Friday, July 21, 2017

Chambers Prairie Grange May Be Saved – Again

Above: Chambers Prairie Grange building owner Tom Schrader arrives at his property at the intersection of Yelm Highway and Henderson Boulevard in Tumwater. Instead of demolishing the former grange, Schrader now plans to turn it into a Starbucks. He is in the process of purchasing the adjacent property, above, from The Farm Homeowners Association.

Starbucks Still in the Picture, Possibly in the Grange

By Janine Gates
Little Hollywood
A Little Hollywood Land Use Investigation - Continued

In late April, Little Hollywood broke the news that Chambers Prairie Grange property owner Tom Schrader was planning to demolish the 107 year old former grange and that he had entered into negotiations with Starbucks to build a new 4,000 square foot building on the Tumwater property.

The news surprised, confused, and angered many Tumwater city officials and community members.

In early May, City of Tumwater Mayor Pete Kmet and several city staff members met with Schrader to discuss the future of the building and negotiated a series of understandings regarding right of way, new building requirements, a rezone of the adjacent acreage currently owned by The Farm Homeowners Association, a proposed drive thru, and setbacks.

Schrader has not yet filed a formal land use application or submitted final designs to the city but now, instead of demolishing the grange and building a stand-alone building, the grange is expected to be turned into a Starbucks, says Schrader.

Time will tell. The building is not listed on any historic register.

In his haste to move the project along, Schrader had filed a request for an emergency rezone of adjacent property belonging to The Farm in June but Mayor Kmet and the city didn’t see a way to declare it an emergency if Schrader was going to raze the grange and build a new building. 

City staff negotiated several sticking points with Schrader so, as far as the city is concerned, the former Chambers Prairie Grange can stay where it is, and does not have to be moved to accommodate future expansion to the Henderson Boulevard and Yelm Highway intersection.

Schrader purchased the grange building in 2015 and announced he wanted to save it and convert it into a neighborhood coffee and sandwich shop. After verbal miscommunications with the city and receiving a rezone of the property in late 2016, he declared that the building could not be saved and began dismantling the interior.

As part of the negotiations to spare the grange from outright demolition, the Tumwater city council approved the sponsoring of a comprehensive plan map amendment and the associated rezone of an adjacent property owned by The Farm Homeowners Association, but not without some questions and comment, at their meeting Tuesday evening.

Getting the amendment and rezone on the city’s work docket allows staff to study the issue.

The Farm and a Proposed Rezone

The area being considered for a rezone is part of The Farm Homeowners Association property to the west and south of the grange on Yelm Highway.

Once an agricultural area, the grange is now surrounded by a tangle of different zoning categories.

Schrader has long been interested in this property in order to have more space to develop his property.

The purchase is still not final, but The Farm Homeowners Association community approved the sale of its property to Schrader in concept on May 25. The vote was 81 to 8 in favor of the sale, said Schrader.

Depending on the outcome of a property survey, the property is between 18,000 and 22,500 square feet in size and will cost Schrader about $100,000.

A developer agreement between Schrader and The Farm is also being prepared and expected to be finished next month. The city is drafting the agreement and must approve it before the rezone is granted.

The proposed amendment would change the Comprehensive Plan map designation of a portion of the parcel from Single Family Low Density (SFL) to Public Institutional (PI) and the zone district designation from Single Family Low Density (SFL) to Community Services (CS) to match the comprehensive plan amendment and associated rezone done for the former grange property in 2016.

Once the docket becomes final, staff will review the proposed amendment as part of their 2017 long range plan work program. The final docket review will start with a Planning Commission review and recommendation process that will begin in September.

At Tuesday night’s meeting, Councilmember Nicole Hill wondered about setting a precedent for rezoning an open space tract to a different use. Staff agreed that the question was a “worthwhile concern,” but said that it is not clear from the record how it became open space, and that it is a remnant area fenced off from The Farm subdivision.

Members of the council and the Tumwater Historic Preservation Commission have been polite, but have indicated that they felt duped into the 2016 rezone from single family low density to community service, having been swayed by Schrader’s enthusiasm and promise that the grange and its historic character and integrity would be saved.

At a previous council meeting, Kmet admitted they all should have asked more questions and asked for a developer’s agreement at the time of the rezone of the grange property.

