Thursday, January 28, 2010

Design Review Board Recommends Denial of Triway Plan For Isthmus

Above: Deputy city attorney Darren Nienaber gave it his all at tonight's Design Review Board meeting to convince board members to provide more information for the benefit of the city's hearing examiner, who has not yet seen the case.

By Janine Gates

In yet another victory for opponents of Triway Enterprises’ plan to build a massive housing and mixed-use office building project on the isthmus in downtown Olympia, the city’s Design Review Board tonight passed a motion by 7 - 2, to recommend denial of the applicant’s plan for the project.

The denial of the plan went against a city staff recommendation to approve the project. Board members based their decision, in part, on the project's failure to meet city code criteria regarding the visual context of the streetscape and its lack of human scale.

The board picked up their conversation right where it left off on December 18, 2009, when it tabled a decision on the context plan. (See articles on December 11 and December 18, 2009 at for more information.) Individual board members had not changed their minds nor did they offer new reasons or explanations for their positions.

The motion to deny the plan was offered by board member Jane Laclergue. Board chair Thomas Carver and board member Spencer Daniels were in the minority. Daniels felt that the denial would “second guess” the previous city council’s zoning decision.

Carver said that although he felt that the rezone was a clear “spot rezone,” he felt that the applicant met all the requirements. “I tend to think this (area) was rezoned for this specific proposal, for this specific developer, for this specific project,” said Carver. Board member Duane Edwards said, “It’s hard to deny it’s an attractive building…but what we’re arguing about is location. If this wasn’t the location, we wouldn’t be sitting here arguing about it.”

Deputy city attorney Darren Nienaber repeatedly tried to steer the board into being more specific in their reasons for the denial, to no avail. “If there are additional reasons to deny it, then the hearing examiner should know that….” Nienaber urged. Nienaber said that in the case of the 18th Avenue Estates case, the hearing examiner sent back the land use approval decision for more information.

Showing firm leadership, Board chair Thomas Carver reiterated to Nienaber, “Even though I don’t agree with the previous motion, I think our process is solid. If the hearing examiner wants more information, we’ll give it to him.”

Again Nienaber stated his case to provide more explanation for the plan denial.

“I think everyone’s made themselves clear…and we’ve gone farther than we usually do. I’m starting to feel like we’re doing the hearing examiner’s job now….” said Carver.

Nienaber finally backed off. “I’ve said the same thing three times now and it won’t help to say it a fourth. I’m not here to advocate one way or the other, I’m just making sure the hearing examiner will have all his facts,” Nienaber said, to chuckles from the audience.

“These are just recommendations - I think we’ve done our job,” said Carver.

The recommendations now go to the city’s hearing examiner for review. That should happen in the next couple months. Cari Hornbein, city senior planner, said a date has not been scheduled. Nienaber said it could be a multi-day hearing, due to the complexity of the issue.

For more information about the project, contact Cari Hornbein, Senior Planner at (360) 753-8048 or

Above: During a meeting recess, Design Review Board members Duane Edwards, left, Katie Cox, standing, Thomas Muller, in striped shirt, and Spencer Daniels, right, appear more relaxed after their decision tonight.