Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Now in the House: Isthmus Bill ESSB 5800

by Janine Gates

Above: Former Secretary of State Ralph Munro's cellphone goes off - with a very "old school" ringtone - at the beginning of his testimony, much to everyone's amusement.

“A good chunk of my hometown is here behind me today…” said House Local Government and Housing legislative staff member Ethan Moreno as he began explaining the background of ESSB 5800 to committee members.

Indeed, the scene was familiar: the hearing room was packed, the testimony was well rehearsed and many of the players were the same, but the real audience, the House committee chaired by Representative Geoff Simpson, was different, and no one took anything for granted.

Senator Karen Fraser explained her bill to establish the isthmus in downtown Olympia as a "shoreline of statewide significance," complete with a PowerPoint slideshow. Representative Sam Hunt also spoke, and panels consisting of several people each proceeded to make their arguments for and against the bill.
To thwart concerns about why the committee should have anything to do with this issue, Hunt explained to his colleagues, “We don’t enter into this fray lightly…we do support downtown housing, but this is a state capitol and the state has been investing millions into this area for years…this is not a NIMBY thing. What we're doing here is different than Federal Way, Spokane, Yakima…or Roslyn..." Hunt teased, resulting in laughter from everyone. Committee member and Minority Whip Representative Bill Hinkle's district includes Roslyn, Washington.

Committee members Angel, Cox and Hinkle asked clarifying questions.

Many of the same players who testified in front of Senator Darlene Fairley’s Government Operations and Elections Committee also testified in front of Simpson’s committee.

Olympia City Council member Joan Machlis and City Manager Steve Hall testified for the city. They reiterated that they received 1400 written comments from the community, did their research, and admitted that most of the key facts about the issue are in dispute. Members of the group Oly2012 also testified against the bill.

There were a few, new passionate voices.

Richard Van Wagenen, a former executive policy advisor for Governor Gary Locke, spoke against the bill, saying, "Our legislators...ask you to substitute (local city) judgement for that of our city's elected officials, and destroy the only chance for owner-occupied housing our downtown has had in years. They ask you to do protect the view from the top of the bluff....I wonder why the state never bought the land."

Van Wagenen said he might support the bill if it provided money to tear down the nine story "mistake by the lake" vacant office building currently on the isthmus, "...but I know you have more urgent statewide needs in the capital budget, and I think you should focus on those."

Another speaker, a land use attorney from Seattle, was well into his testimony that the bill is a dangerous precedent against local government rule, when he surprised everyone by saying he is an attorney for Triway Enterprises. Triway owns the isthmus land in dispute. “They were my first client and are very reputable…Triway has always played by the rules and engages everyone in the process….Triway has spent $1 million in risk cost towards doing the project and there will be no compensation for my client if this bill passes….”

Melanie Stewart, a lobbyist who testified as a citizen, testified against the bill, lamenting that she and her husband, former Tumwater council member Wayne Williams, want to live in downtown Olympia “but there’s no place to move to.”

Testifying for the bill included Elisa Davidson, board member of the National Association for Olmsted Parks, who referred to the Capitol architect’s intentions.

“To this day, I remember the dizzying but magnificent view from the top of the Capitol dome that I witnessed as a scout years ago, long before I heard of the Olmsted's and their work….Our capitol’s dramatic setting is no happenstance. The site was carefully selected and laid out…and elements are still being completed in our time - most recently by the Law Enforcement Memorial. The capitol campus is no minor work. It is, in fact, a masterwork of one of this country’s greatest artists and advocates for the role of public landscapes....”

Gayle Frink-Schultz of the Behind the Badge Foundation, gave perhaps the most compelling testimony of the day. As the widow of Washington State Patrol Trooper Steven Frink, Ms. Frink-Schultz explained how she came to be involved with the planning of the Washington State Law Enforcement Memorial on the Capitol Campus which overlooks the debated isthmus region.

