Residents Invited to Attend a West Olympia Access (Roads) Study Meeting on March 7 or March 15

Here is an announcement about a meeting on 3/7 from 6:30-8:30 at Jefferson Middle School or on 3/15 at Evergreen Christian Community Church on the subject of roads/access in West Olympia. Since this is immediately adjacent to our neighborhood, this may be of interest to many of us.

Please click here for more information.

THE DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION NEEDS TO HEAR FROM YOU

Your participation is key to this study.

The City of Olympia and Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) are partnering on a joint study of city street and state highway systems on the west side of Olympia. The study will evaluate how well the systems work together to support the diverse transportation needs of the west side, now and in the future.

What’s the problem?

Current street and highway networks on Olympia’s west side hinder timely emergency response, efficient transit service, and pedestrian and bicycle access. We need to more evenly distribute traffic, and provide access to planned growth areas.

What’s the study goal?

The study will result in a package of improvements and programs to meet the future mobility needs of transit, bike riders, walkers, cars and trucks traveling to and through Olympia’s west side.

Join us at one of the Public Workshops to:

• Learn about this study.

• Share your ideas about west side transportation issues and problems.

• Identify principles to be used to evaluate alternatives.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

6:30 to 8:30 p.m.

Jefferson Middle School
2200 Conger, Olympia

— OR —

Thursday, March 15, 2007

6:30 to 8:30 p.m.

Evergreen Christian Community
1000 Black Lake Blvd SW, Olympia

(Two identical workshops are planned for your convenience.)

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

Kathy McCormick
West Olympia Access Study
2424 Heritage Court SW Ste. A
Olympia, WA 98502

(360) 956-7575
e-mail: westolympia@wsdot.wa.gov

For information about this project: http://www.trpc.org/programs/transportation/projects/woas.htm

or the Washington State Department of Transportation’s website at:
www.wsdot.wa.gov

A Forum & Social Gathering on “Post-933: Opportunities & Challenges” – March 7

Livable Thurston, a coalition led by Futurewise, is presenting a forum and social event, March 7 at 5:30pm, at the Capitol Playhouse (612 E 4th Ave , Olympia WA , 98501).

This will be a strategy session and social hour on managing growth in Thurston County. According to organizers, “With over 65% of Thurston County voting down Initiative 933, me must now turn and use this collective voice at the county level. Find out what challenges and opportunities exist after I-933 in Thurston County.”

  • Jeff Kingsbury , Olympia City Council Member and theater owner will welcome us and share his wit and wisdom
  • Kaleen Cottingham , Futurewise lobbyist will speak on the post-933 legislative agenda and other current land-use legislation of major importance to our state
  • Sue Danver with the Black Hills Audubon Society will talk about current projects being considered and their potential impacts
  • Rhenda Strub of the Thurston County Planning Commission will address the importance of the County’s pending rezone decision
  • Lisa Remlinger, President of Thurston Conservation Voters, will unveil a consensus list of Priorities for a Livable and Healthy Thurston County.

The program will include music, refreshments, and socializing.

Please RSVP (email april@futurewise.org), so they can plan accordingly with snacks and drinks.

South Sound Stewardship Training

What is a Sound Steward?

Sound Stewards are trained citizen volunteers committed to restoring, maintaining and monitoring Puget Sound habitat.

Become a Sound Steward

Join the restoration community and be part of the solution! You will have a great time working with other Stewards to bring back our ailing Sound. Activities include planting, invasive plant control, monitoring and other restoration tasks. You can watch the change your efforts make.

Training is free and open to the community. In return, Sound Stewards commit to 40 volunteer hours over the next year on restoration sites initiated by People for Puget Sound and their partners. Participants must attend all classes!

Tuesday, March 6

6:30pm-9pm, Lacey Community Center

Thursday, March 8

6:30pm-9pm, Lacey Community Center

Saturday, March 10

10am-3pm, Field Trip

Training includes
• Program overview
• Ecosystem overview
• Restoration ecology
• Plant identification
• Invasive species control
• Maintenance and monitoring

For questions, registration and directions, contact Dan Grosboll at (360) 754-9177 or dgrosboll@pugetsound.org.

GNA Board Elects Officers

Members of the Griffin Neighborhood Association who attended our Annual Meeting, on January 31st, voted in a new Board. At a special Board Meeting, this last Tuesday night, the Board elected its officers. The Board Members, officers and committee heads are:

Gayle Broadbent-Ferris, Community Outreach Committee Head
Matt Coyle
Fred Finn
Gary Goodwin, Chair
Jerry Handfield
Steve Lundin
Mark Messinger, Secretary & Webmaster
Eric Moll, Treasurer
Kathleen O’Shaunessy
Joyce Roper
Dave Schuett-Hames, Vice Chair
Velma Rogers, Habitat Committee Head
Jack Sisco
Bob Whitener
Chris Wickham

Contact information for the Board is online at http://www.griffinneighbors.org/ Just click the “Contact Us” link.

