Sunday, November 29, 2015

Chambers Prairie Grange in Tumwater Gets New Chance at Life

Above: The Chambers Prairie Grange No. 191 on the corner of Yelm Highway and Henderson Boulevard in Tumwater was purchased by Tom and Tiffany Schrader in October for $200,000. Photo taken January 10, 2014.

The Schrader’s want to convert the former Grange into a neighborhood coffee and sandwich shop and bistro that can also accommodate meetings,birthday parties, reunions, and more. The Grange property is currently zoned single family low density and will need to be rezoned to accommodate this vision.

Owners Hope Historic Preservation Will Create Community Space

By Janine Gates

Tom Schrader has driven by the moss covered Chambers Prairie Grange on the southwest corner of Henderson Boulevard and Yelm Highway in Tumwater for years. He and his wife, Tiffany, a third generation South Sound resident, raised their two children nearby, all of whom graduated from Tumwater High School.

Schrader, a commercial real estate agent for Re/Max Parkside who is actively involved in the Thurston County Board of Realtors, loves history. He says he tracked the property for years as the sale price was gradually reduced from $450,000, and bought it in late October for $200,000 from the Washington State Grange. 

Located at 1301 Yelm Highway, the Grange was valued at $315,900 by the Thurston County Assessor’s Office in 2015 and is not on any historic register or inventory.

The building was once earmarked as a museum for the State Grange, but that had been off the table for years. The Grange paid over $25,000 in taxes on it since 2010.

The wooden, one story, 5,668 square foot building sits on .91 acres, and despite appearances, is structurally sound. The roof doesn’t leak, the original maple wood flooring is relatively unmarked, and the full basement still contains multiple, long, solid tables suitable for dining and entertaining.

Remarkably, the building has been untouched by vandals, and still features the original wavy glass windows.

Schrader is now in the process of getting the building registered on the national and state historical registers through the state Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation.

Since October, Schrader and helpers have been seen actively working to clear blackberry brambles and brush and scraping the moss off the roof. They have hauled away 2,500 pounds of appliances, recyclables and trash items left in and around the property. Schrader also took out the original oil boiler and ducting, but the old wood burning stove is still there, and will be kept.

Asked if he has the original sign that hung on the front of the building that said, “Chambers Prairie Grange No. 191,” Schrader says he does not.

“I don't have the sign, but I would love to buy it back from whoever does! If I don't find it, I'm going to have a replica made of wood looking as close as possible to the old sign, and hang it in the same spot on the front of the building,” says Schrader.

Above: With the plywood off the windows, sunbeams once again shine forth, warming the maple wood floor of the Chambers Prairie Grange No. 191 on Saturday afternoon.

Historically, granges served as the community center for social, agricultural, educational and political activities for farmers, and the Chambers Prairie Grange was in the thick of the action.

According to the state Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation, the Chambers Prairie Grange No. 191 was organized in 1906 by Fred W. Lewis and reorganized in March, 1908. Grange members built the hall through donated work on land donated by the Wickie Family, completing the structure in 1910. The Chambers Prairie Grange was one of the first in Thurston County.

Above: Schrader has found a few Grange related treasures in the building, including an Olympia Federal Savings and Loan Association bank register, and this purple Grange “10% Net Gain” ribbon from 1957-58.

Schrader’s Vision for the Property

Schrader is working with several engineers and contractors to develop designs for the building. To create a place for community members, he envisions it as a coffee and sandwich shop and bistro. He has already spoken with the local coffee business owners of Olympia Coffee Roasting Company and Batdorf & Bronson Coffee Roasters to assess their interest.

Schrader wants to restore the space with a thick shake roof and original period fixtures and fans. The new front entrance facing the west side of the building would feature French doors and a large deck.

Inside, he will keep the stage and changing rooms. The basement will feature a new kitchen and would be suitable for meetings, family reunions, birthday parties, and more.