Above: The stunning Olympic Mountain range looks on as Gayle Frink-Schultz is being interviewed in May 2006 at the dedication of the Washington State Law Enforcement Memorial.

Frink-Schultz also explained the state’s heavy involvement in the project since 1999: site selection with the Capitol Campus Design Advisory Committee, stabilization of the hillside, landscaping and construction of a retaining wall as part of the Heritage Park hill and walking path - “all to create a place of serenity, honor and respect.”

“....I found a new mission in life after my husband’s death. Steve’s death taught me there are things in life that are irrevocable, things we cannot control. But, I also learned that there are things in life that are important and that we do have choice over….This is one of those times.”

Above: Family members make rubbings of their loved one's names at the Washington State Law Enforcement Memorial dedication in May 2006.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Isthmus Forum Brings Community Together

by Janine Gates

Above: About 150 people attended the Olympia Isthmus Park Forum held today at First United Methodist Church on Legion Way.

Concerned community members and elected officials came together today to discuss the fast-moving issue of the isthmus area in downtown Olympia. Former Olympia mayor Bob Jacobs began the forum acknowledging that "it's been kind of crazy" in the last full year since the City of Olympia informed community members about Triway Enterprise's plans to rezone their property and build 141 condos in five to seven story buildings on the isthmus. That meeting, held the day before Easter, gave the community its first look at the big-box scenarios that would generate widespread divisiveness.

Above: Photo taken of the Olympic Mountain range yesterday from the Washington State Law Enforcement Memorial on the Capitol Campus shows that one building on the isthmus is more than enough visual damage.

Elected officials present at today's forum were Senator Karen Fraser, Representative Sam Hunt, Thurston County Commissioner Karen Valenzuela, Olympia Mayor Doug Mah, and Olympia Councilmembers Karen Messmer, Joan Machlis and Rhenda Strub.

The forum was sponsored by several isthmus park proponent groups and included speakers such as Susan Olmsted, who is on the board of directors of the Friends of Seattle's Olmsted Parks. A panel discussion was comprised of Senator Karen Fraser, Mayor Doug Mah and Jerry Reilly, Chair of the Isthmus Park Association.

Above: Susan Olmsted, descendant of the Capitol Campus architect, speaks in favor of the park saying that the "...intended layers, defined gateways and strategic enlistment of views framework the holistic thinking and planning of Olmsted's design for the Capitol Campus. She called the north-south view corridor and visual connection between the Capitol and Budd Inlet to be a "genius of place...."

Mah reiterated his new proposal to take the issue to the people in the form of a $33 million property tax levy to "save and protect Percival Landing, protect views, and create an isthmus park."

"I believe this approach is logical and achieves our desired outcomes. This proposal would allow us to repair what we already have and create a dome to sea is time for us to take the initial steps and let the rest play out...." The "rest" Mah refers to are the parcels currently owned by Triway Enterprises. Others are not willing to wait and see how "the rest plays out."

Senator Karen Fraser, prime sponsor of ESSB 5800, explained her intentions with a Powerpoint presentation and said her bill, if it passes, would retain the status quo, and keep the property on the isthmus at 35 feet.

Jerry Reilly, chair of the Isthmus Park Association said, "...the problem was the process...we were stuck with a process where we had to talk to each other. Now, we are starting to talk with each other...." Reilly said he has concerns with Mah's proposal, saying "it appears to be a heavy lift for this community and the city of Olympia...." Fraser agreed, saying, "We should look around and see what our options might be before we come up with a plan...." and said some large parcels near the Farmer's Market may be available for housing.

Above: Panel members Olympia Mayor Doug Mah, former Olympia Mayor Bob Jacobs, Jerry Reilly, chair of the Olympia Isthmus Park Association and Senator Karen Fraser contribute their thoughts at the Olympia Isthmus Park Forum today.

Audience members addressed the panel and spoke as well, which resulted in a lively discussion.