Not yet a member of the GNA? Members need only live or work within the boundaries of the Griffin School District. Join us online at http://www.griffinneighbors.org/joinus.htm

Commissioners Vote Split 2-to-1 Against GNA Appeal

On Tuesday, County Commissioners faced a standing room only crowd of Steamboat Peninsula residents, wearing “No Conference Center” stickers, to vote 2-to-1 against the Griffin Neighborhood Association appeal to declare the conference center application to be expired. While the Commissioners admitted county staff made errors in the handling of the timelines associated with the application, Diane Oberquell and Cathy Wolfe voted to allow the application to go forward. Bob Macleod expressed concerns that this or any developer could, as reported in The Olympian, tie up projects for years by “banking development rights” only to “have them be reviewed later under archaic guidelines.” Macleod voted with the GNA.

You may want to read that again. The commissioners agreed that our county staff should have monitored the approval process deadlines better. But, county staff didn’t, so the application to build a large, commercial conference center, on residential property, can move forward. Incredible.

In related news, the Thurston County League of Women Voters has officially come out against the conference center. In an email to commissioners, E.L. Johnson, president of the League, wrote, “The availability of water, sewer, roads and other utilities cannot sustain a large development on that small tract of land. We join [the] Griffin Neighborhood Association in opposing this effort to put a totally inappropriate ‘community center’ in an area designated rural.” The Olympian is reporting that Johnson said, at Tuesday’s meeting, “The cost of that project will be borne by everyone from Tenino on up to Lacey.” “A variance is not called for.”

What This Means – When the Application is Complete

At any time convenient to them, the Willis Family Trust will file the Environmental Impact Statement required by the County to complete the application. There will then be a public hearing on whether to grant the Special Use Permit required to allow this commercial facility to be built on land zoned for residential use.

Public testimony will be taken, at the hearing, and you had better believe that your neighbors and the Griffin Neighborhood Association will be there.

When will that happen? The County has given this developer carte blanche to take however long they want.

What This Means – Possible Legal Action

Meanwhile, legal counsel for the GNA is awaiting the Commissioner’s vote on whether to issue a formal written decision on this appeal. The Board and its lawyer will review that decision and will need to choose whether to appeal the county’s ruling to the Thurston County Superior Court or abandon a challenge in the courts.

A decision to challenge the conference center in court cannot be made without the financial support of the community. Click here to contribute to the GNA legal fund.

If we succeed, in Superior Court, we will not only squash this application, but we will set an important precedent which can be used by others seeking to ensure that development applications are handled by the County in a timely manner.

A case before the Superior Court will also put us in an excellent position if we need to appeal a decision by the County to grant the Special Use Permit, or if we need to defend an appeal by the Willis Family Trust, should the County deny their application.

What You Can Do

Do you feel that developers should not be able to grab residential land for their commercial use? Do you think large, commercial developments are out of place in our rural community? What do you think about the county’s decision to let this building go up along a two-lane road, sending traffic through the interchange with US-101 (to say nothing of that underpass heading south with the intersection of WA-8)? Does your idea of a “community center” include a for-profit facility which competes with the Little Creek Casino, St. Martin’s University, and the Greater Tacoma Convention and Trade Center?

Make your opinion known.

Tell your neighbors. Ask them to visit our web site to learn more about this development.

Click here to write a letter to the Editor of The Olympian. Stuck on some of the details? Click here for plenty of information about this development.

Join the Griffin Neighborhood Association. If you’re not yet a member, we need your support. We don’t want the Willis Family Trust and their plans to keep us from our other projects on the peninsula, such as our partnership with the Griffin Fire Department and Griffin School District to prepare for major disasters. Join us online at http://www.griffinneighbors.org/joinus.htm

Together, we can work to ensure that large, commercial facilities that don’t serve our community won’t get built near our school, our homes, or our shorelines.

Commissioners to Announce Conference Center Decision Tuesday, Feb 20 at 4PM

On Tuesday, February 20 at 4PM, the County Commissioners will announce their decision regarding an appeal made by the Griffin Neighborhood Association against the Conference Center.

No public testimony will be taken.

The GNA Board is asking all opponents of the Conference Center to turn out and demonstrate their opposition to this project.

Last year, the GNA asked the county to declare the application to build the Center had expired. When the county refused to do so, the GNA went to a Hearing Examiner for the County. The Hearing Examiner found the developer of the Conference Center was under no deadline to complete the Environmental Impact Study requested by the county more than a year ago. The EIS is required for the county to consider the application for approval.

