Thursday, June 24, 2010

School District Says: No Capacity in Southeast Olympia for Trillium

Above: Where the Sidewalk Ends: These girls have just a little bit more sidewalk ahead of them. Will they: a) turn right and run along the track on Washington Middle School grounds, b) risk crossing Boulevard, the street to their left, where cars often whiz by, much faster than the posted speed limit or c) continue straight, and choose to walk in the bike lane on the same side on the street, perilously close to cars. Answer: The girls ran onto the track to join friends.

by Janine Gates

A hearing on June 14 for a proposed development called Trillium in southeast Olympia prompted some alarming public testimony and questions about nearby school capacity issues.

The hearing examiner, Tom Bjorgen, asked city planner Brett Bures to bring a representative of the Olympia School District to the next hearing to answer questions.

The next Trillium hearing will be on Monday, June 28, 6:30 p.m., at Olympia City Hall in the council chambers. The hearing is a continuation of the first one, which ended at 11:00 p.m. due to time considerations.

A master planned development proposed by DR Horton, Trillium would consist of 500 single family and multi-family dwelling units bordered by Morse-Merryman Road Southeast, 40th Ave, and Highline Drive. The preliminary plat would subdivide the 80 acres into 313 residential lots.

In a letter dated April 15, 2010 to Cari Hornbein, senior planner for the city of Olympia, Olympia School District's (OSD) supervisor for capital planning and construction Tim Byrnes, states, "The District has no capacity for any students who may be generated by this large development. Therefore, we will bus students from this development to either Madison or Garfield Elementary School, until a new school is built to serve the students residing in the proposed Trillium development."

The letter concludes, "The District would like to suggest that owners of developments in the Southeast portion of Olympia consider land be provided for a future elementary school that could meet capacity needs."

In an interview, Byrnes acknowledged that he will likely be asked to testify at the hearing examiner's meeting on June 28, to answer Bjorgen's questions about school capacity issues. His letter to the city says the elementary, middle and high schools currently serving the proposed project's area, as well as two other local elementary schools, are over capacity.

Despite a population growth in Olympia over the past several years, overall enrollment has remained stable, hovering right around 9,000 students for the past several years within the school district, says Byrne.

Asked specifically about the proposed southeast Olympia developments such as Trillium, Chambers Lake Residential, and Bentridge, Bryne said that he knew about the hearing examiner's public hearing on Trillium on June 14, but had to attend a school district meeting.

"A few years ago, Trillium and Bentridge really concerned us because McKenny and Centennial (elementary schools) are over capacity. There's not even room for more portables. There's a little capacity at Pioneer, but with Briggs going in, perhaps next year they will reach capacity."

Byrne said, "One of my concerns is that the Boulevard/Yelm Highway interchange is a mess in the morning and afternoon. I can't imagine what it will be like with 1000 homes - 2000 additional vehicles. I don't see how the existing road can deal with the additional traffic."

The district also submitted a letter to the city in 2007 regarding its concerns with Trillium. It requested various off-site improvements in order to provide safe-walking routes to McKenny Elementary School, located on Morse-Merryman Road.

Above: The T-intersection of Boulevard and Morse-Merryman Roads at a quiet moment.

Bryne says he calculated numbers for the Bentridge and Trillium developments a couple of years ago and estimated that they would generate about 160 total new students for each development. Each development is similar in size. The type of proposed housing is important to consider when making these calculations.

"We have predicted that the number of students generated might be reduced because of the economy. We are getting more families in apartments than in single family dwellings," says Byrne.

For Bentridge, in the proposed single family dwellings, Byrne calculated the development would generate 55 elementary school students, 32 middle school students, and 46 high school students. Numbers for the multi-family dwellings within Bentridge came out to 16 elementary students, three middle school students, and nine high school students.

School Capacity Options

When schools are over capacity, the district has a couple of options: change boundaries to shift students to those schools where there is additional classroom space or new schools can be built.

Byrne says that each year, the district monitors new housing as well as developments that are in the permitting stage, as part of their capital facilities planning process. The district's facilities advisory committee met a couple times a month last year to stay on top of all the proposed southeast Olympia developments.

"We came to realize with all the developments, we will need a new school or move boundary lines to include Madison," said Byrne. Students from McKenny could be bussed to Madison, located on Legion Way. Madison Elementary School is currently under capacity.

Byrne says the Olympia School District will be initiating a review of its current school service areas and boundary lines in the fall.

The other solution is to build new schools.

"We are currently in the planning phase for a bond proposal for voters to consider in 2012. That would likely address the longer term capacity needs for students living in the southeast part of the district as well as other service areas," says Bryne.

"It's really difficult the way the housing market is - it's flat now but we could be in a pickle."

Building new schools requires approval by voters. As a result, the district has historically taken a cautious approach to capital construction, building new schools or adding classrooms.

"I recently reviewed some older student growth projections for 2010 that were done several years ago. Those projections put us at several thousand students beyond where we are currently. Obviously, if we had built schools based on those older projections, we would have a lot of empty buildings right now. We will continue to monitor potential developments like Trillium as well as others that are planned in this area to make sure we have capacity to serve those families who reside in the Olympia School District. We will need to build a new elementary school in the southeast area sometime," says Byrne.

