Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Draft Drug Ordinance Covers All of Downtown Olympia


Draft Ordinance to be heard in Land Use this Thursday

By Janine Unsoeld
www.janinelittlehollywood.blogspot.com

A draft ordinance designating certain civic centers located in the city of Olympia and the area within 1000 feet of the perimeter of each civic center is being proposed as drug-free zones. The ordinance would add a new section to Olympia's municipal code.

These civic centers include the Hands-On Children’s Museum on Adams Street, the Washington Center on Washington Street, the Olympia Center on Columbia Street, Olympia City Hall on Fourth Avenue, and the Olympia Timberland Library on Eighth Avenue. A map indicating the areas shows that the entire downtown Olympia region is covered.

The draft ordinance will be heard on Thursday, February 20, 5:30 p.m., in the city’s Land Use and Environment Committee, at Olympia City Hall, 601 4th Avenue East.
The committee is chaired by Olympia city councilmember Steve Langer, and includes Councilmembers Jeannine Roe and Julie Hankins.
The draft ordinance, states, “…there is an increase in the consumption of illegal felony drugs, including methamphetamine and heroin….Drug-free zones will permit a potential enhanced sentence if a person is convicted of a felony drug offense in violation of RCW 59.50.401, 69.50.410, and 69.50.204, excluding marijuana leaves and flowering tops….”

The creation of the draft ordinance was a joint decision made between multiple agencies and departments within the city.  The police department worked with the city prosecutor, the Thurston County prosecutor, the Thurston County sheriff, the city manager’s office, the Community Planning & Development department, the parks department, and the public works department.
In response to several questions from Little Hollywood about the draft ordinance earlier this week, Olympia Police Chief Ronnie Roberts responded:
Little Hollywood:

I am not sure stiffer drug sentences are a deterrent to drug use or an ordinance will be helpful in guiding people where they choose to do drugs, do you? Perhaps this is one piece of an effort to "clean up" downtown?
 
The ordinance covers all of downtown. It sounds like the police would be doing their regular job to make arrests as needed, but the additional police time would come primarily after the arrest. If our police are able to do their part, and make the bust, have additional police time and court trial times been taken into consideration?
 
Has a potential enhanced sentence been discussed with city or county prosecutors? Is the Thurston County Drug Court involved in these discussions?
 
In the course of enforcing this ordinance, could there be an increased effort, or perceived effort, that police could stop and question/frisk people who look undesirable? I am not sure what our current police protocol is about this, but it's been an issue in other cities.
 
Olympia Police Chief Ronnie Roberts:
 
“The concept of creating drug free zones was an idea proposed by the county prosecutor several months ago when he and I were discussing a regional approach to address crimes downtown.  The RCW already identifies drug free zones and allows for local governing authorities to identify and designate civic centers as drug free zones. 
 
“The designation is not designed to eliminate drug crimes but can serve useful purposes.  It is part of a much broader strategy to reduce the impact of drugs in our downtown core.  It serves as a positive statement about what behaviors are acceptable and desired in our downtown and provides a way for the County Prosecutor to address chronic and repeated violations of drug crimes. 

“While the statute allows for enhanced penalties and some may be prosecuted under that context, it will help guide individuals into drug court and treatment through a criminal justice process.  It will also work to assist the prosecutor’s office in creating exclusion orders for individuals who are repeated committing felony drug crimes in downtown.  The prosecutor has committed one prosecutor to handle all downtown felony cases to ensure we are responding consistently.  She is also closely connected to the Thurston County narcotics task force. 
“The intention is to not prosecute every felony drug crime under this statute, we do not have the space to house every offender even if we wanted to but there are individuals who need treatment and the only likely way they will receive it is through an enforcement process. The city prosecutor has been involved in the drafting of the proposed changes to our municipal ordinance.

“The Olympia Police Department has made no changes to stop and frisk policies and will follow current laws.  There is a focused effort to change downtown and officers will be actively engaged in reducing crime downtown.  We are focused on criminal behavior not on social status.  We have two foot patrol officers assigned downtown who work with the Ambassador Program, Capital Recovery Center, Union Gospel, Sidewalk, Behavioral Health Services and many other services to address negative behavior that often stems from mental health issues and chemical dependency.”