One man questioned, "What is in the best interest of sustainability and the future of Olympia in terms of its economic vitality? Don't we need a wider view? (Olympia) has to be more than a museum! How about our sons and daughters and our grandchildren?"

The question played right into Mah's perspective, saying, "For some of my colleagues, sustainability meant increasing urban's a trade are taking away some of our ability - increased sustainability...." At this point the audience began saying "No, no, no..." and threw Mah off his train of thought.

Fraser stepped in saying, "I spent years as a local official...this is a case where we need to think of long-term trade-off vs. short-term trade-off. This is our equivalent of the National Mall in D.C. or Central Park..." Reilly agreed with Fraser.

Audience member Marie Cameron spoke next, saying she has been a resident for over 30 years and served on the Olympia Planning Commission for six years in the 1970's and served in a variety of planning positions until her retirement. She now lives in the county, outside the city limits, and feels disenfranchised from the process, and urged the county to step up and be a partner in the portion of property tax it collects.

Thurston County Commissioner Karen Valenzuela thanked Cameron for her productive suggestion. "The problem with Mah's proposal is that there's only one player at the table."

Representative Sam Hunt said, "It is difficult to be in disagreement with the city of Olympia because we live here too. This is an honest disagreement. We are an engaged's not for me, it's not for us, it's for our future."

Senator Karen Fraser's bill, ESSB 5800, will be heard by the House Local Government Committee on Wednesday, March 25, 8:00 a.m., currently scheduled to be held in JLOB Hearing Room E. This room only holds about 50 people and the hearing may be moved to a larger hearing room.

Above: Audience members get to see the historic proclamation against the rezone, signed by six former Washington state governors Rossellini, Lowry, Spellman, Locke, Gardner and Evans, and former Secretary of State Ralph Munro.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Isthmus Group Hosts BBQ - Forum on Saturday

Above: Senator Karen Fraser is offered some food by Lee Montecucco on the Capitol Campus today.

Members of several organizations working to promote ESSB 5800 held an informational barbeque on the Capitol Campus today. Bill sponsor Senator Karen Fraser and Representative Sam Hunt were in attendance, and chatted with supporters.

Above: Representative Dean Takko of Longview is briefed by Jerry Reilly, president of the Olympia Isthmus Park Association, regarding the impact of ESSB 5800 on the future of the isthmus.

Asked to comment on his conversation with Representative Takko, Reilly said, "I appreciated the interest that the Representative showed in the issue...many legislators and staff took the time to come and view the vista first-hand," Reilly said later.

The bill has been scheduled for a hearing in Representative Geoff Simpson's Local Government and Housing Committee on March 25, John L. O'Brien Building, House Hearing Room E, at 8:00 a.m.

Isthmus park supporters are keeping up the pace and are hosting an educational forum on Saturday, March 21st at First United Methodist Church, 1224 Legion Way, from 10:00 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. The public is invited.

Senator Karen Fraser, Olympia Mayor Doug Mah and Jerry Reilly, president of the Olympia Isthmus Park Association have agreed to be on a panel at the forum. Question and answer time with the panel will follow.

Above: Isthmus Cake

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Books, Budgets and Library Brawls

Above: Lest we forget what libraries are all about..."Sharing" sculpture outside Timberland Regional Library in Lacey. This boy is so busy "sharing" that he has been on the same page since 1993.

By Janine Gates

My most recent property tax statement says that I paid $68.21 to the Timberland Regional Library (TRL) system, so, after reading an article in The Olympian about TRL's upcoming town hall meeting, I thought I’d go learn more about their budget woes and why the recent library levy didn’t pass.

I love the library. I used to home school my kids and take out my limit of 200 books and videos at one shot. Before we went on our recent international trips, I checked out an equal number of books and videos to learn all I could in advance. I check out books every week. And no, I usually don’t bring them back on time.