The capacity for the entire building was 378 persons – 119 downstairs and 259 upstairs, but Schrader expects this number to possibly increase.

The building is on a well and water and sewer hook up will most likely be from the City of Tumwater. It currently has no power and he has met with Puget Sound Energy to hook up to electricity and natural gas. He says he should have the building up and running in a couple months.

Schrader has developed a plan for 40 parking stalls and plans to keep every large tree on site – several maples, cedars and firs - with the exception of two for the flow of parking. Because it was diseased, a large maple tree was cut down about three years ago by the Grange.

“I want to create a center island of trees that’s natural, with a little trail so you can walk through the trees after you buy an ice cream cone or a sandwich, and sit and talk - a community type area with picnic tables and benches. There could even be a small outdoor organic fruit and vegetable stand….” Schrader said.

Above: The Chambers Prairie Grange as seen this week. New owner Tom Schrader envisions this side, the west side, as the front entrance for a coffee and sandwich shop. 

Zoning Issues 

The Grange, once located in an agricultural area, is at the physical crossroads of Yelm Highway and Henderson Boulevard, and the cities of Tumwater and Olympia.

Northeast of the Grange, Briggs Nursery was replaced by Briggs East Village and is now a 200 unit development for active adults called Silver Leaf.

Northwest of the Grange is the Briggs YMCA and the 137 acre master planned Briggs Village.

East of the Grange is the Tsuki Nursery, a wholesale nursery business specializing in Japanese garden plants, and it is on the market.

As an agent with ReMax/Parkside, Schrader represents the Tsuki Nursery, which is being sold by Phil Hulbert.  The property is currently in Thurston County with Olympia Urban Growth Area jurisdiction, Zoned Residential 4-8.

“They have submitted to the City of Olympia for annexation into the city. This will most likely be heard in the next two months. The two adjacent properties are part of the annexation request, making a total of eight acres. I have one of these two properties listed for sale, a residence at 1707 Yelm Hwy for $315,000. The Tsuki property has been listed four months at $1,499,000. It's 5.03 acres on two parcels,” says Schrader.

Schrader addressed both the Tumwater City Council and the Tumwater Historic Preservation Committee in late November to share his ideas for the building and is also working closely with the nearby Farm Homeowners Association.

The Grange property is currently zoned single family low density. Under that zoning, some of the allowed uses under the Tumwater Zoning Title 18 (18.10 chapter) are single family homes/duplex dwellings, mobile homes, childcare center, adult family center, church, bed and breakfast, community center, and others.

Schrader doesn’t want to see any of those options occur, so he will file with the City of Tumwater on December 7 for a zoning change to accommodate his vision. He is not sure yet what zoning he will pursue. The city only hears rezoning cases once a year, so it may take until May or June for the Tumwater city council to hear his request.

As a former resident of The Farm subdivision, he understands concerns by the neighborhood surrounding future uses on the property. They do not want traffic to spill out from the business onto Henderson Boulevard and then turn into their subdivision, so he is working with the Association to provide the sole access and exit off Yelm Highway.

“The previous owner, the State Grange, tried in 2012 to change the zoning to mixed use. They hadn't consulted with The Farm or other neighbors, and the change essentially scared the heck out of them. There could have been a Texaco gas station, 7-11, Burger King drive thru, or a Starbucks.... all of which I would not want there! I want something the neighborhood wants, and I spent a lot of time talking with neighbors before I bought it,” said Schrader.

“I want the focus to be on local community use, where neighbors can walk, bike, roller skate, jog and stop there to visit and catch up with each other….To get an early morning coffee before a local stroll, or a sandwich after working out at the Briggs YMCA, or an appetizer/dessert on the deck on a warm summer night while enjoying a fine wine….To be able to walk along the trail with a friend, son or daughter, grandchild… and sit at a picnic table or bench, and enjoy the tall trees… and discuss life, love and family!” says Schrader.