The GNA appealed the decision of the hearing examiner and filed legal arguments with the County Commissioners. This Tuesday we will hear the decision of the Commissioners on that appeal.

If the Commissioners rule against the Conference Center, any new application to build would be filed under more restrictive rules for facilities of this kind. Even the representative of the conference center developer has admitted an application made under the current regulations is unlikely to pass.

If the Commissioners rule against the GNA, we will have to decide whether to take our appeal to the courts. We could only do that with the continued financial support of those in the community who don’t want to see residential property converted for commercial use in the way necessary to grant the Special Use Permit.

Join the GNA for the Commissioner’s meeting this Tuesday afternoon. We will have stickers to wear, so the Commissioners will know where we stand on the project, even if we cannot speak at the meeting.

Meeting of the County Commissioners
Tuesday, February 20
4PM
Thurston County Courthouse
2000 Lakeridge Road, Building 1
Click here for a map.

To download a poster you can put in your car, click here

To contribute to our legal fund, click here

For more information on this project, see our web site here

State Legislature Works to Close “Vesting” Loophole That Could Benefit Developers

Vesting refers to the ability of a land owner to lock in (“vest”) the right to develop property consistent with existing zoning laws and other development regulations, so that the development is not subject to subsequent changes in zoning or development laws.

Washington, however, has an approach to vesting that allows irresponsible developers to surprise communities and circumvent the community’s vision for their future.

There are basically three points in time that different states use to determine vesting rights. In most (about 30) states, a landowner vests when they have obtained approval for the project and taken substantial steps to develop the property. In most of the remaining states, landowners vest when they actually obtain a permit.

Washington is in the minority in allowing vesting to occur so early in the process – all a developer need do is apply for certain permits.

While developers and others should be assured a reasonable level of certainty in the rules after investing substantial sums in the development process, Washington’s liberal vesting rules create major loopholes for irresponsible developers seeking to sidestep community standards.

Representatives Simpson (D-47th Legislative District) and Williams (D-22nd Legislative District) have sponsored HB 1463. Companion bill SB 5507 has been introduced by a number of Senators. The effect of these bills will bring Washington’s vesting rules up the standard the majority of states are using and close this loophole that gives developers an easy way around new protections for critical areas, farmland, and rural communities.

Click on the links above to read the bills, track their progress and tell your elected representatives where you stand on the issue of property vesting rules in Washington state.

Controversies Over Geoduck Harvesting Apparent in Hearing Over House Bills

Steamboat area residents with waterfront property are probably already familiar with some of the questions surrounding commercial shellfish harvesting, particularly some of the techniques employed to harvest geoduck. It is no surprise, then, to read in The Olympian about hearings held on two bills presently working their way through committees in the State House.

Where does the truth lie? Is geoduck harvesting harmful to the environment or does the benefits to the Sound of shellfish outweigh some of the practices employed by harvesters?

House Bill 1547, sponsored by Gig Harbor Democrat Pat Lantz, would prevent the state Department of Natural Resources from granting new geoduck farm leases on state-owned lands until scientists figure out whether the practices cause environmental damage.

House Bill 1728, was introduced by our own Representative Bill Eickmeyer on behalf of the growers. It extols the benefits of the shellfish industry. It seeks to streamline regulation and create a job in the state Department of Agriculture to promote the industry.

Click on the links above to learn more about these two bills and to make your opinion known to Representative Eickmeyer.

Building Industry Opposes “Homeowner’s Bill of Rights” – UPDATED

“In Washington state, you’ve got more consumer-protection rights when you buy a $25 toaster than you do when buying a $500,000 home, says a former high-stakes trial lawyer who now heads the Senate consumer protection committee.

Sen. Brian Weinstein, D-Mercer Island, wants to change that, but his “Homeowner Bill of Rights” proposals are facing tough opposition from builders as well as fellow Democrats.”

The paragraphs above appear in the Seattle P-I on February 5 and is regarding SB 5550, now in committee.

The Building Industry Association of Washington (BIAW) has vowed to kill the bill. “These bills are at the top of our agenda right now — we want them dead,” said Erin Shannon, spokeswoman for the BIAW.

If enacted, the bill would require that:

  • For two years, the home is free from defects in materials and workmanship.
  • For three years, the home is free from defects in electrical, plumbing, heating, cooling and ventilating systems.
  • For five years, the home is free from defects resulting from water penetration.
  • For 10 years, the home is free from structural defects.

One would think a trade group that was honest and ethical would support reform. Why honest builders continue to support the BIAW – an organization that has lost so much credibility over the last 2 years, is beyond me.

