The continuing quest by local attorney Burgess and City staffers to turn a toxic waste site into a housing development
This summer, the President of the Economic Development Council, the legal counsel for the Thurston Chamber of Commerce’s public policy advocacy arm, the former Port of Olympia attorney and the attorney representing developer Jerry Mahan, sent an email to the City of Olympia asking it to consent to a “quiet title” action.
The well-connected attorneys listed above are one person – Heather Burgess. Burgess’s goal was to get the City to agree to vacate public rights-of-way in favor of Mahan’s controversial Green Cove Park development.
In putting forth the request, Ms. Burgess claimed “There is no evidence that the portion of the Unopened Area sought to be vacated…has ever been formally vacated nor opened to the public, and there is no person known who would claim otherwise…”
In fact, the City had been informed of persons “who would claim otherwise” since 2006, when a resident objected to a 2005 Mahan proposal that would have built houses right up to the edge of his property. The streets claimed as unopened have been used for years by nearby residents to access northern parts of their property.
Despite this and other evidence that the area in question was open and used by the public, the City obliged Ms. Burgess. On August 4, the Superior Court granted the stipulation without any public notice or input, as required.
In order to support Ms. Burgess to facilitate the development, City staff ignored their responsibility to examine maps and photos or consult neighbors. Information from these sources and from the City’s own records would have shown Ms. Burgess’s claims to be invalid, and required the rejection of the quiet title request.
The City ignored the law in one further area. Mahan’s project is on the Department of Ecology’s Confirmed and Suspected Contaminated Site list, making it subject to cleanup under the Model Toxics Control Act. The staff used City resources in taking the quiet title action on behalf of the Green Cove Park project. This violated the State Environmental Policy Act, which states that “appropriate consideration of environmental information shall be completed BEFORE an agency commits to a particular course of action.”
It may be only a matter of time before parties excluded from the quiet title process ask the Court to remedy this miscarriage of justice.
Esther Kronenberg has followed progress of the Green Cove proposal for years.