Schrader is optimistic that his ideas for a community space will be approved.

“When I’m out here, people pull in and want to talk and tell me stories about the area,” says Schrader.

Above: A silhouette of Tom Schrader as viewed through the Chamber Prairie Grange's coat and purse check window near the front door facing Henderson Boulevard. Schrader envisions maintaining the original north facing doors as emergency exits, and placing French doors and a large deck on the west side of the building as the new main entrance.

There are several active Grange chapters in Thurston County. For more information about their activities, go to

To read about the history of Washington State Granges, go to

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thanksgiving Is Served with Barb O’Neill’s Family and Friends

By Janine Gates

Barb O’Neill’s Family and Friends succeeded in pulling off their 46th Annual Thanksgiving Dinner on Wednesday at United Churches of Olympia for those who wished for a warm environment, good food, and great company. 

An estimated 26 to 30 turkeys with all the trimmings were served by 5:00 p.m. Desserts, bread items, children’s books, and clothing of all types were available as well. Some folks stayed all afternoon.

Kevin Harris, just one of many essential volunteers, has played a role with the traditional community meal for 26 years. As the dining room coordinator, he estimated that they served fewer meals than usual this year, but to get an accurate count, they will do a full count of plates served. Those who asked received additional, full Thanksgiving meals to go, and there were many requests.

This reporter was a grateful recipient of generous portions of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, green beans, garlic bread, cranberry sauce, pickles and refreshments.  I passed on the black olives, but they were also offered. 

This year, I handed out pre-wrapped egg salad sandwiches and later did a stint stationed on the assembly line, serving up the creamy mashed potatoes. 

The community-wide invitation to share in the meal is available to anyone, because friendly companionship is just as important as food. I met several fascinating members of our local community. People chatted, a band played jazzy tunes and volunteers like Gracie Anderson, 16, were back to share in the camaraderie.

The Olympia High School student came late in the afternoon because there was a full day of school, and as a result, fewer teenagers were present to volunteer. She has had a busy year since I last saw her last Thanksgiving.

In Spring of last year, she, along with her mother and aunt who are both school mental health counselors in Chehalis, decided to do something for that community and the Chehalis School District.

As if being a fulltime student wasn’t enough, Anderson started an organization, Food for our Future, based on the successful model of Thurston County’s Homeless Backpacks. She is now in the process of applying for her organization’s non-profit status.

Starting with two elementary schools, Food for our Future is now in three Lewis County schools, providing 75 bags of food each week for students who might otherwise go hungry over the weekend when school is not in session. Bags of food are distributed on Fridays to students determined to be homeless through criteria based on the federal McKinney-Vento Homeless Education Assistance Act.

The Act determines that children are deemed homeless if they are living on the streets, in a shelter, or couch-surfing. Families are able to opt-out of Anderson’s program if they so choose.

Anderson recently paired with Hannah Hart who sponsors “Have a Hart Day,” an international initiative to organize and mobilize Hartosexuals & friendly humans to spread service and reckless optimism all over the world. (Go to and you might get hooked watching Hart's Newlyfriend Game with Daniel Radcliffe).  

Anderson served as the city captain of Chehalis for three “Have a Hart Day,” events and received 30 volunteers to bag food. Usually, Anderson said, they have about 10 volunteers to bag food.

“Now we have enough bagged food for four weeks!” she said.

Anderson’s enthusiasm to help others is contagious. She shared many stories of individuals she has met who inspire her to continue her work to help others.

“I want everyone to have the same opportunities that I have had….For me, it’s about doing my best and doing everything I can because I’ve been so incredibly lucky,” said Anderson.

Barb O'Neill's Family and Friends keeps growing.

To contact Food for our Future, contact Gracie Anderson at

Homeless Backpacks is a local non-profit 501c3 corporation committed to ending homelessness by giving teens the help they need so they can focus on school, go on to graduate and become contributing citizens.