According to the TRL Winter newsletter, TRL receives 89% of its revenues from property taxes. Most of the balance comes from taxes on harvested timber. With the decline in new construction and timber harvests, TRL faces a $1.5 million gap. TRL locations were visited almost 2.7 million times, and staff answered more than 500,000 reference questions. Cardholders borrowed almost five million items.

The meeting at the Olympia library on the evening of March 9 was a shock and an education.

TRL Board Executive Director Jodi Reng started off the meeting looking and sounding quite librarian-like. Dressed in a soft pink suit, she used an indoor, sing-song-y voice as if talking to children. But her preconceived agenda of polling the audience by a show of hands what they would be willing to pay extra for quickly started to run away from her and she soon turned as pink as her outfit. Good thing no children were present. She, and a few articulate audience members, would have knocked their socks off.

Reng wanted to explore options to the following questions: “To increase revenues, I would be willing to pay a fee for…,” and “To reduce costs, I would be willing to do without…,” however, audience members clearly did not want to be pigeon-holed into raising their hands to the polls without having more information.

"What kind of attempts have you made to cut costs?" yelled one man from the back of the room.

"What have we done? Goodness, we've done so many things..." Reng began, but she couldn't name any that didn't cut actual services.

A man stood up, paper in hand, and asked to speak.

Sit down Mr. Bragg!” Reng barked. “I don’t think anyone wants to hear a five minute talk.” The audience, aghast, protested her conclusion. Indeed, they wanted to hear from this elderly, kindly looking gentleman.

Reng pulled out her chair and huffily plunked down. He then identified himself as Mr. Kenneth Bragg, a former Timberland Library Board of Trustee, said he would hold his comments until the end. Internal politics appeared to be at hand here.

Judy Weaver, TRL board member and Michael Crose, TRL administrative services manager, were present.

The raucous evening, billed as a “town hall meeting,” was standing room only. The audience gradually stopped raising their hands as it became apparent people had deeper concerns on their mind and wanted to discuss what led the Timberland Library system into this budget crunch in the first place.

Audience members expressed significant problems with the execution and failure of the recent levy election, internal accountability and budget efficiency. The February ballot was expensive to produce and was offered to the voters at a time when there was no other reason for voters to pay attention. No voter’s pamphlet was offered to voters to educate the community about the proposed levy.

Many lobbied against the levy, not because they don’t love the library, but because they feel Thurston County is already shouldering most of the economic burden for the five-county library district.

The Timberland Regional Library system has a board of seven board members, appointed by the Thurston County Commissioners for seven year terms. Many feel these board members are not being properly accountable to the public because they are not elected, and the meetings are not televised on Thurston County Television (TCTV), like local city council and port meetings.

“What surprises me is the level of anger and angst,” one man said, who declined to identify himself later. “The library has to have a strategy for dealing with issues, opportunities for people to share their values - it would be an opportunity for dialog - to diffuse it in a cooperative manner….”

“That would cost money….” said Crose.

“Yes, that will cost money….” echoed Reng.

Many of the suggestions offered by the audience, such as offering a tea and coffee cart for donations and charging for overdue books, either appeared to be nickel and dime solutions or no-brainers, compared to the greater economic problem facing the library system.

Above: List of concerns include TRL practice of having state-funded meeting-dinners prior to board meetings.

A woman who identified herself as a former librarian was incensed with the purpose of the meeting. The woman, Susan Stringfield, later said she has been a librarian for 25 years and last worked for the Timberland library system four years ago. She reiterated that there are many, larger issues at play here that could have prevented this fiscal crisis in the first place.

“One of the issues that bothers me the most is that they have overspent the budget for the last two to three years. You don’t do that with government money. But the TRL Board rubberstamps expenditures….While I was there, I noticed a lot of problems - now I can’t even enjoy my library as a patron….” Stringfield said.

About the town hall meetings, Stringfield says the Board hasn’t even researched the cost of obvious funding options such as overdue fines, how much it would cost to implement and how much revenue that would generate.

