmental impact study (EIS) is necessary because wetlands and the stormwater regulations have changed since 2008, when the first EIS was conducted. A new EIS would cost approximately $2 million.

DePinto said after the meeting that it is unlikely the city will have to pay for the EIS and will likely be paid for by the future developer.