They provide food for the weekend to homeless teens in Thurston, Mason and Grays Harbor Counties. Begun in 2004, the group serves between 300-400 students per week in Thurston County. For more information, go to

To read more about Gracie Anderson, or Barb O’Neill’s Family and Friends Thanksgiving Dinner, go to Little Hollywood at and type key words into the search button.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Zita Sworn In As Port of Olympia Commissioner

Above: E.J. Zita, left, was sworn in as a new Port of Olympia commissioner by Thurston County Auditor Mary Hall at the Thurston County Courthouse on Wednesday morning. Although she trailed opponent Jerry Farmer on election evening, Zita gradually pulled ahead for a final lead of 227 votes out of a total of 52,659 votes cast, not counting write-ins. A machine recount of the ballots is not expected to change the outcome of the election, said Hall.

Interview with Port Commissioner Zita 

By Janine Gates

With the Thurston County elections certified on Tuesday, E.J. Zita was officially sworn into office as a Port of Olympia Commissioner by Thurston County Auditor Mary Hall on Wednesday morning.

After her swearing-in, Hall congratulated Zita and remarked that the final election numbers that gave Zita the eventual lead over her opponent, Jerry Farmer, was not typical.

“Typically, the numbers don’t flip…. In the port race for Position #1, George Barner gained 2.93% between election night and certification, and the Metropolitan Parks District ballot measure in Olympia gained about two percent, as did this port race. I can’t verify it as fact, but I heard that it was because of this race, that people waited until the last minute to vote,” said Hall, still studying the statistics.

Although a machine recount will occur, the results are not expected to change the final outcome.  Zita said she will participate in Thurston County’s formal swearing-in ceremony for all newly elected and re-elected officials on Wednesday, December 30, 2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. at South Puget Sound Community College, Kenneth J. Minnaert Center for the Arts. The event is open to the public.

In a prepared statement, Zita said, “Voters had a clear choice in this Port Commission election.  Our campaign was supported by hundreds of small contributions and great volunteers - people who care about public resources, open public processes, and a sustainable future.

“....Working together, we can improve port operations, relations with the public, our bottom line, and the environment.  I am already working with good port staff, and I look forward to productive service with my fellow Commissioners….From day one, I will insist that all port business be open and transparent, that the Port Commission is financially accountable, and that we approach development in a smart, sustainable way,” she said.
Zita said that the first thing she'll do as a new port commissioner is her homework.

“I'm already working with staff to get up to speed on issues, and I'll be doing a lot of reading and research as I step into this role,” she said.

Zita is fulfilling the term held by former port commissioner Sue Gunn, who resigned due to health reasons. Michelle Morris was appointed to the position in June and served until Monday, November 23. Zita will be up for election again, if she chooses to run, in 2017, as will current Port Commissioner Bill McGregor.

The next meeting of the Port of Olympia is Monday, December 14, 5:30 p.m., at the Port of Olympia offices at 626 Columbia St. NW, Suite 1 – B, Olympia.

Washington Public Ports Association Training

Interviewed after her swearing-in, Zita said she participated in the Washington Public Ports Association (WPPA) training in Seattle last week. 

Asked if she learned anything new or particularly enlightening, she said that the training emphasized that Port Commissioners should hold all discussions in public, welcome all public comment, and televise all sessions. 

“Ports have two complementary missions - economics and public good….Whatever actions ports take, the WPPA explained the importance of sharing our reasoning with the public on all processes and decisions.  We should even publicly recap conversations held in “executive sessions,” which are private because of sensitive content. 

“All of our material should be posted online - people should not have to ask for it.  WPPA advises that the perfect citizen - someone who attends every port meeting and reads all the information - should never be surprised by our decisions, because we have been open about everything going into them.  Citizens should always be treated with friendly respect, and given ample time to testify, whether it is on our agenda or not, even if it makes meetings run long.  Good relationships with the public are one of the highest priorities for the WPPA.