Asked to comment on where this land might be, Bryne said that the Olympia School District owns land at the site of the former McKinley elementary school on Boulevard, where Eastside Pre-School currently sits, and land next to Centennial Elementary School.

Above: Olympia School District property at 12th Avenue SE and Boulevard could be the site of a future school.

Olympia High School

At the June 14 Trillium hearing, several current students or former students of Washington Middle School and Olympia High School, including a parent, testified regarding overcrowding issues at both schools.

Testimony included the serious allegations of students having to sit on the floor to eat lunch at Olympia High School. At Washington Middle School, a student testified that food was not available for those who ate at the third lunch period.

Asked to comment on this testimony, Olympia High School Principal Matt Grant did not want to directly dispute the student's testimony that students sit on the floor during lunch period.

"There is some element of truth to the comment. This is true especially at the beginning of the year when we're just getting settled. Students like to sit in groups, and they like to sit all together. If there isn't room for all of them to sit together, they will sit in a group on the floor. And if it's raining, it does get crowded....As the weather warms up, more students choose to sit outside, and that leaves more room for students to sit all together at the tables in the lunchroom."

As for the possibility a third lunch period, Grant says, "We're weighing that option right now. It really tears up your fourth period and brings with it a host of trash and supervision issues."

Washington Middle School

Regarding the comment by a Washington Middle School student that there is no food available at the third lunch period, Peter Rex, communications director for the Olympia School District, said that school principals typically monitor the food situation very closely and immediately bring concerns to the district.

Rex consulted with Peter Flock, the school district's food director, who said he has never heard of a lack of food in the twenty years he has been in the position. The district offers two or three entree choices. Flock suggested that perhaps the student's entree choice was not available by the third lunch period, but other options were available.

Students who have concerns about any issue are encouraged to speak with the principal of the school, say both Grant and Rex.

Washington Middle School principal Pat Robinson did not return phone calls to comment on this topic this past week.

Chambers Lake Residential Hearing Date Change

The hearing date for the proposed Chambers Lake Residential development has been changed to July 26, 6:30 p.m., at the Eastside Fire Station at 100 Eastside Street, off of Fourth Avenue.

The applicant, Triway Enterprises, proposes to develop the 40 acre parcel into 221 dwelling units. City staff has recommended a denial of this application based on the applicant's inadequate storm water design standards to deal with the southeast Olympia area's high groundwater levels. Other reasons are detailed in the city's staff report.

For more information about Chambers Lake Basin related developments, see the June 15 article, "Citizens Speak Against Trillium Development at Hearing," at

For more information, and to confirm the latest information, as hearing dates often change, contact Brett Bures, City of Olympia City Planner, at (360) 753-8568 or or go to the City of Olympia website at

Above: A sign like this means Something Is Going To Happen. Pull over carefully and check it out, or if that's not possible, contact the city of Olympia for more information. This sign, announcing the proposed Trillium development, is on Morse-Merryman Road, across from Sugarloaf Street.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Who Advises The Port of Olympia?

Above: The Port of Olympia's logyard at the 60 acre Marine Terminal on Budd Inlet. The Port of Olympia owns and operates the Marine Terminal, Olympia Regional Airport, Swantown Marina and Boatworks, and various real estate holdings, including the New Market Industrial Campus in Tumwater.

by Janine Gates

The Port of Olympia met in a special session Monday with their advisory committee to review the work of the group, called the Port Advisory Committee (PAC).

The PAC, composed of 12 volunteer citizens, was formed in 1994 as an outcome of the Port's strategic planning process and provides advice and assistance to the Port Commission on a variety of issues and projects.

At Monday's meeting, the group produced a report of its year long study regarding the New Market Industrial Campus Development near the Olympia Airport. Four out of twelve of the PAC were in attendance.

The New Market area is owned by the Port and is a mixed-bag of potential opportunities, depending on economic variables, regulations pertaining to threatened species such as the pocket gopher, and wellhead protection zones. The property is characterized by high groundwater and is served by two watersheds, Salmon Creek and the Deschutes River.

Above: The New Market area looking from Airport Road and 76th Avenue.

In general, the group told the commissioners that the property is a Catch-22 situation: is it worth the money to fix the problems to attract investors or do nothing, and take a "wait and see" approach.

Commissioner Jeff Davis, a former PAC member, thanked Cosmillo for the information, saying, "I understand that the PAC can't make a recommendation - I appreciate the amount of time you put into it. I hope we can make a decision in the next couple years and not let it just fall stagnant."

"The market is starting to heat up. We want to be ready. We can start moving this forward - we need to start looking at the next step, like scheduling a meeting with the Salmon Creek Neighborhood Association," said Commissioner Bill McGregor.

Commissioner George Barner agreed, replying, "I'm sure they'll have strong opinions and concerns. I was impressed with their level of engagement (in the past) so we should be availing ourselves of their knowledge before we head down the road of development....There's so much sensitivity about how viable this area is - what is a valid method to dispose of it (groundwater)? What are the costs? How much can we pump into this property to make it viable?"

