According to Keith Stahley, City of Olympia’s community, planning and development manager, it will initially take Ecology staff about three months to review the document to ensure it is complete according to a checklist provided by Ecology. After more public hearings and possible policy clarifications, Ecology could approve, suggest amendments, or deny the application. In any case, the city is expected to see the draft back in September of 2014.
“The owners are planning to replicate what the Oyster House looked like before it burned down,” says Ben Barnes, City of Olympia building inspector. “They’ll rebuild it back-to-back since the fire didn’t get to the back side. It’ll need a little structural upgrade, but that’s about it.”
MC Squared, Inc. is doing the structural work and piling improvements, design, and seismic upgrades.
"The building burned down to the concrete slab that was in place since 1920. We’ll be putting up new wood frame walls, and just finished designing two trusses that are similar to, but not identical, to the ones that were there. It will all meet current code, and restored close to the architectural design from 20 years ago,” said Mike Szramek of MC Squared. Asked about the stabilization of property, Szramek said the northeast corner will be stabilized to hold up that corner of the building.
A building permit to rebuild will go through the normal shoreline two-step process through the city and the Washington State Department of Ecology. As of this writing, plans have not been submitted.
According to the Oyster House website, the restaurant is the oldest seafood restaurant in the State of Washington. It is the old original culling house of the original Olympia Oyster Company, which was formed prior to 1900. For many years, the Olympia Oysters were culled after being barged in the basin immediately to the north of this building. As far back as 1859, Olympia Oysters were sent to San Francisco where gourmets would pay $20.00 per plate for them.
The original owners started a small seafood bar in the southeast corner of the building where Olympia Oyster Cocktails were served to patrons. In 1948, the restaurant started to evolve into a large scale operation with two or three additions. The current owners, Tom and Leticia Barrett, have operated the business since 1995.
According to the city of Olympia website, the Oyster House is listed on inventory lists by the City of Olympia but is not listed on any local, state or national historic register. Originally built in 1923, it is divided into two parcels.
According to Thurston County records, the total market value in 2013 was $62,604 for the intertidal zone. The owner and taxpayer for this parcel is listed as Oyster House Inc. Only $848.03 is due in taxes in 2013 for this parcel. The county assessor’s database lists no land or building for this parcel.
Olympia city manager Steve Hall confirmed that the tidelands to the east of the Oyster House restaurant do appear to belong to the Barrett’s and the city does not pay anything to use this intertidal zone area for public access. This is the portion of Percival Landing featuring a foot bridge connection along Budd Inlet, an area where The Sandman tugboat is usually seen.
Jones added, “I am glad that the Oyster House is committed to Olympia and intends to rebuild. This is a difficult time for any business to lose income. The reconstruction must be very disruptive to the staff who depend upon the restaurant for their paycheck. If there were a workable way for the business to relocate so they were not over the water, I would be interested. And if there were a workable way for them to make improvements to the shoreline in the process of rebuilding, I would be interested. But, I don't see that the city has the ability to make these things happen. Private business will pursue those things which make sense to private business.
During the most recent high tide event in December 2012, city staff and community members witnessed the forces of Budd Inlet covering the Oyster House’s parking lot with storm surge literally lapping at the outer walls of the restaurant, and waterlogging outdoor electrical outlets. This incident, measuring a 16.2 foot high tide, was not even the worst on record for this area.
A strongly worded portion of the city's Storm and Surface Water Utility section of the restoration appendix to Olympia's draft SMP
acknowledges that climate change will "considerably influence the kinds of restoration implemented, when it is implemented, and how successfully. Known influences of a change in climate have not been confirmed, but potential effects include longer periods of drought, increased instances of flooding, changes and shifts in plant and wildlife populations, reduced snow accumulations and melt and sea-level rise."
The council agreed late last month to get rid of zero setback incentives for developers to create more height if they added amenities such as trails, vegetation buffers, and make an effort combat sea level rise on the Budd Inlet side of the isthmus and Percival Landing.
Bayview’s deli is in the northwest corner of the building, closest to the water. It is so close, that during the high tide event in December 2012, the massive forces of Budd Inlet rose precipitously near to the back door of the deli portion of Bayview. Windows on the second floor of the Bayview deli overlook Percival Landing and Budd Inlet, making it a popular luncheon and informal meeting area for community members.
Stamm says the Bayview Thriftway deli does qualify as a restaurant, even though it is within the same building as the grocery store, (but) “this does not mean that if new, the entire building would qualify as a ‘water enjoyment’ use,” Stamm said, emphasizing the word ‘not.’ To be clear, Stamm clarified that putting a small ‘water enjoyment’ use, like a deli, inside a larger building wouldn’t allow a developer to place a large structure where it would not otherwise be allowed.
“Basically, I would say the city’s main responsibility would be to assure any reconstruction complies with the applicable regulations in their SMP and any other city codes, which may include the need for mitigation. Often times if structures are rebuilt to the exact same extent they existed before a fire or other disaster, jurisdictions don’t consider that to be an intensification - rather it’s a return to the baseline that existed before the disaster - and so they will not require mitigation.
As defined in the draft SMP, under Chapter 3.69, 18.34.850, “restoration is the reestablishment or upgrading of impaired ecological shoreline processes or functions. This may be accomplished through measures including, but not limited to, revegetation, removal of intrusive shoreline structures, and removal or treatment of toxic materials. Restoration does not imply a requirement for returning the shoreline area to aboriginal or pre-European settlement conditions.”
Implementation schedules for many projects in the downtown area are to be determined by funding availability and/or redevelopment.
The community will continue to pursue the delicate balance between human uses of our shorelines with environmental protection, but will we keep focusing on a goal of no net loss or will we begin to work toward environmental net gains?