Northwest News

Olympia council revises public hearing over lack of notification to building owner

The Olympia City Council has extended the public comment period regarding a downtown alley after a nearby building owner cited a lack of proper notification.

The developer for a proposed apartment building at Legion Way and Franklin Street has petitioned the city to vacate a 9-foot strip of alley. In short, the proposal would transfer ownership of the public right-of-way to private hands. The alley is located at 600 Franklin St. SE, where Walker John is building the 321 Lofts.

However, owners of the Carnegie Library building at 620 Franklin St. SE say the alley vacation will negatively affect their ability to rent the building after the departure of previous tenant Reality Church. Co-owner Ed Brooks told the council Tuesday that he never received a mailing from the city about the proposal, and that he received notice about the development after plans for the hearing were set in motion. Brooks asked the council to delay action until he and co-owners have had a chance to survey the property and determine the potential impact.

“The limited amount of parking does impact the ability to lease that,” Brooks told the council.

City surveyor Ladd Cluff confirmed Tuesday that Brooks’ property was not on the mailing list to receive notice on the proposal. Councilman Steve Langer and Mayor Stephen Buxbaum both expressed a desire to give the private property owners more time to work together. Langer added that city staff needs to err on the side of more notification on these matters.

With the council’s approval, the written public comment period has been extended to June 9, with council review slated for June 16.

In other council action Tuesday:

• The council approved a public hearing and comment period for the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) action plan for 2015. The public comment period will run May 22 through June 22, with a public hearing slated for the June 2 council meeting. The total amount of federal funding available for the 2015 action plan is $458,265 and the council has until July 15 to finalize the list and submit it to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Nearly $220,000 would go toward the Grow Olympia Fund, which is intended to help businesses that lack access to conventional bank loans.

• The council approved the scope and consultant criteria for the Downtown Strategy, which involves the implementation of goals in the city’s comprehensive plan. The latter is a blueprint that outlines the city’s vision for the next 20 years. The strategy will define what actions the city will take during the next five to six years and will focus on four primary areas: reducing uncertainty for development, encouraging private investment, enhancing public spaces and preserving downtown’s natural or historic qualities. City planner Amy Buckler said the public process for forming the strategy will begin in the fall. One goal is to form a group comprised of key downtown stakeholders — such as prominent business owners — who can advise city staff during the public process.

• City engineer Fran Eide updated the council on construction projects in 2015. Eide noted that the city has received seven bids so far for demolition of the former county health department building at 529 Fourth Ave. W. on the downtown isthmus. The demolition is slated for completion by the end of the year.

In June, the city will start restriping several roads, and also wrap up work on the State Avenue paving project that has snarled traffic lately. Aside from adding 15 curb extensions known as “bulbouts,” the project includes the installation of filtration units to treat stormwater runoff before it drains into Moxlie Creek and Budd Inlet.

Other upcoming construction projects include a new sidewalk at Boulevard Road and 22nd Avenue Southeast; pavement work for 3.6 miles of roadways including West Bay Drive, Black Lake Boulevard and Mottman Road; and the installation of lighting in seven downtown alleys.

• The council approved the first reading of an ordinance that would allocate $110,000 for the addition of one code enforcement officer/building inspector and one plans examiner. The city reports that consultants have previously been used instead of these full-time staff positions. In 2014, the city spent $65,000 on consultants and is on track to spend $120,000 in 2015 without the additional staff, according to the city.