"If you don't do anything, you don't know how viable this property is," said PAC member Don Melnick.

PAC chair Lisa Cosmillo, a real estate broker, said, "It's a Catch-22. A lot of tenants won't come unless everything's there (in place)."

Meeting minutes on the Port website say that the group held a public hearing about the issue in January, but no one showed up. Regarding public engagement, the report says, "If development is given serious consideration, the Port should engage the nearby residential community in preliminary discussions. It is better to involve critics early on since they will likely be involved ultimately."

Salmon Creek Basin Neighborhood Association

Throughout the New Market report, the public, including the Salmon Creek Basin Neighborhood Association, is described as "critics." Concerns have been primarily increased air traffic and environmental issues related to eliminating native forest. According to the Salmon Creek Basin Neighborhood, there are fewer than 200 forested acres remaining in Tumwater on land owned by the Port of Olympia.

Although the commissioners and the advisory committee readily mentioned engaging the nearby neighborhood in its discussions, E.J. Zita, vice-president of the association, was cautiously optimistic about their sincerity. No representative of the group was present at the meeting.

Asked to comment on the report and the invitation to participate in future conversations, Zita said, in a telephone interview, "We would love to be part of the planning process - we've tried to for years and feel like we've been excluded. This area affects our homes and our lives, and the safety of children in our neighborhood, including Bush Middle School."

Zita says that the Port owns Kimmie Street, and started to develop the land five years ago for mega-warehouses.

"We didn't have an association then. The city of Tumwater estimated that if the projects the Port wanted went through, there would be an estimated 12,000 trucks per day on the roads in our neighborhood. The city worked closely with us and restricted the size of the warehouses and the distance from the school. We're grateful to the city for protecting us from the Port of Olympia. The port was not interested in the health and safety of our neighborhood. They chose not to have an open dialog at that time."

"But the threat had a positive outcome. Now we're well organized and can work together to meet challenges if necessary. I hope that won't be necessary," Zita added.

Zita says she applied for a position on the port advisory committee when it was first formed and was not chosen. She was later invited to be a member, but the offer was rescinded.

"The port has found ways to reduce public input over the years and has traditionally not been forthcoming. I have spent years attending port meetings, trying to work with them, but I have not found that effort has been productive," said Zita.

The Port Advisory Committee (PAC)

According to the Port website as of last week, current Port Advisory Committee members are Joseph Downing, Riley Moore, Darlene Kemery, Joe Raudebaugh, Rodney Edgbert, Len Trautman, Jim Wright, Keith Laws, Don Melnick, Kevin Partlow, Clydia Cuykendall, and Lisa Cosmillo.

Lisa Cosmillo says she used to work with the Economic Development Council and is most interested in job development and real estate. She just handed over the chair position to Riley Moore in Monday's meeting. She will stay on the committee.

According to Kathleen White, Port media relations director, Kemery, Raudebaugh, Edgbert, and Trautman have just finished their terms. Interviews have been conducted for their replacements. Twelve applied and were interviewed by Commissioner Jeff Davis, Port Director Ed Galligan, and Lisa Cosmillo. Each term is four years. The new members will be announced on June 28 at the port's regular meeting.

The Future of PAC

At the end of the meeting, Cosmillo gave Commissioner Barner a list of ideas the PAC could explore for what to do next. Historically, the Port points the PAC in a particular direction and the PAC reports back to the Port on their findings.

It would appear that the group is still trying to find its purpose and trying to be more proactive.

In a quote from the memo, a PAC member states, "Since the PAC is officially a public advisory body itself, and since meaningful public input is what the Port seeks, I wondered if the PAC might in this instance be a more credible source to the Commissioners than staff in recommending how more meaningful public input might best be obtained. I think the PAC could undertake a learning process to determine what kinds of public input processes, in addition to formal hearings, are used elsewhere and why. We could reach out to nearby public bodies to learn what kinds of processes they are using and how well they are working. We might even reach out to public involvement professionals and the like to help us understand better what works and what doesn't."

The list includes suggestions and comments from individual PAC members including topics such as the shoreline management plan update, sea level rise, earthquake risks, military shipments, and public access to the port.

McGregor says public involvement was high on his list.

Davis and Barner agreed. Barner said, "I'd like to see us look at Northpoint - that's an imminent discussion."

"I'd like to offer our services soon. We're going to have a dynamite PAC this year - it's going to be hard to choose. I wish we can keep them all," Cosmillo said.

Davis asked Moore if it was possible to have more than one project going on at a time. This seemed possible if they divide into subcommittees.

Davis said, "The port's direction should be outside Olympia, I just don't know where that is. It's one of those things the chambers and the Economic Development Council players could get involved with. Bringing jobs to Thurston County - that's a long-term commitment."

Jim Wright, a former port commissioner, agreed but said, "We would need specific direction from the commission."

Above: Port of Olympia Commissioner Jeff Davis volunteered at the Wounded Warriors event today at the Olympia Regional Airport. Here, Davis serves Army Specialist Steven Ferrick, a transportation truck driver, who was wounded in February by an improvised explosive device (IED) in Afghanistan.