Echoing Chief Roberts' response, Laura Wohl, public information officer for the city of Olympia police department, added: “The enforcement of the drug-free zones is really no different than the enforcement of the rest of our drug laws.  The drug-free zones add additional sentencing criteria for crimes that are committed within the zones that are drug-related.  In that sense, no additional enforcement is needed. 

“However, the illegal drug use has been growing downtown which is what has prompted a multi-prong response, including the drug-free zones.  Part of that response includes the addition of two walking patrol officers to our regular patrol complement.  One position was started in 2013 as a temporary position, but two full-time positions were funded in 2014.  In addition, we have emphasis patrols also occurring downtown. 

Emphasis patrols involve officers working on a specific issue for a particular amount of time.  For example, several officers might be assigned to patrol a known area of drug dealing over Friday and Saturday night when drug deals are expected to occur.

“As you note, the criminal justice system is greater than just the police.  Most drug crimes are felonies, meaning they will be prosecuted by the county prosecutor’s office.  The prosecutor has worked closely with the city in developing our drug-crime reduction strategies and is prepared to devote the resources necessary to prosecute drug crimes.  Any incarceration would occur at the Thurston County jail and the Thurston County sheriff, who runs the jail, is also on board.”
Thurston County Prosecutor Jon Tunheim is expected to be in attendance at the Land Use committee meeting. 
 

Tumwater Brewery: A Contract Brewery for Samuel Adams or Sierra Nevada?


Above: The brewery and the swollen Deschutes River as seen yesterday from Tumwater Falls Park.
 
Positive Prospects Emerge For Tumwater Brewery Property

 By Janine Unsoeld
www.janineslittlehollywood.blogspot.com

The last few years have been frustrating for Troy Dana, commercial real estate agent and property manager for the former brewery in Tumwater. Selling 800,000 square feet of cold, empty, dark and decrepit looking buildings is not easy, but recent prospects may be looking more positive.

No doubt, the removal of the covenant restricting production of alcoholic beverages at the property last June helped, but recent rumors brewing in the rainy South Sound air can now be confirmed to be based on truth.

In response to an inquiry from Little Hollywood, Dana offered tantalizing hope yesterday in exclusive interviews just before and during last night’s Brewery District Plan open house. A public hearing was held after the open house by the Tumwater Planning Commission and Tumwater city council.
 
“I can’t make a comment on specific companies, but several large brands are interested in the possibility of utilizing a contract brewery in Tumwater. It’s safe to say there are four that have expressed interest and would like to know more. I’m ready. It’s time.”

And no, it’s probably not MillerCoors time. The Miller days are gone, having blown the last whistle here in 2003, putting 400 people earning family wage jobs out of work.
 
Above: A Miller Brewing Company advertisement from a 2001 Lacey Thurston Chamber of Commerce membership directory.
 
Dana says the 31 acres involving the brew house and warehouse have been appraised at $16 million, and the building still has 300 barrel tanks, infrastructure, and plumbing to support a viable contract brewery here.

Dana says he receives, on average, about two inquiries a week about the property from around the world. Tumwater’s slogan, “It’s the Water,” comes from the production of beer since 1896 until 2003, with the exception of Prohibition.

In early February, Dana told the council that he is working with a developer from California who has redeveloped breweries and constructed breweries. The developer is reviewing the brewery property and considering the facility as a 250,000 barrel contract brewery.

Current Craft Beer Trends

According to the Brewers Association, a not-for-profit trade group, the craft beer industry is defined by four distinct markets: brewpubs, microbreweries, regional craft breweries, and contract brewing companies. Contract brewers hire underutilized but well-equipped regional breweries to produce a recipe with the contract brewer's own ingredients and formulas.

The Brewers Association tabulates production statistics for the U.S. brewing industry, and says that of the top 50 overall brewing companies, 39 are small and independent craft brewing companies.