“What did the most damage was taking away Sunday hours. That was a service people depended on….You know, we librarians have master’s degrees. We are professionals, and we have a creed to serve the public - we’re advocates,” said Stringfield, her voice rising with passion.

Eliminating Sunday hours at eight regional libraries and the telephone reference center saved TRL $150,000, according to the Winter 2009 TRL newsletter.

“That’s nothing,” says Stringfield. “Closing on Sundays hurt families and people who work. They (the TRL Board) didn’t even consider closing alternate Sundays, or possibly closing for a weekday evening. They could have been more creative…I don’t think they’ve acted responsibly….”

“Thurston County is very underserved…there are standards, and we’re not meeting them,” Stringfield concluded.

In between outbursts, many revenue producing ideas were offered: one girl said she would pay to take out DVD’s. Other ideas: fine for failure to pick up holds, and charges to use the computers and internet, charge for copies generated from the computers, charge for meeting room use, charge for a library card, charge for interlibrary loans, limit book checkout, charge for library programs, and more.

Reng suggested a fine for failure to pick up holds because, she said, each hold has to be handled 12 times to get to the end user. Suggestions included to limit the number of holds, or charge to ask for a hold. To some, it would appear that the TRL Board should examine and streamline the hold process.

With all the apparent problems and concerns with the economic imbalance Thurston County shoulders to fund the system, one man asked what it would take for Olympia to cede from the library system. Crose responded that it would go to the city council and take a ballot measure.

And what happened to Mr. Bragg? He was allowed to say his piece. His message included an educational account of the current TRL budget situation. “The budget crisis is a function of adding staff over a two year period by drawing on reserves, spending over $500,000 on a failed levy lid election and a recession which reduced new construction….”

Mr. Bragg covered budget suggestions, possible changes in the library’s administrative functions, library governance and internal TRL accountability issues, that if implemented, would help the library system in the long run.

Bragg mentioned legislation, HB 2200, sponsored by Representative Brendan Williams (D-22), and its companion bill, SB5999, that would provide representation on the TRL Board based on population, just as legislators represent their districts.

“Thurston County is the only one out of 16 counties…with over half the population of the district and less than half the votes on the library board. Passage of this legislation would help unify support for the Timberland Library. Thurston County has 57% of the voters in the TRL district so a more unified Thurston County would be crucial in any future election,” Bragg said. Both bills recently died in committee, March 12, without being heard.

Audience member Jim Lazar also came to the meeting prepared with budget and TRL governance suggestions. Lazar proposes to divide TRL into five separate county-wide library districts, each with trustees appointed by the county commissioners of that county. The current taxing authority of TRL would be dissolved and that taxing authority would be vested in the five county library districts.

With this scenario, Lazar believes it would be possible to pass a local one-county levy-lid lift, if the voters could be assured that all their increased taxes would go to providing library services in their county.

Eventually, the meeting concluded with Reng acknowledging that the Timberland Regional Library system could have done things better. “We as librarians don’t do politics much. We’re not as practiced as the schools are, for example. We probably could have done better,” Reng said.

“Well, I say, start learning!” said an unidentified guy from the back of the room.

Above: The TRL town hall meeting in Lacey on March 17 was much more civil than the one held in Olympia. Here, TRL Director Jodi Reng chats with Barbara Crane, board member of the Lacey Library. Crane says the Lacey library board meets once every couple of months to discuss issues specific to the Lacey library, such as theft, which is a significant problem. Crane says these meetings are open to the public.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Mayor Meets with Isthmus Group - Isthmus Bill ESSB 5800 Moves Toward the House

Above: Downtown Olympia, Budd Inlet and the Olympics

Olympia - With both parties making an effort toward finding common ground, Olympia Mayor Doug Mah met with about 20 people gathered at a meeting of the Olympia Isthmus Park Association on the evening of March 12. Mah, who said he had just eaten at the Olympia Oyster House with his wife, got right to the issue. Mah explained his new proposal to fund an isthmus park and Percival Landing and said, "We would like to capture the energy you have already started and build off of that base."