The event, now in its third year, is a partnership between the Washington State Patrol and the Port of Olympia to honor and appreciate our wounded servicemen and women. Davis, a longshoreman, served salmon, rice pilaf, bread and chowder donated by the Alaska Scallop Association.

Above: An F-18, "The Legacy", in town for the Olympic Air Show this weekend, gets gassed up at the Olympia Regional Airport today. According to AD2 Rodriguez of the US Navy, left, the plane holds 10,000 pounds of gas, which is about 1400 gallons. It goes 1.8 mach, about 1400 miles per hour.

The Port Website

In an interview later, Kathleen White admitted that the port website is lacking in information. While doing research for this story, this reporter saw that four PAC meetings were held in 2009, and no meeting minutes for the PAC were posted since January, 2010. That meeting convened for nine minutes. The last PAC meeting agenda posted is for February 24, with no minutes from that meeting available. From the website, it would appear that no meetings have been held since.

This is not true, according to White.

"We had a staff member go on maternity leave and some things have slipped through the cracks. As a matter of fact, we just put out a RFP (Request for Proposals) today to update the website," White said on Monday. "We ourselves have a hard time finding things - we need professional help with it." The website should be updated by the end of the year, she said.

The next Port of Olympia meeting will be Monday, June 28, 5:30 p.m., at Tumwater City Hall.

The next PAC meeting has not been scheduled.

Update on Cascade Pole

At Monday night's Port meeting, the commissioners approved the expenditure of just over $1 million for in-house costs to pursue the capping of Cascade Pole. A contract was awarded of $678,353.06 to PI Resources, LLC to do the actual capping work. Future costs will include post-construction monitoring and reporting.

According to the port, the capping project will excavate contaminated soil from the approximately one acre area outside of the slurry wall containment wall; test the in-place soils, and backfill with clean soils. A shoreline walking trail will be built to connect to the existing trail. The remaining area outside of the slurry wall will be secured in preparation for future development.

The excavated soils from outside the containment wall will be placed inside an approximately one acre area inside the slurry wall, then the grade compacted and capped with an asphalt cap which will include the required storm water systems.

Construction will occur June 26 through October 31.

The bid process for the job was advertised from May 11 to May 26. Bids opened on June 3, the same day as a community event with port and state department of Ecology staff was held. Many in the audience at that meeting expressed opposition to asphalt capping.

According to Rick Anderson, the port's engineering director, the bid included the Port's request to do a partial asphalt cap over the contaminated soil inside the slurry wall.

"We are going for unrestricted use for the area outside the slurry. We will be digging down 18 inches and putting in clean fill. The port has determined that an asphalt cap is the safest possible cap for the area inside the slurry wall."

For more information about the Port of Olympia, call 528-8000 or go to Commission meetings are televised by TCTV and broadcast on cable channel 3 on Wednesdays at 7:30 p.m. and Thursdays at 12:00 p.m.

For more information about port issues on this blog, go to and use the search button.

Above: The Cascade Pole area in early June.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Foundation Seeks Isthmus Park Funding

Above: View of the isthmus area and the "Mistake on the Lake" from the Washington State Law Enforcement Officer's Memorial on the Capital Campus.

By Janine Gates

The Olympia Capitol Park Foundation is now raising funds to acquire a portion of the isthmus between Budd Inlet and Capitol Lake for a public park.

Foundation representatives say a park located at the property between Fourth and Fifth Avenues would protect and improve the water and mountain views from and to the State Capitol campus.

“We believe that this vision for Olympia can be achieved through the combined efforts of private local contributions, support from private funding sources outside of Olympia, and governments,” says Jerry Reilly, chair of the Olympia Capitol Park Foundation.

The idea for the park emerged after Triway Enterprises applied to the Olympia city council to rezone the isthmus to permit development of high-rise condominiums.

The idea for the park was not just to oppose the high-rise buildings, says Reilly, but to support a different and better vision for the isthmus. The goal was and is to protect and improve the views to and from the Capitol campus. This goal has been supported by thousands of Olympia residents and six former Washington State governors.

A citizens' initiative gathered over 5000 signatures and led the city council to conduct a feasibility study that found that a park on the isthmus was possible. Earlier this year, the new Olympia city council voted to restore the prior zoning and 35 foot height limit for the area.

A final resolution to the development, however, is still in doubt. Triway Enterprises believes it has a "vested" right to proceed under the rezone that was briefly in place during 2009. Reilly says he believes that the project is not "vested" and that the original re-zone was not legal.

“The only way, however, to assure that the views will be preserved forever is to move the land into non-profit or public ownership. We need to demonstrate to the city council, other potential government and private partners, and lenders who may be ready to provide bridge financing, that the people in the Thurston County community are willing to invest in the park proposal,” says Reilly.

The Isthmus and the Parks Plan

At Tuesday night's Olympia city council meeting, Jonathan Turlove, associate planner with the city Parks and Recreation program, gave councilmembers an update on the city's draft 10 year parks plan. The plan is updated every six years and is expected to be adopted by early September.

The draft plan contained no reference to a possible isthmus park, however, based on public feedback, a paragraph about it has been added. The paragraph simply states that the city supports the concept of a non-city funded isthmus park.