“In 2012, craft surpassed six percent of the total U.S. beer market, with volume and dollar sales reaching record levels,” said Paul Gatza, director of the Brewers Association. “Increasingly, beer lovers are turning to craft brewed beer from small and independent producers to satisfy their thirst for bold, innovative and flavor-forward beers.”

The top five U.S. craft brewing companies based on 2012 beer sales volume are: 

1. Boston Beer Co. Boston, Massachusetts
2. Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. Chico, California
3. New Belgium Brewing Co. Fort Collins, Colorado
4. The Gambrinus Co. San Antonio, Texas
5. Deschutes Brewery, Bend, Oregon

Dana declined to comment yesterday when asked about a particular company or brand. Samuel Adams is an American brand of beer brewed by the Boston Beer Company and its associated contract brewers.

Sierra Nevada is based in California. According to an upcoming March issue of Forbes magazine, Sierra Nevada will host a participatory “Beer Camp Across America” traveling festival this summer to highlight its place within the broader craft-beer movement.
 

Other Offers

In early February, Dana also shared information with the Tumwater City Council about an opportunity that came and went last year.

He said he was contacted by a man representing a national company that provides short-term storage for vehicles for soldiers deployed overseas, who asked about the potential of utilizing the brewery warehouse and parking lot. The individual received a federal contract and faced a tight timeline on whether it could be used. The rate the company was prepared to pay would have been satisfactory for a developer to offset the cost of acquiring the facility.

Dana advised the individual that he didn’t believe it was possible under the interim zoning but contacted Tumwater city administrator John Doan and met with staff to explain the situation. City staff advised Dana that under the provisions of the interim zoning, the use wasn’t allowed. Dana had offered to meet with the council to request reconsideration of the request but learned the company had moved forward to select another site. He asked the council to consider exceptions to the interim zoning, which is mixed-use.

Dana said the situation was frustrating, because “it was the right opportunity for the right reason.”
 
Dana said one of the most lucrative, attention getting ideas he’s been approached about has been interest expressed by local and national marijuana growers to use the facility and use the beer tanks.

“I’ve been told they would be perfect, hermetically sealed vessels for growing marijuana.”

The budding pot market aside, Dana says his focus has always been to bring another brewery back to Tumwater. He even thinks the brewery could attract 500,000 barrel contract brewery.

Asked if the building wasn’t too old and decrepit, Dana said, “We need to find that developer with experience with mixed use, brew pub tasting, who knows how to redevelop a site, identify that developer, and introduce them to this opportunity....We need to find out what kind of market opportunities are out there, and face the realities of what we have. Given what we know today, a contract brewery makes a lot of sense.

“A contract brewery here would be a strong logistical advantage....Breweries ship their product from the East Coast, with plenty of transportation costs. The brewery is a complex site. It’s going to take a visionary to take the next step to mitigate the risk.”

Dana, a resident of Thurston County since 1973, says he’s lived through the cultural changes of the area and remembers when “your manliness was determined by how many beers you could drink in five minutes,” he says, laughing.

Dana has attended previous Brewery District Plan open houses. “They’ve been good, and create community involvement, but at the end of the day, it will take viable capital solutions. Until then, it’s still a lot of good ideas.”
He says Centralia and Port Townsend are great examples of communities with downtowns that have come back from the brink of economic decay.

“Their downtowns are remarkable. I went to Centralia in December for the Christmas Tractor Pull and thousands of people were lining the street at 7:00 p.m. to see 40 to 50 tractors decorated with Christmas lights. I held hands with my wife, drinking coffee, and at no point ever did we feel uncomfortable with the quality of people there.

“We’re at the tipping point…at some point, somebody has to step up and we’re going to turn this around. I have invested endless energy and countless resources trying to create an economic interest in this. There’s still extraordinary brand equity in that complex. Bring it back and you’ll have substantial community support,” said Dana.
 
video
Above: Proving It's Still the Water, the mighty Deschutes River runs through Tumwater yesterday afternoon. The former brewery is in the distance. The Falls Terrace restaurant can also be seen in the video.
 