“The WPPA provided legal and ethics training, which I got certified in.  A quorum of commissioners may not “meet” for coffee, on the phone, by email, etc. except at commission meetings.  If we find ourselves at public events together, we cannot talk business.  It's legal to carpool to events together, but it may not be a good idea.  And all port correspondence is subject to public records requests - so I will keep mine on port-issued devices,” said Zita.

A Few More Questions

Little Hollywood also asked Zita about her role as chair of the Thurston County Agriculture Advisory Committee.

Zita says she will remain chair of the Thurston County Agriculture Advisory Committee, which advises the county commissioners on current issues. She said her work on food production, farming and other agricultural issues will be complementary to her new position at the port. She said that the group recently drafted a new urban agriculture ordinance which is expected to be presented to the Board of County Commissioners by the beginning of 2016.

“We’ve been working a couple of years to make the ordinance for farming in the urban growth area more consistent with Lacey, Olympia and Tumwater ordinances. In some cases, it is currently more restrictive to farm in the county. We’ve worded it in such a way that makes farming in the areas of beekeeping, poultry, and rabbits in the urban growth area flexible and easier overall,” said Zita.

The group will also be delving into the issue of industrial hemp.

Asked what she thinks about recent conversations during port meetings about daylighting Olympia’s Moxlie Creek, which runs under city streets and exits through a pipe into East Bay, Zita said, “(Olympia resident) Harry Branch and others make good arguments that a Moxlie Creek estuary could effectively remediate contaminants such as nitrates in the creek, while restoring ecosystem services and a valuable recreation resource.

“I would like the Port to start climate planning with the City of Olympia, the state Department of Ecology, and the Thurston Regional Planning Commission. The City of Olympia is a leader in climate change planning and the port needs to know what’s coming. The possibility of remediating contaminated streamflow with a restored wetland in that area should be reviewed as part of that process.”

Zita said she welcomes the public’s suggestions for drafting proposals on the process.

Earlier this month, Zita also answered a few quick questions on emerging port issues:

Little Hollywood: What is your opinion of the code of conduct resolution (then before the commissioners), and would you vote and sign for or against it?

Zita: I agree with Port Commissioner George Barner, and with the public comments made by Bev Bassett, Denis Langhans, Monica Hoover, Jan Witt, and Sharron Coontz.

LH: Can you foresee any situation in which you might want to disagree with what another port in Washington is doing and offer them your opinion, as Commissioners Barner and Gunn did with their letter to the Grays Harbor/Hoquiam ports and their roles in the status of the oil terminals? 

Zita: Commissioners Barner and Gunn took a courageous stand.  More Pacific Northwest ports will be called on by the people to stand as a "thin green line" between extreme fossil fuel extraction and dangerous shipments to Asia.

LH: How would you have voted on the building of another warehouse for the storage of ceramic proppants and other shipments requiring shelter? Would you be interested in revisiting this issue as a new commissioner?

Zita: No and no.  The current warehouse is mostly empty.

LH: In a February 22, 2015 article on my blog, I wrote about a Port work session topic, the re-creation of a "Berth 4." At the time, it was billed as an "information only" discussion, but staff is spending time analyzing its feasibility. Do you have an opinion about the creation of a Berth 4?

Zita: I haven't read that article yet....

LH: Do you feel port work sessions should be televised?

Zita: Yes.

Above: According to the Port of Olympia, the channels on port property parcels 2 and 3 near State Street as seen here on November 20, are directing stormwater flow to remain on the two parcels, rather than allow it to flow out to the sidewalk and into the City of Olympia storm drains. 

“It is a requirement of the state Department of Ecology that we keep the stormwater on site, since Parcels 2 and 3 are within the boundary of the East Bay Redevelopment Cleanup Site,” said Kathleen White, Port of Olympia, on Wednesday. 