There are a lot of homeowners who have either experienced the kinds of shoddy workmanship SB 5550 is targetting, or know of someone who has. What do you think about regulation of this kind? Click here to read more about the bill and to contact your representatives regarding your support or opposition. While you’re about it, click here to contact Tom McCabe, Executive Vice President of the BIAW regarding his organization’s position on the bill.

UPDATE:

Representative Williams, D-Olympia in the 22nd Legislative District, prime sponsor of House Bill 1935: The Homeowners’ Bill of Rights, wrote an editorial that appeared in the Olympian. Click here to read that piece, which was published February 11.

A companion to the Williams editorial was this piece, written by Sen. Dan Swecker, R-Rochester in the 20th Legislative District.

MARK MESSINGER

Annual Meeting Updates Public on Conference Center, New GNA Board Elected – UPDATED

More than 200 people met in the Griffin School Cafeteria January 31st to get an update on the Conference Center application and to elect a new Board for the Griffin Neighborhood Association. Reporters and a photographer from The Olympian were on hand and an article describing the meeting appeared in the next day’s paper. The Conference Center is planned by a developer from California, the Willis Family Trust.

An attorney hired by the Association, Tom Bjorgen, delivered a brief description of the steps we have taken to oppose construction of the Center. He then took questions from the audience. At the end of more than an hour on the Conference Center, Jerry Handfield, outgoing Chair of the GNA, literally passed a hat to those assembled. By the end of the night, nearly $3000 had been collected to help offset our current legal expenses.

Voting members of the Association in attendance returned 14 of last year’s Board members. Kathy O’Connor, who has worked tirelessly on the County’s Cluster Development Task Force and has represented Association interests elsewhere with the County, has moved just outside the boundaries of the Griffin School District. Bob Whitener, an executive with the Squaxin Island Tribe’s Island Enterprises, was voted to replace O’Connor.

Conference Center Update

Tom Bjorgen described efforts by the Association to convince the County to declare the application has lapsed. While the Willis Family Trust has not yet filed the Environmental Impact Study (EIS) required by the County, a Hearing Examiner in December decided the application would not lapse.

If the application were to lapse, Robert Patrick of the planning firm Patrick Harron & Associates in Lacey, hired by the Willis Family Trust, has been quoted as agreeing that current county zoning would not allow the conference center to be built.

County Commissioners to Announce Decision on February 20 – Please Join Us at That Meeting

The Association has appealed the decision by the Hearing Examiner. The County Commissioners will announce their decision on whether to declare the application to be lapsed in public session on February 20 at 4 PM, at the Thurston County Courthouse, 2000 Lakeridge Road, Building 1, Olympia.

All members of the public are encouraged to attend this meeting. While the public will not be permitted to speak, either to oppose or support the project, it is important that we make our opposition to the project known to the Commissioners. GNA members will be on hand to distribute stickers which we can wear to express our position against this project.

Unfortunately, the public cannot contact the County Commissioners on this matter, prior to the decision on February 20. The attorney for the GNA has filed the necessary legal arguments and individual Commissioners would have to recuse themselves from the decision, were they to have specific conversations with us about this appeal.

Next Steps, If the Application Is Not Lapsed

If, on February 20, the Commissioners decide the application has not lapsed, it will be up to the Willis Family Trust to complete their application with an EIS. Once their application is complete, there will be a public hearing on whether the County should issue the Special Use Permit required for the application. This will be a public meeting and we will want all our neighbors to turn out to testify against granting the permit.

We have no known date for any public hearings on the Special Use Permit.

If the County Commissioners rule, on February 20, the application is not lapsed, the GNA may choose to take the matter to Superior Court. To do so, we will need the financial support of the community.

What Can You Do, Right Now?

  1. Attend the Commissioner’s meeting on February 20 at 4PM. Bring 2 friends with you.
  2. Make a contribution to the GNA Legal Fund. Click here to make contributions online or by mail (checks payable to “GNA”) to 4931 Oyster Bay Rd., Olympia, WA 98502-9548.
  3. Display a “No Conference Center” sign on your car, home, and place of business. Click here for your copy.
  4. Tell your friends, “The conference center is not dead.” They can get more information online at www.GriffinNeighbors.org.
  5. Join the Griffin Neighborhood Association. As this application moves forward, we will continue to coordinate effective efforts to oppose it. Click here to join the GNA.

UPDATED: An editorial, written by GNA Board member Steve Lundin, was published in the Olympian on February 11. Click here to read that editorial. Better yet, read the editorial and then attach your own comments, about the conference center, on the Olympian’s web site.

Click here to read our prior Conference Center Update.