After Turlove's report, Councilmember Buxbaum took issue with the reference, saying, "I'm a little concerned with the way the wording is....The isthmus is a property that's been of great interest to a lot of people in the community. I would be in favor of recommending, or tweaking, the language that puts it in clearer standing representing community interests, such as a foundation taking the lead in creating a public/private partnership for development."

New councilmember Steve Langer agreed with Buxbaum, saying that he supports efforts already in play.

A public hearing on the parks plan will be held July 13, 7:00 p.m., during the council's usual meeting at Olympia City Hall. The final parks plan will be incorporated into the Parks chapter of Olympia's comprehensive plan, which is currently being updated.

Foundation Goals

The foundation has set an initial goal of raising two million dollars in contributions and pledges by the end of this year. Contributions are deductible for federal income tax purposes.

“We have a shorter term goal of raising $100,000 by August in order to have the funds that may be required for the execution of a purchase agreement with the support of bridge financing. We need contributions for both Foundation operating costs and property acquisition costs,” says Reilly.

Any fund balance from contributions made specifically for property acquisition would be returned to contributors in the event that they are not able to use the funds for the intended purpose. Pledges are intended to be redeemed over time, when needed for property acquisition.

Checks can be made payable to the Olympia Capital Park Foundation (OCPF) and sent to: P O Box 1964, Olympia, WA 98507. Pledges may be submitted by email to the Foundation Treasurer, Bob Thomas at

Olympia Capitol Park Foundation Vision Statement

The following is the Olympia Capitol Park Foundation Vision Statement:

Our vision is to preserve and protect the views to and from America’s most magnificent state Capitol Campus by working to develop the Olympia Isthmus as a great public space.

Vision Plan

- To protect the parcels of land on the Isthmus between Fourth and Fifth Avenues and the Heritage Park Fountain and the Deschutes Spillway by acquiring the land as a non-profit foundation with the goal of transferring the land to state or city ownership at the earliest opportunity.

-To remove the nine story “mistake by the lake” building and other blighted buildings on the parcels as soon as possible.

-To immediately beautify the area as a green space.

-To enter into a planning process with the community as to how to develop the area in the best possible way as a dynamic focal point for community activities. Many ideas have already been suggested including a wooden boat building exhibit, a Native American wood carving exhibit, a salmon festival facility, a merry-go-round, and even a heritage library.

-To consider the possibility of incorporating features on the Isthmus that could serve as part of a strategy to protect Downtown Olympia from the effects of rising sea level.

For more information about the Olympia Capitol Park Foundation, go to

For more information on the draft Parks and Recreation plan, go to

For more information and pictures about the recent history of the isthmus property in this blog, go to Click on the search button and enter "isthmus" to save you a whole lot of time.

Above: Jerry Reilly, chair of the Olympia Capitol Park Foundation, listens to Senator Karen Fraser at a community forum about the isthmus in March of 2009.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Citizens Speak Against Trillium Development at Hearing

Above: Concerned community members packed the city council chambers last night for a public hearing by the city's hearing examiner, Tom Bjorgen, regarding DR Horton's proposed development called Trillium.

By Janine Gates

Chambers Lake Basin area community members packed the Olympia city council chambers last night to testify against the Trillium development proposed by DR Horton.

A master planned development, Trillium would consist of 500 single family and multi-family dwelling units bordered by Morse-Merryman Road Southeast, 40th Avenue, and Highline Drive. The preliminary plat would subdivide the 80 acres into 313 residential lots. DR Horton is seeking approval of the project as a whole, but proposes to construct the project in two phases.

Area residents brought up a wide range of reasons to deny the application based on issues related to increased traffic, a lack of nearby school capacity, persistent storm water and flooding issues, the current abundance of wildlife and the cumulative effect of other developments being proposed in the rural area.

City of Olympia planning and development staff have recommended an approval of the application. Hearing Examiner Tom Bjorgen heard the case and testimony from 6:30 p.m. until 11:00 p.m.

At 11:00 p.m., Bjorgen said he would continue the hearing to Monday, June 28, 6:30 p.m., in the council chambers to allow those who did not have an opportunity to testify to do so at that time. Twenty one of the 41 people who signed up were able to testify.

Due to statements by Bjorgen at the outset of the meeting that public testimony would not be taken until both sides have presented their case, which could have taken hours, many community members left the hearing, thinking they could come back on the 28th to testify.

Both sides, however, limited their opening remarks so public testimony could be taken earlier, which started at 8:00 p.m. Bjorgen admitted the confusion and said he will allow additional testimony to be taken on the 28th by those originally in attendance last night.

“This is not an opportunity to bring in a wave of new testimony,” cautioned Bjorgen, in extending the public comment period.

The Chambers Lake Basin area in southeast Olympia is located on the periphery of Olympia city limits, but within the Olympia urban growth area. It is rural in nature with no nearby conveniences such as public transit, city water or sewer, sidewalks, or shopping centers.

In 2006, the Olympia City Council responded to drainage and flooding concerns by declaring a moratorium on development in the Chambers Lake Basin area. The moratorium was lifted in 2008 after the city was convinced developers would properly mitigate storm water issues. Developers have so far failed to comply with requirements.

