Friday, November 6, 2015

City May Take Olympia Wedding Venue Operator to Court

Above: The City of Olympia is pursuing the option of taking Olympia wedding and event venue operator Bart Zier to court to obtain an injunction that would prohibit his continued, unlawful commercial use of property in downtown Olympia. Tacoma Rail clearly uses the tracks in front of the venue along Deschutes Parkway. Photo taken November 4, 2015.

By Janine Gates

The City of Olympia is actively pursuing the option of taking Olympia wedding and event venue operator Bart Zier to court to obtain an injunction that would prohibit his unlawful commercial use of property in downtown Olympia.

In a letter written in late October, city staff informed Zier and his mother, Donna Zier, who owns the properties at 915 and 1007 Deschutes Parkway, that they had violated the terms of the temporary permit issued to them so that they could carry out several August and September weddings.

The Zier's have continued to flagrantly violate federal and state laws and city codes and zoning ordinances in the course of operating their wedding and event venue, Grande Terrace on Capitol Lake, within a residential area.

In a telephone interview this week with City of Olympia attorney Mark Barber, Barber told Little Hollywood that no new fines have been imposed as a result of the most recent violations. The city has tried to work with Bart Zier on voluntary compliance, however, that is not working, and is now exploring the option of taking him to court.

Barber described how Zier has steadfastly refused to cooperate with the city, which included the options of voluntary compliance and dispute resolution without attorneys.

“….As you know, the city was trying to work with Mr. Zier to see if he could bring himself into compliance.  After his request for a conditional use permit went to the wayside, it put the city in a difficult position,” said Barber.

The “difficult position” was potential liability, and the city issued Zier a temporary use permit to hold the summer weddings that Zier was unwilling to cancel.

In 2014, Zier and his family actively marketed the property as a wedding venue, provided tours, signed contracts, and took large sums of money from families expecting to have their weddings there in 2015. Unbeknownst to the families, Zier did not have a permit to operate.

“These are not small events. They involve large groups of people…a physical facility, parking, food preparation, sanitary concerns, and public health issues. These become much different in a commercial setting. In addition, we have a number of unpermitted construction and archaeological issues.”

“The code violations don’t seem to be subsiding or resolving. By and large, this is a residential area, and the railroad hasn’t given up its tracks. It’s like pounding a square peg in a round hole. There’s not a lot of alternatives if someone is not going to play by the rules….”

The city will most likely make its decision by December 1, said Barber. He said the city is soliciting the assistance and support of the county, tribes, and other involved entities.

“If we could work with the others, that would be the best alternative. If we can’t, we’ll go it alone to seek an enforcement mechanism,” said Barber.

As of this writing, the venue is still marketing itself with an active website and Facebook page.

Above: This smart gentleman looked for a train before crossing the tracks with his date as they arrive for a wedding at Grande Terrace. Tacoma Rail actively uses the railroad tracks along Deschutes Parkway. During weddings and events, guests routinely park along Deschutes Parkway and the parking lot at Marathon Park, which is owned by the Washington State Department of Enterprise Services. At times, hundreds of guests cross the road to reach the venue. As parking nearest the driveway becomes scarce, guests walk from various access points along the railroad to reach the venue, as these guests did this summer. 

For more information, pictures, and stories about Grande Terrace, go to Little Hollywood, and type key words into the search engine.

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