Port of Olympia Commissioners McGregor, Barner and Morris voted on Monday night to move forward with a mixed use development agreement with developer Walker John on this property near East Bay and State Street in downtown Olympia. Commissioner Barner voted no.

Harry Branch, an Olympia resident and retired captain of fishing, charter and research vessels with a Masters of Environmental Studies from The Evergreen State College, commented at a recent port meeting that a mixed use development on this location places significant limitations on the option of restoring or daylighting Moxlie Creek.

Branch believes that development of this property is a violation of the Clean Water Act because the parcels are likely an uncontrolled source of dioxin. He has offered the commissioners a detailed alternative for the site that would environmentally clean up and restore the historic estuary to a functioning ecosystem.

Commissioner Barner expressed an interest in having a work session on the topic and extended an invitation to Branch to further educate the Commission.

For more information about Port of Olympia activities, go to

For past stories about the Port of Olympia issues at Little Hollywood, go to and type key words, issues, and names into the search button.

Correction/Clarification Added November 27: Commissioner Barner voted no and Commissioners McGregor and Morris voted yes on the developer agreement with Walker John. Little Hollywood explained who was on the commission at the time of the vote to approve the agreement, but neglected to state Barner's vote. 

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Veterans Day 2015

Above: Medal of Honor recipient Command Chief Master Sergeant Francis Huffman, of Littlerock, Washington, acknowledges a standing ovation during Veterans Day ceremonies today in Olympia. After the ceremony, Huffman said he received the medal for providing Air Force support actions in Vietnam in 1971 while surrounded by the enemy, an action that saved many lives.  

By Janine Gates

Veterans Day ceremonies were held throughout the South Sound on Wednesday and the Thurston County Veterans Council held its event in the Capitol Rotunda on the state Capitol Campus. 

The Washington State American Legion Band, VFW Auxiliary Post 318, Tahoma Gold Star Wives, and other veteran organizations participated.

Thurston County Commissioner Bud Blake, a retired U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel, gave the keynote speech.

In his remarks, Blake said, “….Today in the global war on terror…we continue to welcome home veterans and thank them for their service. I personally experienced this gratitude when I, along with approximately 400 other service members, came home for R&R in February 2008. We departed the airplane at Dallas, Texas, and every single person waiting at the gate to board their airplane stood on their feet and applauded their veterans as we strolled by….until the last service member passed by.  When I saw this I knew, immediately, we had learned from the mistakes of the Korea and Vietnam conflicts.

“So I am here to tell you that it does not stop there….We need to show our soldiers returning from the recent wars…that our welcome does not end at the airport terminal, with a hand shake or in a parade. This generation’s challenge is to continue with the effort to help those veterans who need assistance. We must fight on the home front by preventing suicide and homelessness. We must assist veterans in receiving additional medical care, education, and employment opportunities for themselves and their families…..” said Blake.

Above: At the Washington State Vietnam War Memorial on the Capitol Campus today, Ashar Entrekin, 17, a senior at Capital High School, plays Taps at the conclusion of the reading of the names for those killed and missing in action during the war. The event was sponsored by the Daughters of the American Revolution. Entrekin said he’s been playing his trumpet for seven years.

For more information about Thurston County Veterans Services, go to

Monday, November 9, 2015

Port of Olympia Zita-Farmer Ballot Issues

Above: During a public hearing about the budget, Port of Olympia commissioner candidate E.J. Zita addresses the Port of Olympia on Monday night. She commented on her desire to see a clearer accounting of the cost of dredging. She said that it would add clarity if the costs could be separated. The cost of operational dredging is currently combined with other environmental clean-up costs. Galligan said that those numbers are available. “If there’s a clearer way to report on that, we’d be happy to do that,” said Galligan.

By Janine Gates

According to the Thurston County Auditor’s Office, the latest tally has E.J. Zita ahead of Jerry Farmer in their race for Port of Olympia Port Commissioner #3. 

