Sunday, April 26, 2015

Olympia Wedding and Event Venue In Question

Above: Grande Terrace at Capitol Lake on Deschutes Parkway is requesting a conditional use permit from the City of Olympia for the rental of a residence for wedding and social events. The business has been operating under temporary use permits for two years while violating the terms of those agreements.

By Janine Unsoeld
The owner of Grande Terrace at Capitol Lake, an event and wedding business located at 915 and 1007 Deschutes Parkway SW, is requesting a conditional use permit (CUP) from the City of Olympia for the rental of a residence for wedding and social events.
The venue, which has a view of Capitol Lake and the Capitol Dome, currently does not have a permit to operate but has contractual commitments for future events.
On Wednesday morning, city staff denied the conditional use permit at a site review planning committee meeting held at city hall. Based on staff’s analysis of the land use and building codes, the proposed use is commercial in nature and is not allowed. The property is zoned single family residential 4 – 8, meaning four to eight residences can be built per acre.
The case is being referred to the city’s hearing examiner, who is scheduled to hold a public hearing on the situation on Monday, May 11, 2015, 6:30 p.m. in the Olympia City Council Chambers, 601 4th Avenue East, Olympia.
A March 18 application submitted to the city by Bart Zier states that a permanent, unheated 3,300 square foot covered porch would be attached to the residences, and that the venue would host between 20 -30 events per year.
Although the business website states that the venue accommodates events between 30 – 225 people, the application states that the maximum capacity for the venue will be 150 people.
The area is on a septic system and wells meant for single family dwellings and there is only one fire hydrant nearby on Deschutes Parkway to serve those residences.  According to the application, three portable toilets would be brought in to serve guests. City staff noted these limitations, among other factors, in its report.
The city is prepared to defend its position with a lengthy list of recommended conditions if the hearing examiner approves the permit. The case file is thick with maps and letters from state agencies such the state Department of Enterprise Services, the regional LOTT Clean Water Alliance and interested citizens who have already submitted comments on the case expressing concerns and questions about the business regarding the environment, access, public health and safety, parking, traffic impact, sea-level rise and stormwater management issues.
In what has become a fast-moving story, Zier revised the application on March 24 to reduce the size of the porch to 2,800 square feet in order to avoid a review by the city’s Design Review Board. Zier has previously submitted a variety of applications in an attempt to maneuver around the city’s zoning, home based business, residential, and commercial regulations.
A series of 2014 spring and summertime correspondence between the city and the applicant detail multiple code violations and incomplete applications for a conditional use permit.
Shoreline issues are also of concern. The area where a temporary tent is usually located and related operations may fall within the 200’ shoreline jurisdiction of Capitol Lake, and subject to the Conservancy regulations for commercial uses in the Thurston Region Shoreline Master Program.
LOTT owns and operates a pump station on property adjacent to the Grande Terrace business. Their letter expresses concern about access to the pump and other issues.
The State of Washington owns property west of Deschutes Parkway up to the railroad corridor that is owned by the Burlington Northern Railroad.  According to a letter submitted by the Washington State Department of Enterprise Services last summer, pedestrian access improvements were constructed over and upon both the Burlington Northern property as well as the state property to access the business. Because these improvements blocked the railroad and were not permitted, the owners were advised to remove the improvements, which they did.
A large, white tent structure with partitioned plastic windows can usually be seen from Deschutes Parkway. The tent is heated with stainless steel outdoor patio propane heaters for events. Earlier this week, the tent was seen being dismantled. When asked about this by Little Hollywood before the Wednesday meeting, Zier said the tent was being removed for “cleaning and restructuring.”
Parking is extremely limited, with event patrons parking along Deschutes Parkway, or at nearby Marathon Park. Patrons must cross Deschutes Parkway and the Burlington Northern Railroad tracks, without a crosswalk, to access the venue.
According to Michelle Bentley, the city’s urban forester, the property has also been cleared of trees without permits.
The property may also contain a wetland that has been filled and graded without permits. Standing water could be seen earlier this week near the railroad tracks. City staff member Eric Christiansen says a fish bearing stream crosses the property and may be a critical area.
“Our code has a provision that “grandfathers” disturbed areas within critical areas/buffers; however, any new improvements would trigger critical area review,” he said in an email. A stream on the property has also been mapped by the state Department of Natural Resources.