At the city council meeting on March 10, Mah proposed a plan to fund the isthmus park and Percival Landing by asking Olympians to approve a property tax levy. The levy, if approved, would cost the owner of a $250,000 home about $105 for a period of 20 years. The proposal, as it currently stands, does not include the critical parcels owned by Triway Enterprises.

Mah acknowledged that some people may be skeptical of his proposal. "We have a unique and unprecedented opportunity in what I proposed Tuesday night," Mah said. "We have an opportunity to address current city needs...and address a strong desire to see a park on the isthmus. It makes sense to move in an orderly fashion, east to west, instead of hopscotching around."

In response to a clarifying question, Mah said that his proposal is "west-parcel neutral" meaning, it does not take a position on, or include, the parcels owned by Triway Enterprises.

Mah was hopeful city voters would approve the tax, mentioning that the recent fire district and Timberland Library levies passed in Olympia by over 60% of the needed vote.

Meanwhile, SSB 5800 passed the Senate on March 5, moving closer to save the isthmus area from an Olympia city council approved rezone to building heights of 90 feet. The strong, bipartisan vote, from all regions of the state, was 36 yes, 10 no and 3 excused. Senator Karen Fraser of Olympia sponsored the bill and, with the help of statewide constituents, succeeded in impressing senators from all over the state that Olympia's views are worth saving and that the thin strip of land connecting east and west Olympia is a shoreline of statewide significance.

Now the bill goes to the House of Representatives, where it will be scheduled for a hearing in the Local Government Committee, chaired by Rep. Geoff Simpson, the week of March 22nd.

Mah said to the group last night that he does not support ESSB 5800. "Local control is a big issue. If Senator Fraser had wanted to raise the heights there, we (the city) would have been all over it." Mah also disputed the idea that the isthmus is a "shoreline of statewide significance," as stated in the bill. "The isthmus is has public infrastructure that goes all the way up the bridge."

Representative Sam Hunt was also in attendance. Hunt is sponsor of the companion bill to ESSB 5800 that did not get a hearing. Representative Hunt said he will be working with Representative Simpson to arrange two groups of panels to present the perspectives of both sides of the issue.

Gerald Reilly, Olympia Isthmus Park Association chair, asked Mah if a combination of private, public and state funding, including grassroots community philanthropy, could be blended to reduce the amount the city is requesting of its residents.

"It's possible, but the city doesn't have a good record for this. The Hands On Children's Museum is a good example of public and private funding because they address both education and conservation efforts, which is what funders like to see...."

Reilly is hopeful that more city-community interest group conversation will take place and that the Senate bill will pass the House. "Let's continue to extend the hand of cooperation and stick to our values," he told the group later, after Mah left. "The first thing that has to happen is an enlightenment of the city with our perspectives, and this is just the beginning of that...."

Above: Daffodil buds on the Capitol Campus signal Spring is coming.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Triway's Bellatorre Project: A River Runs Near It, Part II

Above: Beginning of the Inside Passage....Here the Deschutes River cataracts into Budd Inlet, the most southerly point of Puget Sound where ends the Old Oregon Trail, where Triway Enterprises prefers their proposed Bellatorre project on Capitol Boulevard in Tumwater.

by Janine Gates

On February 25, Tumwater Hearing Examiner Rodney Kerslake approved Triway Enterprises' conditional use permit for the Bellatorre project, a proposed mixed-use development, in which seven of the ten buildings are planned to be in excess of 50 feet in height.

In the consolidated hearing, Kerslake also ruled against citizens Erik and Marcia Kjesbu and Dave and Cathi Read, who appealed the City of Tumwater's issuance of an environmental mitigated determination of non-significance for the project. Their concerns related to environmental issues such as traffic, storm drainage and flooding issues, water quality impacts to the Deschutes River and nearby wetlands, and loss of territorial views by potentially hundreds of Tumwater Hill residents.