Zita was slightly behind on election night, but subsequent tallies put her in the lead with 124 votes on Friday with an estimated 700 ballots left to count.

On Monday, the new tally kept Zita ahead: 26,294 (50.21%) to Farmer’s 26,079 (49.79%), for a difference of 215 votes.

There are still a few ballots to be counted that have discrepancies, such as missing signatures, or those that have questionable signatures.

Little Hollywood spoke late Monday afternoon with Tillie Naputi-Pullar, Thurston County elections manager at the Thurston County Auditor’s Office. She said that as of today, there are 116 ballots that do not have signatures, and 207 that have questionable signatures.

“Each day we generate a letter so voters are being notified on a daily basis if something is wrong with their ballot,” said Naputi-Pullar. She and her staff of three have a process in which they visually examine the signatures of all voters.

“If there is a problem, we send out a letter within 24 hours to the voter. We supply a pre-paid envelope with a signature verification form and the voter can mail it back, come in and drop it off, or email it by scanning it, or fax it back to us. We do our best to help the voter so it’s expedited so we can update their status,” she said.

Little Hollywood asked Naputi-Pullar about an Olympia woman who had an issue with her ballot and said she received a knock on her door on Sunday, November 8. The visitor appeared to be a supporter of candidate Jerry Farmer, as she was wearing a Farmer campaign button.

The westside resident, interviewed by Little Hollywood on Monday, did not want to be named, but shared her story:

“A woman wearing a Farmer campaign button and carrying a clipboard knocked on the door of my apartment. On her clipboard she carried many forms and a list of registered voters, I believe. She stated that she was a volunteer and was at my home because my ballot had an issue, and it was not currently valid as a countable ballot. 

The issue, she said, was that my ballot signature did not match the outside envelope signature. She asked me if I had received an official notice of this problem. I had not. She suggested that I had not received this letter because I had voted at the last minute.
She handed me a form from her clipboard and told me that I should fill it out in order to amend the discrepancy in my ballot signatures. She stated that she'd like me to fill it out on the spot and give it back to her.  

I told her I would rather fill it out later and/or wait for the official notice. She checked something off on her clipboard. She then asked me: “Did you even vote for the Port?”  I responded “Yes, I did.” She questioned me further, “Who did you vote for? Did you vote for Jerry Farmer?” I told her that I did not wish to answer her questions at this time.  She thanked me for my time and left. 

To follow up on this interaction, I checked the Thurston County Elections website to ascertain the status of my ballot.  There is indeed a problem with it, and I intend to call the number provided to resolve this issue so that my vote may be counted.”

Before she had a chance to call, she said she received her letter from the Thurston County elections office just this evening, informing her of the ballot signature discrepancy.

The woman says she doesn’t think anything suspicious was going on, but was unclear about the process.

“I didn’t know they gave out that kind of information to campaigns but I guess I’m not surprised now that I know the process,” she said.

It’s called “signature chasing,” and Naputi-Pullar said that the woman who came to the door was not with the Thurston County election office, however, that type of voter information is released to campaigns regarding voters whose ballots have not yet been counted. The form she was asked to fill out on the spot and return to the woman wearing the Farmer campaign button was most likely a signature verification form.

Jan Witt of Olympia is a friend of the woman who received the knock on her door and expressed concern about the incident.

I believe that Thurston County Elections should not accept any of the forms collected by campaign people. Given that a campaign is asking people who they voted for and requesting the signature verification forms, how do they know whether or not a campaign is turning in all of the forms they receive? Maybe they are turning in only the forms of those who say they voted for their candidate,” said Witt.

Asked how the Thurston County elections office knows that all signature verification forms are turned in by campaign volunteers, Naputi-Pullar expressed assurance in their process, which is set in statute: 

“Three days before the certification date, November 24, my staff sits down and calls those voters if we have not received a form back. If people are concerned, they can contact us.”