The Trillium proposal is one of several major development proposals near the Thurston County boundary. Each development, including Chambers Lake Residential, Newman Park, and Bentridge are owned by different development corporations.

DR Horton representatives gave a Powerpoint presentation of the project and highlighted commercial spaces, a village green space, open spaces, tree preservation efforts, wetland protection, storm water facilities, and pedestrian trails. Community members expressed concern about each of these features.

DR Horton is also responsible for the developments in Thurston County such as Horizon Pointe, The Pointe, Bay Hill, Amhurst, and Woodbury Crossing, also known as College Station.

The master plan for Trillium was originally submitted in 2005 and has changed significantly throughout the years. At one point Bjorgen asked the applicant for a rough estimate of when the project is proposed to be completed. “It’s up to my client,” said the attorney for DR Horton.

Many residents fear the land will be stripped of vegetation, graded, with roads put in place, only to languish for years, as other DR Horton projects have done.

The County and the Connector Road

Above: Thurston County Commissioner Karen Valenzuela speaks with community members John Cusick, left, Gus Guethlein, partially obscured, and Jim Zahn, at last night's meeting.

In a surprise success for community members, the city announced in its opening remarks that it has withdrawn its request for a road connection from Highline Drive to the Trillium development. The road connection has been turned into a bicycle and pedestrian path. Up until the night before the hearing, the city was still insisting that the connection remain a road.

Many in the audience credited Thurston County Commissioner Karen Valenzuela with brokering the solution. Valenzuela was in attendance during the entire meeting.

“Karen Valenzuela rocks,” said Wilderness neighborhood resident Stew Henderson. Henderson related his experiences with flooding at his home on Edgeworth Drive.

In an interview later, Valenzuela recounted the process in which she and county staff met with city staff to create a solution on the connection issue.

“I am a little disappointed with how the solution came about,” said Valenzuela. "The county owns the piece of land where the connector road would have been placed and we vacated the land." The land ownership will now be placed with the Wilderness neighborhood or the homeowner’s association, says Valenzuela.

“The road did not meet five out of nine criteria for connector streets, and yet the city planning manager (Todd Stamm) continued to recommend a road….They were not honoring the letter and spirit of our plan. In the end, we (the county) decided to vacate the area. That’s ok, but I’d rather not work like that. It should have been easier for the county and the city to come to an agreement. One of the county staff recommendations was to remove that provision from the master plan. Situations like this truly are a joint conversation that requires joint planning," said Valenzuela.

Valenzuela said she will attend the continued hearing on June 28th.

Jane Stavish, who lives on Frontier Road, one of the access roads proposed for Trillium, also thanked Valenzuela. “I was very much fearing for my safety. We have strollers, walkers, wheelchairs, bicyclists and there are no sidewalks.”

Stormwater and Flooding Issues

Several residents who have lived in the area for decades say the flooding has gotten worse with each new development. The Wilderness development, comprised of 280 homes, is 30 years old. Each household is on a septic system.

Natalie Lindaas has lived in the Wilderness neighborhood for 33 years. “We’re a very rural area. I’ve been flooded in several times - last winter, it was 18 inches deep. We just have to wait for the water to go down to get out.” The overflow, she says, is from Chambers Ditch, a 150 year old ditch that was never intended to provide the storm water capacity it is now expected to hold.

Many residents expressed concern about effluent being released, which goes straight from the ditch to the Deschutes River and, ultimately, the Puget Sound.

School Capacity Issues

Several residents and students addressed the lack of nearby school capacity. Emily Winter, an Olympia High School student, said she has two younger siblings who will be attending Washington Middle School and Olympia High School. “I’m wondering what they are going to do,” she said, because of current overcrowding situations.

Jane Stavish said that as it is now, her children have had to sit on the floor for lunch at Olympia High School, because there is no room to sit. She said the school has considered a third lunch period, but says it can’t be done due to scheduling conflicts.

Recent high school graduate Jonny Wakefield confirmed Stavish’s comments, pointing out that a school district representative was not in attendance at the meeting. “To move forward with Trillium seems reckless...I'm not a fan of suburban sprawl. DR Horton will turn virgin woods into ticky tacky houses. If you look at their resume, you'll see the results," he said.

Grace Arnis, a seventh grader who lives on Frontier Road and attends Washington Middle School said, “Recently, a lot of my friends and I haven’t been able to buy lunch because there’s not enough food. I’m at the third lunch period. A lot more kids will not be able to buy food if Trillium is allowed to go in. I’m also concerned about going to high school and having to sit on the floor to eat lunch.”

Bjoren asked city associate planner Brett Bures to contact the Olympia School District to have a representative attend the hearing on the 28th so he could ask school capacity related questions.

Other Chambers Lake Basin Area Proposed Developments:

Newman Park

Hearing Examiner Bjorgen was praised by several community members in their testimony for his recent determination regarding the Newman Park development. Newman Park, owned by Brian Allen through Newman Park, L.L.C., is a proposed subdivision containing 83 dwelling units on 18 acres. Bjorgen said that the application does not make appropriate provisions for storm water drainage issues or address transportation issues as it relates to the safety of Wiggins Road.

