Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Trillium Development Hearing Continues Next Week

by Janine Gates

The hearing for the proposed Trillium development in southeast Olympia continues next week. The hearing so far has taken up three evening meetings in June, each lasting about four and a half hours.

At the close of the third day of the hearing on June 29th at 11:00 p.m., Olympia Hearing Examiner Tom Bjorgen said it was clear that one more full day would be required to potentially conclude the hearing.

The hearing will reconvene July 22, from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., at Fire Station No. 1, 100 Eastside Street, Olympia, in the Training Room. No public comment will be taken. Public comment was already taken at two hearings, June 14th and June 28th. (For more information, see articles at

The city of Olympia is recommending approval of the Trillium development and has provided the applicant with a list of conditions it must meet for final approval.

Sensing the public's difficult feelings for the city staff's position on this development, deputy city attorney Darren Nienaber opened his remarks on June 28 by reminding the audience that city staff are simply carrying out zoning approved by the city council.

"Staff has no authority to question the council nor can city staff take a position that it (a project) is good or not. Our job is to determine compliance or not. That's it. Is there compliance or is there not?"

On June 28, witnesses for both sides testified to project details about school capacity, traffic, groundwater monitoring and drinking water resource protection.

The applicant presented a list of objections and clarifications to the conditions of approval, which were discussed. The attorney for DR Horton often reminded the city that the project is vested to 2005 standards and did not have to comply with the city's current, more stringent ordinances, including those involving public safety, such as providing automatic fire sprinklers in all single family dwelling units and townhouse units.

Above: Deputy City Attorney Darren Nienaber looks over the proposed development plans for Trillium with former Olympia city councilmember Karen Messmer at a hearing about the project on June 28.

On June 28th, the public was allowed to continue their testimony.

Karen Messmer, who served on the council from 2005 - 2009, and also served on the Olympia Planning Commission from 1995-2005, including four terms as chair, testified on behalf of Olympia Safe Streets. She took issue with the Trillium plans on the grounds that they do not conform to proper alternative transportation design and development standards put in place to implement the goals and policies of Olympia's comprehensive plan. She said that there appears to be a problem with the interpretation of the standards by developer and the city.

"The key policy here is that Olympia’s standards call for a gridded street network, on a 250’ – 350’ grid. Where streets are not provided at that network spacing criteria, we require that bicycle/pedestrian connections be provided in lieu of street connections...."

"This development has done a relatively good job providing connections within the development. There are streets, alleyways, and pathways provided, however, the proposed design utterly fails the standards for connections to the periphery of the development. This fails to serve the needs of current and future residents in and around the development to access transit, schools, services, or just go for a walk or visit to a neighbor," Messmer said in her testimony.

Above: If you see this sign in your neighborhood, you might want to call the city. This sign is near Log Cabin Road. The proposed Trillium project is so large that it will require, if approved, three classes of streets including major collectors, which would generate 3,000 - 4,000 daily trips.

County Concerns

The remaining portions of the consolidated preliminary plat and State Environmental Protection Act (SEPA) hearing were scheduled for July 22 to include only the conclusion of the city's case and the applicant's, DR Horton's, reply and rebuttal case.

However, last week, Cliff Moore, director of the Thurston County Resource Stewardship Department, contacted Bjorgen to request the presentation of information related to updated precipitation records for use in the flooding analysis; potential downstream impacts of increased stormwater volume on properties immediately north and south of Yelm Highway and suggested mitigating strategies, and the status of monitoring and maintenance of the Chambers Ditch to avoid an increase in flooding.

After considerable communications with all parties, Bjorgen says he will allow the new information to be presented at the hearing July 22.

In Bjorgen's email to all parties, Bjorgen stated that although the county should have presented the information during the public testimony portion of the hearing, "the subjects touched by the requested evidence go to the heart of...public health and safety....It hardly serves the interests of applicable law to ignore potentially valuable evidence simply to sanction the county for lateness...."

Bjorgen also stated that the potential value of the evidence is high and "when one considers the nature and size of the proposal, the years it has taken to develop and present it, and potential risks from a less than fully informed decision in these areas, it is clear to me that the interests protected by all applicable law, including those of fairness, would be damaged more by excluding the evidence...."

After the testimony is completed, then the hearing examiner may ask additional questions to items that may have not been answered and ask the applicant, city staff, or the public for a response to those questions. The examiner will decide this after the next hearing.

The hearing examiner will provide a recommendation on the development to the city. Ultimately, the final decision to approve or not approve the project lies with the Olympia City Council.

Chambers Lake Residential Hearing

In an update on another proposed development in southeast Olympia on 37th Avenue Southeast, near Trillium, a public hearing on Chambers Lake Residential will be held July 26, 6:30 p.m., in the Olympia City Council chambers, 900 Plum Street. This is a date change from previous information provided to the public.

The applicant, Triway Enterprises, is proposing a 40 acre subdivision for 153 dwelling units, including 52 multi-family units, 35 single-family townhomes, and 105 single-family detached homes with reduced setbacks.

City staff is recommending a denial of the application based on inadequate stormwater management and other reasons detailed in the city's staff report.

Hearing dates are subject to change. Contact the city for the latest information. For more information about the Trillium or Chambers Lake Residential projects, contact Brett Bures, (360) 753-8568, or Written statements may be submitted to the Olympia Community Planning and Development Department, PO Box 1967, Olympia, WA 98507-1967. Written comments must be received at or prior to the public hearing.

Above: Brett Bures, Olympia city planner, is buried under a few Trillium related papers at a recent hearing.