Schrader says Starbucks is willing to wait for the proposed rezone process to be complete. A few months ago, they did not prefer to be in the old grange building, but now, he said, they may be open to ideas.

Schrader went to Seattle on Tuesday morning to meet with Starbucks representatives to discuss his latest architectural drawings and ideas. Schrader says he wants Starbucks on the top floor of the grange, and he will keep the basement for parties and events.

Above: The basement of the Chambers Prairie Grange as seen in November, 2015.

Along with other changes, Schrader says that he has already taken out the floor and walls, and the stage will be taken out. In a 2015 interview, Schrader said he would save the stage.

With the historic integrity of the building and its surroundings slated to be dramatically altered, including the cutting down of at least three large Douglas fir trees and one maple tree to make a drive thru, it is uncertain whether or not the deal will be worthwhile to some historic preservationists.

At their last meeting, members of the city’s Tumwater Historic Preservation Committee discussed their desire to tour the property and see the inside of the grange.

Mike Matlock, community development director for the City of Tumwater, says the city is only interested in exterior appearances.

Dave Nugent, president of The Farm subdivision, says members of The Farm want the exterior appearance of the grange retained as a notable landmark, saying the grange is integral to his neighborhood.

Grange members built the hall on land donated by the Wickie Family, completing the structure in 1910, one of the first in Thurston County.

When Nugent was informed that Schrader visited Starbucks representatives with designs showing Starbucks in the grange, the news concerned him.

“Putting Starbucks in the grange without losing its historic integrity is something. The more he starts to modify the building the more he’ll lose the protections the city has offered him….It’s certainly gone back and forth. It is our hope that the grange is kept there. We want to see that corner taken care of,” said Nugent.

Nugent said Schrader has a lot to get done before The Farm sells their property to him, but strongly believes Schrader always intended to save the grange.

As for the building’s interior, he hopes Starbucks will want to tell the story of the grange and its history through pictures and design.

Nugent says he knows some trees will be lost and doesn’t think the neighborhood will be impacted. With the proceeds from the sale of the property, The Farm intends to create a barrier between the subdivision and the property to minimize noise and light pollution, and make other safety and beautification enhancements to the neighborhood.

“The sale of our property (to Schrader) is fortuitous. Neighbors are looking forward to the whole idea of going over there to get coffee and pastries and have it be a gathering spot,” said Nugent.

Above: A lot of traffic passes in front of the Chambers Prairie Grange on Sunday afternoon at the intersection of Yelm Highway and Henderson Boulevard. Construction is ongoing for an active senior living facility across the street.

The Art of the Deal...Tumwater Style

In a development process that sounds a bit like learning how sausage is made, communications between Schrader and the city have improved in the last few months, particularly after an early May meeting resulted in negotiations laid out in print.

In a May 6 email, Mayor Pete Kmet wrote Schrader that if he wants to preserve the current building in place, the city is willing to support a vacation of a portion of the city's right of way on Henderson that the building encroaches on, in exchange for additional right of way on Yelm Highway where the stairs are, with removal of the stairs.

The city is also willing to support a waiver to the twelve foot sidewalk requirement along Henderson and Yelm Highway and reduce this to a six foot wide sidewalk and support a waiver to reduce the ten foot building setback and landscaping requirement so the grange does not need to be moved.

Regarding a drive thru, city code prohibits the placement of a drive thru window between a building and the street. Kmet said the city would not support a variance from this requirement. 

“With acquisition of the Farm’s parcel, it appears possible to achieve sufficient queuing to enable provision of a drive thru window on the west side of either the existing or a new building, he wrote. 

The rezone of The Farm parcel and vacation of a portion of the right of way on Henderson Boulevard are dependent on city council approval. Similarly, any variances depend on a hearing examiner decision.

Schrader is thrilled with the negotiations with the city, and if he gets the rezone, says his intent is to combine the properties and provide full service access points with left and right ingress and egress on both Yelm Highway and Henderson Boulevard.

“This is huge - now the entrance and exit for this corner is much easier for everyone….Things sometimes have a way of coming back around for the good. I will be keeping the grange, and buying the extra property…I can now go back to doing what I had always hoped for, and that is to restore and keep the grange,” Schrader said.

For more photos and information about the Chambers Prairie Grange and its history, and Tom Schrader, and go to Little Hollywood, and type keywords into the search engine.