Jim Zahn, owner of Spooner Farms on Yelm Highway, thanked Bjorgen for sending the application back for more work. He said Chambers Ditch runs through his 22 acre property, and gave Bjorgen a packet of 36 pictures showing the flooding in past years.

Chambers Lake Residential

Chambers Lake Residential, proposed by Triway Enterprises, is a 40 acre parcel proposed to be subdivided into 221 dwelling units. In April, Triway requested a delay for its hearing until July 28, 2010. City staff has recommended a denial of this application based on the applicant’s inadequate storm water design standards to deal with the area’s high groundwater. Other reasons are detailed in the city’s staff report.


Bentridge, owned by the Boston Harbor Land Company, based in Sammamish, is a proposed 72 acre master planned subdivision bordering Boulevard Road and LBA Park. It is proposed to have 501 residential units on 348 lots and a village center with a 12,500 square foot commercial building.

Although Bjorgen recommended denial of the application based on a lack of nearby school capacity issues, it was approved by the Olympia City Council in November.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has identified two flood zones on this property.

Boston Harbor Land Company's website describes Bentridge: "Within walking distance of McKenny Elementary, Washington Middle, and Olympia High Schools and very near 65-acre L.B.A. park, Bentridge "feels" rural but is close to an exhaustive range of goods and services."

Smith Lake

A Smith Lake proposal called Poets Cove by a developer based in Bellevue has recently been withdrawn. The city wrote the applicant a ten page letter in November detailing several concerns that needed to be addressed before approval and the applicant had six months to submit solutions.

There are several other proposed developments in the Chambers Lake Basin area.

For more information about the Trillium project, contact Brett Bures, City of Olympia Associate Planner, at (360) 753-8568 or or for the SEPA Appeal, Cari Hornbein, city Senior Planner at 753-8048 or, or Todd Stamm, Planning Manager, Community Development and Planning at (360) 753-8314 or

For more information about the concerns of Chamber Lake Basin residents, go to or the Association of Citizens Concerned about Chambers Lake Basin (ACCCLB) at

Above: Emily Winter, left, and her mother, Jennifer Winter, look at a homemade, interactive map made by Gus and Lou Guethlein to keep up with all the developments proposed in the Chambers Lake Basin area.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Olympia Has A Lot To Be Proud Of

Above: Friends listen to Kimya Dawson and the Olympia Free Choir today at the Capital City Pride Day Festival in Sylvester Park. Kimya and the group meets twice a week to practice - all are welcome.

by Janine Gates

The day was filled with sunshine and rainbows at Sylvester Park for the Capital City Pride Festival, which continues tomorrow with a noon-time parade downtown. For more information, go to:

The family-friendly event featured plenty of food, friends, non-profit group information tables and commercial vendor booths. Olympia's own Grammy-award winning Kimya Dawson and lots of other local talent entertained the crowd.

Above: Larissa Podzaline of the local band Press.

Above: Drag Queen Athena Kiss accepts a donation for her performance.

Above: Sylvester Park today.

Above: We're pretty proud of Olympia's own Kimya Dawson.

Above: Capital City Pride 2010 - More Pride. More To Love.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Community Questions Cascade Pole Cleanup and Future Area Use

Above: Community members discuss the issues after tonight's meeting about the cleanup of the former Cascade Pole area, now known as Northpoint, on the Port of Olympia peninsula property. In the foreground, community members Zena Hartung, right, and Rachel Newmann, to her right, speak with a student from the Environmental Science class at South Puget Sound Community College (SPSCC). Several students from the class were in attendance as a class assignment.

In the background, SPSCC student Travis Rodriguez, 24, left, speaks with Jerry Parker. Rodriguez, recently honorably discharged from the Navy, said that this was his first community meeting. "It was very educational. Now I feel like I can be more involved! What's cost effective? They said it's too expensive to dig it (the soil) up and haul it away! What kind of price can you put on human life - and sea life?" Rodriguez expects to transfer to The Evergreen State College in the Fall of 2011.

by Janine Gates

About 20 community members met with state Department of Ecology staff to discuss the continued clean up of the former Cascade Pole site, now known as Northpoint, on the Port of Olympia property. Port employees were present, as well as Port Commissioner Bill McGregor.

The agreement with Ecology requires the Port to continue cleanup activities which includes removing contaminated soil from the Northpoint area of the Port peninsula, moving the soil to another area, capping it, then sampling the soil after excavation to ensure all contamination was removed.

After a brief overview of the clean up requirements by Ecology's Cascade Pole site manager Mohsen Kourehdar, community members asked clarifying questions. Comments were not documented as this was not a public hearing. Comments may be submitted to Ecology through June 10.

Kourehdar summarized Cascade Pole's 25 year history, saying $26 million has been spent on cleanup of the site so far. The agreement marks the last major piece of cleanup work on the 17-acre former industrial site.

The Cascade Pole Wood Treating Company leased property from the Port from 1957 - 1986. Operated as a wood treatment facility, area soil, groundwater, surface water and sediments in Budd Inlet was contaminated. The Port of Olympia, Cascade Pole and Ecology entered into an agreement in 1990 to investigate the site and explore cleanup alternatives. After a settlement with Cascade Pole, the Port took responsibility for cleanup in 1996. A remedial investigation was completed and several interim actions were taken.