Above: Close up of easel poster on display at last night's Brewery District Plan open house in Tumwater. The circles indicate proposed roundabouts.
 
For more information about Tumwater businesses, land use, environmental issues, or the draft Brewery District Plan, read other articles at Little Hollywood at www.janineslittlehollywood.blogspot.com and use the search button.


 

Tumwater Brewery District Plan Heard


 
 
Open House and Public Hearing held Tuesday night

By Janine Unsoeld
www.janineslittlehollywood.blogspot.com

The Tumwater City Council and the Tumwater Planning Commission held an open house and a public hearing Tuesday night regarding the Brewery District Plan in Tumwater. Both events were held at South Sound Manor.

The purpose of the Brewery District Plan is to guide future development to create a mixed-use district that supports a variety of businesses and residential uses. Strategies are proposed for improving the transportation system as well as the function and character of the historic center of Tumwater.

The themes presented in the Brewery District Plan offer to create a stronger sense of place, improve transportation options, safety and access, expand and preserve economic opportunity and activity, and improve the function and appearance of the built environment.

The city has held several open houses, which have all been well attended, with between 125 – 200 people in attendance at each meeting. City of Tumwater planner Tim Smith said that 6,000 people are on their Brewery District Plan mailing list, 1,500 are on the email list, and staff has met onsite to interview 50 business owners.

A focus group of 16 citizens, business, and property owners, community leaders, and elected officials have met over the past year to process the information. The Thurston Regional Planning Council and consultants have assisted in the process, which began in 2012.

The city hosted an open house at the same location prior to the public hearing. Easels with posters were set up around the room explaining land use alternatives, transportation and gateway elements, pedestrian and bicycle improvements, and transit and parking strategies.

Little has changed since the last public open house held in October. The draft plan was revealed in late January.

Transportation patterns in Tumwater have changed dramatically in the last 15 – 20 years. Much of it is generated from outside the area and much of it is pass-through traffic. When people take the bus, they often use the transit station on Cleveland Avenue near Safeway.

Dennis Bloom, planning manager of Intercity Transit, mingled with community members during the open house and stayed for the hearing. Bloom lives in Tumwater, where he says he does 90 percent of his shopping. When asked, Bloom explained the transit element, illustrated by a poster on an easel.

“At the transit station, four routes come together on Cleveland - #43 to the Westside, #68 to Lacey, #12 to neighborhoods and downtown, and #13 along the Capitol Way corridor. The plan is to move the transit station to Capitol Way…in its current location, the sidewalk doesn’t currently accommodate people, it’s not wide enough. It’s the busiest area in Tumwater.” Bloom said 300 – 400 people are served per transfer at that transit center.

Before the hearing, Sally Nash, chair of the Tumwater Planning Commission, said that the District Plan materials have been educational. A resident of Tumwater for 19 years, Nash is the retired manager of the Timberland Library in Tumwater.

“I’m very proud to be a Tumwater resident. The Plan is wonderful and exciting for the area, and quite futuristic. I don’t see it happening immediately. We’ve had tremendous input from the public….we have an involved citizenry.”

Tumwater residents Nick and Jaime Vann said they have come to several open houses. Looking over the easel information, Nick Vann said, “This is what it could be, but there needs to be incentives for developers. We have a lot of underused and inefficient areas, transportation-wise in particular. There’s currently no sense of place either. It’s important to get community buy-in so if we have to vote on any of this, then we know more. We’re homeowners – so we’ll be paying for it.”

Before the hearing, Mayor Pete Kmet and staff gave a 45 minute history of the draft Brewery District Plan, and said that the plan lays the foundation for future efforts.

“There’s money in the budget for the next level of planning, but we’re a long way from construction,” said Tumwater Mayor Pete Kmet at the beginning of the hearing.

Public testimony covered a diversity of topics. Despite the ongoing publicity, open houses and meetings, some business owners were caught off guard with the Plan’s proposals.