The four Tumwater residents, who met at a community meeting about the project in October 2008, spent months preparing for the appeal and represented themselves at the nine hour hearing held February 11 in the Tumwater city council chambers.

I interviewed Erik and Marcia Kjesbu recently about the experience:

What do you think of the hearing examiner's findings?
(Erik) I think we all feel the hearing examiner did a good job. I still somehow don't believe that the project is in line with the intent of the comprehensive plan to provide affordable housing and not adversely impacting surrounding property values and views.

(Marcia) A little disappointed that the Hearing Examiner didn't find a few items for the city or developer to consider.

Are you going to appeal?
(Erik) We would like to, however based on information supplied and TMC 2.58.150 an appeal must contain in writing all grounds on which error is claimed. I am not sure what we could claim as an error.

How do you feel about your efforts?
(Erik) It was definitely a learning process and we got to know Dave and Cathi and some other neighbors. It has taken a lot of time, energy and a price tag. I think we did a great job putting together the facts and presenting an understandable position for appeal. I am really kind of tired of the whole thing.... I just wish these issues could be settled somehow with a public vote.

(Marcia) I was grateful to hear the Hearing Examiner share that he thought this hearing was a "pleasant" experience. Our goal wasn't to stop the project but to keep the project on a smaller scale for our neighborhood, the Tumwater Valley and the area along Capitol Boulevard.

What have you learned throughout this process?
(Erik) Certainly about the appeal process. I always try to think the best about our government processes and have in the past believed that Tumwater City staff did a great job of representing the citizens of this fine city. Now I have to say I feel quite different about this. I have a feeling that in these tough economic times our city is looking for a quick fix and think this development will provide economic relief.

(Marcia) It is good to be prepared with specific/detailed information and information to back up one's perspective.

Under the Hearing Examiner's findings of fact number 10, about transportation, it says, "The new public street would conform to the alignment the City is planning for its cross-valley arterial." To me, it sounds like Triway is buying off the City to make this cross-valley arterial from Capitol Boulevard to Cleveland. Yes, the city may have this in their plans, but it doesn't mean it's in their budget unless they get the money from somewhere. Am I right?
(Erik) I would be willing to bet this might be the case here....

Under the findings of fact number 16, the Hearing Examiner says he has to speculate as to the project's likely effects on views, if any, on the project site. Erik, what do you think about this?
(Erik) Not true! As far as I know they only checked out our neighbor's house and ours for view issues. Again, 2nd Avenue is around 175 feet above sea level and 3rd Avenue average was around 225 feet above sea level. The buildings west across the freeway from us will be 238 feet above sea level. So draw a straight line there and guess what we will be looking at. Also, they are considering the tops of the trees at the project site to be the horizon and not the trees across the valley on Cleveland Ave.

Is there anything more you think you could have done?
(Erik) The rules and regulations definitely have a life of their own and so, in that sense, we have done what we could to this point. At least as far as I know, we have followed the process. We should appeal this decision to the Tumwater City Council, however, we need some guidance and not sure where we will get this. I am not sure everyone is willing to go ahead, however, I think since we have come this far we should take the next step and appeal to the council.

Do you plan to speak to individual council members?
(Erik) We had previously talked to two of the council members and one came to our house.

Have you considered selling your home, knowing your property values may go down now if this project is built?
(Erik) In my mind yes, however, I just wish we really knew what we will be looking at. We really like our little house on the hill and the sunrises over Mount Rainier, that big Ice Cream Cone.

(Marcia) Absolutely NOT. I won't allow a development to push me out of our house. I only wish the building heights would have stayed at the 50' limit the city has declared.

What should be done on the policy level of law-making to make requirements more stringent?
(Erik) The City needs to stick to its zoning codes so uniformity can be achieved.

Above: Triway Enterprises' developer Tri Vo, middle, looks at Bellatorre materials at a community meeting held with Tumwater residents on October 29, 2008.