Above: The former Cascade Pole site now known as Northpoint as it looked today. To the left is HearthFire Restaurant and KGY Radio station. Surrounded by a chain link fence, the area is not accessible to the public. On the right is Priest Point Park.

Proposed interim cleanup actions include removing contaminated soil from Northpoint, near KGY Radio, and moving it to inside an existing "slurry wall" next to a containment area. The stored soil is proposed by the Port to be paved with asphalt. This is proposed by the Port to be completed by mid-October.

According to Ecology's cleanup plan, the groundwater will be tested every six months, and sediment testing will be done every five years. Later in the conversation, Kourehdar said, "We will be monitoring this area for the rest of our lives. It's just a containment system...we have to watch it."

Several community members have been meeting regularly with Port staff and commissioners to explore a process for allowing a thorough public discussion to occur regarding the Port's land use decisions.

"(The process) shouldn't be developer driven. We're collecting information too, and trying to understand where they're coming from. What we're trying to do is come to some agreement on a public involvement process," said Carole Richmond.

"Right now, the planning model for land use is backwards. They make their decisions and then let us know. That's the way it feels. We're looking for a win-win situation, because if we don't do that, we're going nowhere."

Agnieska Kisza, a local architect, has also been meeting with port staff and commissioners. "This is an exercise in democracy...I don't think we're taken seriously. A master plan is an important condition for the site, and to write a new program for the area."

Community members had several questions for Ecology staff related to earthquake liquefaction, sea-level rise, and the type of cap the Port proposes to use to contain the contamination. The port proposes an asphalt cap. Several community members have been urging the port to use a natural, vegetative cap. Others want the soil dug up and taken away for incineration.

Anthony Sanchez, a member of the Nisqually Tribe, said he personally wants the contaminated soil taken away. "I know it's expensive but the contaminants have definitely affected the fish. We're dealing with EPA regulations, but what's the reality?"

After the meeting, Sanchez said that his uncle used to fish in the Northpoint area in the 1960's. "We're a part of the story. No matter what happens there, we want to tell our story."

Kourehdar said that Ecology's goal is to protect human health and the environment for whatever cap is used, and that the agency is not requiring the Port to use asphalt. "If someone comes along with a different plan, we'll look at it. The cap does not have a definition of asphalt," said Kourehdar.

One large area of contaminated soil at Cascade Pole is already capped with asphalt and is a parking lot.

Kinza questioned the use of asphalt and whether or not it was responsible to contain contamination in an area susceptible to earthquake liquefaction. "We had a large earthquake, I mean, it survived," responded Rebecca Lawson, Ecology section manager for the Toxics Cleanup Program.

"Your point is a good one - I don't mean to sound dismissive - but we have to weigh the costs into the equation. I don't think there was a place to take soil with dioxins in it (when we started this project). Now there are, but they're very expensive. It's a challenge."

Monica Hoover, a citizen who has been meeting with port staff, said that based on recent information about earthquake magnitude and frequency, the 2001 Nisqually earthquake was not a big quake. She also questioned the use of asphalt to cap the site. "It's striking to most people just how much is (already) asphalt. You add that all up together and it's a lot."

Above: They paved paradise and put up a parking lot. A relatively unknown location, a few folks drive here to look at the view north to Budd Inlet during their lunch break.

Jerry Parker asked Kourehdar about dioxins and the life-span of the slurry wall currently being used to contain contaminants. "I did this calculation this morning because I knew someone would ask," responded Kourehdar. In 1996-1997, a 3,528 foot long underground "wall," with an average depth of 23 feet, was constructed surrounding the upland contamination.

"Dioxins are persistent. Because the slurry wall is 24 inches thick - based on lab hydrogeology experiments - it will take 32 years for a drop of water to travel from one side of the slurry wall to the other. Is it going to break down someday? Probably." said Kourehdar.

"I'm of the opinion that you've done the best you could at the time. As things change, we're adaptable," audience member Enid Layes told Ecology staff.

"The site shouldn't be developed," said community member Harry Branch, after the meeting. "I don't fault Ecology. They have an impossible task - I think they're doing an OK job. They should have another $10 million. They're trying to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear with two bits. Like the guy from Nisqually said, "Take (the soil) away. They did that at the city hall site. Why was that done right? Why not Northpoint?"

For more information on Northpoint, the Port of Olympia and the Cascade Pole area, please read other articles on this blog at

For more information on the history of Cascade Pole and the development of Northpoint, go to (Winter 2010 edition).

For technical questions and to submit comments that will be developed into a "Responsiveness Summary", contact Mohsen Kourehdar, Washington State Department of Ecology Toxics Cleanup Program, (360) 407-6256 or Also see

To receive future notices about the cleanup or questions about public involvement, contact Meg Bommarito, Washington State Department of Ecology, (360) 407-6255 or

Above: Monica Hoover, right, speaks with Rebecca Lawson, state Department of Ecology Section Manager, Toxics Cleanup Program, after tonight's meeting.