Dan Vavrinec, general manager for Falls Terrace restaurant, said that initial flyers did not include the restaurant in the focus areas discussed. The restaurant has been in Vavinec’s family since 1969. His concerns were around the loss of parking in both options.

“Proposed changes…to Deschutes Way would be devastating and without doubt cause the closure of the Falls Terrace.” He said that option 1 would remove 50 parking spaces, and option 2 would remove 28 spaces, and both would place parking farther away. “Either option 1 or 2 would mean the loss of an area icon and the loss of employment for 42 persons.”

Vavrinec said that the current parking area is used and shared by Tumwater Falls Park in peak season, many community events such as the Duck Dash in June, and nearby businesses. He offered alternative proposals and improvements to the area.

Lonnie Lowe, Tumwater Chiropractic Center, and Larry Weaver of The Valley Club supported Vavrinec’s testimony, and added their own concerns.

“The reality is, when you change parking, it’s detrimental to business. People drive to where they want to go….urban centers haven’t taken off as much as people would like them to. When I go to downtown Olympia, if I have to circle the block a few times, I go to the mall. People with bad backs don’t ride their bikes….” said Lowe.

Weaver said The Valley Athletic Club has 11,000 members, and while the District Plan was an interesting concept, re-routing traffic and changing parking would present difficulties for the club and the Tumwater golf course.

Chris VanDaalen said that he appreciated the community process and said that the proposed zoning code amendments would provide a good opportunity for Tumwater to become a carbon neutral community, and a model for energy efficiency. He encouraged the use of renewable resources, being mindful of building orientation, and solar options to achieve net zero energy usage.

Bob Jacobs, a member of the Governor Stevens neighborhood, expressed concern about the general commercial zoning in the Sunset triangle neighborhood area, saying there was no buffer between the triangle and residential area. He also urged that as the area becomes more dense, to not forget parks for green space.

Sandra Brown, Capital Council of the Blind, said she appreciated the audible signals in the area, but had concerns about safety on Cleveland at the Intercity Transit transfer station.

“Right now we need to cross Cleveland…it’s very dangerous – you take your life in your hands. I’ll have the same concerns if it’s on Capitol Way.” She suggested the closure of the area around Safeway on Cleveland from the inside of both driveways into Tumwater Square, so that cars can’t access the area in the middle of Cleveland. Brown said this suggestion has been brought up before but didn’t make it into the final draft proposals.

Jack Horton, president of the Woodland Greenway Trail Association, said that the Plan presents a huge transformation to the area. “Pedestrians and bicyclists are the indicator species of a community’s values…it’s face-to-face instead of windshield-to-windshield. We have a growing knowledge-based economy, and what’s going to happen is, those people are going to select the kind of community they want to live in….and Tumwater has some iconic treasures….”

Walt Jorgenson, a former Tumwater city councilmember, asked that the council exercise caution about the nature of their investments. “If the private sector isn’t doing it, then there might be a reason for it…pick and choose elements of the plan that may be better than another.”

Stewart Hartman said he’s lived in Tumwater “since the town had a population of 800 people”, and that his father was hired to work for the brewery by the Schmidt family. He’s been working on an ambitious proposal to convert the brewery into an international cultural center, an environmental center, a day care center, a small vendor’s ‘world’s fair’ type of program, and restaurant, describing his plan as “a major co-op where everyone owns it and the profits can to redistributed to everyone in the county…it’ll have something for everyone.”

Judy Bardin appreciated the Plan’s visuals, and urged that the commission and the council maintain historic views. She also expressed concerns about putting people near traffic as the area becomes more densely populated, saying that health research indicates that there are adverse health effects such as childhood asthma, and that light pollution and noise from traffic causes hypertension and sleep disturbances.

The planning commission will consider all comments, make modifications to the Plan, and make recommendations to the city council. They will meet for work sessions to discuss the Plan on February 25 and March 11. A recommendation from the commission to Tumwater city council is expected in March.

Copies of the draft Brewery District Plan are available for review  in the Community Development Department at Tumwater City Hall, 555 Israel Road SW, Tumwater, during regular business hours, or online at www.trpc.org.