At the Town Council meeting on Monday, Nov. 26, council members unanimously approved a resolution to designate Eatonville a “Purple Heart Town.” By doing so, it joins a multitude of other cities and towns across the nation in honoring those members of the U.S. Armed Forces who have been wounded or killed in combat. 

Collectively, jurisdictions bearing this designation link up to form a symbolic “Purple Heart Trail” that spans all 50 states as well as U.S. territories Guam and Puerto Rico.

The measure was spearheaded by Councilmember Bill Dunn, who used the opportunity to express his own deep gratitude to service members past and present.

“I myself am not a veteran,” Dunn said. “I wasn’t brave enough. I wasn’t conscientious enough. But you’ll find no greater supporter and no one more appreciative.”

He added that if given the opportunity to live life over again, he would choose to serve in the military.

Signs indicating the town’s Purple Heart status will be provided free of charge by the Military Order of the Purple Heart and will be erected by the municipality in locations of the mayor’s choosing.

The Military Order of the Purple Heart is a nonprofit group that was chartered by U.S. Congress in the 1950s to help veterans who received the Purple Heart and their families. 

“Our mission is to foster an environment of goodwill and camaraderie among combat wounded veterans, promote patriotism, support necessary legislative initiatives, and most importantly, provide service to all veterans and their families,” the group’s website states.

“My hope is that every time we drive by, it triggers a thought – no matter how brief – of what that sign signifies,” Dunn said.

Several area veterans were in attendance at the meeting to show their support. During the public comment period, Rob Donaldson, Post Commander of the Eatonville American Legion got up and spoke.

“Thank you for helping us,” he said, his voice trembling with emotion.

COUNCIL VOTES TO APPROVE BUILDING CODE CHANGES

The proposed building code changes, Ordinance 2018-13, from the previous council meeting were discussed, again, with clarifications provided by Town Administrator Abby Gribi following consultations with the town’s attorney, Gregory Jacoby. Reading from Jacoby’s memo on the subject, Gribi stressed that none of the proposed changes to Title 19 (Building Design Standards) would affect or override anything in Title 18 (Zoning / Permitted Land Use), which includes vertical height requirements for structures.

This seemed to partially, but not fully alleviate Councilmember Robert Thomas’s concerns regarding impacts to the Aerospace District.

“It sounds like we’re providing an opportunity to get around municipal zoning regulations,” Thomas warned. “It basically seems to me like we don’t have a standard.”

In response, Mayor Schaub acknowledged that the current design standard has numerous shortcomings and suggested that it needs “a major overhaul.” But he also emphasized the need for immediate reform.

“Right now you have a variance or you have nothing. And a variance is a financial hardship,” he stated.

Several members of the public spoke in response to the proposed landscaping requirements for front yards. While there was some concern that the new requirements could place an undue burden on those constructing a new home, it was generally agreed that the regulations did not seem particularly onerous.

“They’re very minimal. They don’t require a landscape architect,” said Gribi. “It’s just something to help with beautification,” she added.

Commenting on the variety of options the new requirements would allow, including landscape rocks, trees, or shrubs in addition to just grass, Councilmember Bob Walter expressed his support.

“I like the idea of more front yards not needing to be mowed. It’s less pollution,” he said.

All of the measures were formally approved, with Councilmember Thomas once again casting the lone “nay” vote.

IN OTHER NEWS

There was some further discussion of the idea of limiting parking on Rainier Avenue to just one side of the street, with two members of the Van Eaton family approaching the podium to strongly register their opposition to the idea. As Councilmember Dunn noted however, nothing formal has yet been put together on the issue, and it will be an item for public hearing at a future council meeting.

Regarding transportation and public works, Gribi gave an update on some recently received grant money that will allow for improvements to Rainier Avenue and Lynch Street over the next two years.

Separately, there was discussion of upcoming sidewalk improvements that will be made along Weyerhaeuser Road, which include the addition of wheelchair ramps and new crosswalks.

“We want to make it safer for people crossing from the trail system,” Mayor Schaub said.

The measure passed unanimously, as did several of the tax items from the previous meeting.

Among other new business, a motion to amend the 2018 budget to be able to pay for these sidewalk improvements will be voted upon at the next meeting which takes place Monday, Dec. 10.