Contacted by Little Hollywood this evening, Farmer said that he thought Zita’s volunteers were also out signature chasing.

Asked tonight after a Port of Olympia business meeting if her campaign is signature chasing, Zita said she has several dozen volunteers signed up to do so, but the elections office has informed her that it doesn’t appear to be necessary. Zita said that although a recount will be necessary, it appears to be out of range for a hand recount, and will most likely be a machine recount.

According to the Thurston County Auditor’s Office, the following are the rules for recounts of local contests: 

A machine recount would require that the difference between two candidates be less than 2,000 votes and less than 1/2 of one percent of the total votes cast. A hand recount would require that the difference between two candidates is less than 150 votes and less than 1/4 of one percent of the total votes cast.

Although it may still be too soon to do so, port staff, audience members, and Joe Downing, Port of Olympia commissioner candidate for position #1 who won his seat against George Barner, and was also at tonight's meeting, congratulated Zita on her apparent win.

The election will be certified November 24.

For more information and number changes, go to the Thurston County Auditor’s Office at

Friday, November 6, 2015

Design Review for Second Hotel on Henderson

Above: A Hilton Garden Inn on Henderson Boulevard near I-5 and Watershed Park is currently under construction. A new Marriott owned hotel is proposed to be built on two lots adjacent to the Hilton. Both hotels would share a main access road, seen here, stemming from the roundabout on Henderson.

By Janine Gates

The city’s Design Review Board will hold a special meeting on November 12, at 6:30 p.m., Room 207, at Olympia City Hall, 601 4th Avenue. This meeting will offer the opportunity for the public to comment on the design of a second new hotel off Henderson Boulevard.

The hotel applicant, SPS Lands, LLC of Lakewood, is Han Kim of Hotel Concepts, and is represented by architect Glenn Wells of Olympia. 

The four story, 113 unit hotel called Olympia Courtyard Hotel would be owned by Marriott and could accommodate 250 persons on a nightly basis. It will have a restaurant, but no swimming pool.

The 2.82 acre property is situated on lots 1 and 2 of a commercially zoned area near I-5 near Watershed Park and the future Olympia Woodland Trail. A Hilton Garden Inn is currently under construction nearby on what is called Lot 3 of the Henderson Commercial Park.

According to the project’s State Environmental Policy Act report, 73.8 percent of the property will be covered by impervious surface, including room for 118 parking stalls.

Moss Lake is on the site, as well as standing water. The lake was filled in due to the construction of I-5, but is still noted on maps. All trees and vegetation would be removed from the site and upland neighborhood views of I-5 and the sky could be obstructed by the hotel. 

Members of the Wildwood Neighborhood Association worked with the city and the applicant of the Hilton Garden Inn to improve its design, and will be communicating their concerns regarding the new hotel, such as visual and light pollution, traffic, and other environmental issues, as well as cumulative impacts to the area. 

The hotels will be a stark visual contrast to the tranquility of nearby Watershed Park, a protected 153 acre area which contains trails, wetlands, and the Moxlie Creek Spring Basin that served as Olympia's first water source.

In a February letter to the city, the Wildwood Neighborhood Association board says that freeway noise has increased substantially since the clearing of the property.

The project is projected to generate 980 trips per day with 64 trips anticipated for the morning peak hour and 72 trips during the evening peak hour. The neighborhood is concerned about the increase in traffic along Henderson Boulevard, which will make the intersection at Henderson and Eskridge even more difficult to navigate.

Developers hope to break ground in spring of 2016.

Comments about this project may be submitted to Cari Hornbein, Senior Planner, Community Planning and Development Department, City of Olympia, 601 4th Avenue East, Olympia, Washington 98501 or or (360) 753-8048.

For past articles about the land use history of the Henderson Business Park area, the hotels on Henderson Boulevard and the Wildwood Neighborhood, go to Little Hollywood, and type key words into the search engine.