Above: A stream, seen here in December 2014, is located on the Grande Terrace on Capitol Lake property.
Truckloads of fill and gravel were witnessed being brought onsite by neighbors in the last two to three years and nearby, uphill residents on South Rogers and South Percival have complained about noise from the venue. Neighbors say that they assumed it was a permitted operation and allowed by the city. 
Above: Grande Terrace on Capitol Lake features a view of the Capitol Dome. For weddings and events, chairs are set up on the lawn for viewing wedding ceremonies.
Business Is a Repeat Code Violation Offender
The applicant is Bart Zier, who lists his address as 915 Deschutes Parkway SW. His mother, Donna Zier of Lacey, is listed as the property owner. The address listed is not Mr. Zier's home – it is the business, and contains a bar, catering kitchen, restrooms, and changing rooms for the bride and groom.
The business has been operating for two years under temporary permits. At one point, on August 3, 2014, the city issued a stop work order to Mr. Zeir for construction activities taking place without permits. The city informed Zier that he must obtain necessary permits and land use approvals, including temporary use permits, conditional use permits, and building and fire code permits.
Up to six events are allowed per year under a temporary use permit. According to the city, Zier held an initial event without a permit, received temporary permits for six events, then held two more events without a permit. In addition, Zeir did not follow several rules within the temporary use permit.
In an August 2014 letter written by city lead planner Cari Hornbein, the city informed Zier that given the scale of the operation, the city considers it to be a commercial use which is not allowed in a residential zone district even with the conditional use permit. The city informed him that his options moving forward include scaling back the operation and using the house for events, or seeking a rezone and comprehensive plan amendment to allow commercial use of the property.
Property History
Local attorney Trena Worthington owned the stately brick home and two other adjacent parcels. When she died, her long-time friend Dorothy Wack became the executrix of her estate. In documents, Mrs. Worthington stated that her home, built in 1975, was never to be used for commercial uses.
In January 2004, Wack sold the house to Dr. Angela Bowen for about $1.2 million. Dr. Bowen, in turn, sold the house and another parcel in September of that same year to Donna Zier as well as another residence, a two story, four bedroom home built in 1940, located at 1007 Deschutes Parkway.
Zier also owns the Grande Holiday Ballroom on 4th Avenue, another wedding and event venue, which used to be the old Salvation Army.
Wack has diligently worked to adhere to Mrs. Worthington’s wishes and has written letters to the city for at least a year and a half, expressing concern about the business operation, and in fact, hired legal representation to stop the business from using the Worthington name as its business name.
In her letter dated April 15 to the city, Wack lays out a wide range of municipal, state, and federal law violations the business has committed and expresses concerns regarding public health and safety.
According to Wack, as of April 15, Zier does not have the permission of the Burlington Northern Railroad for people to cross the railroad to access his business. She also cites noise and light pollution, and parking violations.
“It is disturbing to know that the Ziers developed a wedding and event site without first getting the proper permits from the City of Olympia, State of Washington, or Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad. One would assume that the Olympia Municipal Code Manual, Olympia Comprehensive Plan, State Environmental Policy Act, Washington State RCWs and WACs are written to provide some sort of order and structure for living within the confines of our fine city. That being the case, I question how the Ziers can obtain a conditional use permit while violating so many sections of these governing instruments….” Wack wrote.
Two other neighbors, Bryan and Jeanne Sandeno, who have lived since 1991 on Terrace Lane SW in the historic Highmiller Home, are directly impacted by the business. Subjected to frequent noise pollution, the Sandeno’s have made code violation reports to the city, and will be testifying against the business’s continued operation.
“Looking at the requests stated in the application, in light of what we now know about the discovered code infractions at the site…a [Conditional Use Permit] CUP should not be granted. The character of this business is definitely not in keeping with the neighborhood…and as we know a business of this type does not belong in a residentially zoned area….” state the Sandeno's in their letter to the city.
Anyone interested in this case is invited to attend and present testimony regarding this business. Written statements may be submitted to the Olympia Community Planning and Development Department, PO Box 1967, Olympia, WA 98507-1967. Refer to Case Number # 14-0053. Written comments must be received at or prior to the public hearing on May 11th.
For more information, contact Cari Hornbein, City of Olympia lead planner at (360) 753-8048 or  
Above: Standing water, indicating a possible wetland, by the Burlington Northern railroad track along Deschutes Parkway on April 21, 2015.