“Stewardship of the commons is a fundamental purpose of local government”
On March 30, Olympia City Council members signed a 15-year contract needed by Milestone Companies to attract financing for their “West Bay Yards” project, a luxury mixed-use development on the edge of Budd Inlet. Hundreds of citizens weighed in with objections to the contract, which was drafted by the developer and agreed to by the staff of the City’s Development Department before being presented to the Council.
Olympia Coalition for Ecosystem Preservation, which has been working to restore habitat that connects to the development site, has appealed the Council’s decision in Superior Court. They are asking the Court to vacate the contract and instruct the City to obtain a full accounting of the likely environmental impacts the development will cause.
In a statement on their website, OCEP observed that even with most shoreline industry gone, water quality in Budd Inlet is worse, not better. “This shoreline has a history of abuse. The buildings of the logging industry may be long gone but their legacy remains in the form of extremely high concentrations of deadly chemicals. This will be true whether or not the area is covered with additional fill, topped with buildings and forgotten again.” The movement of water will continue. The first hearing is set for August 30.
Restoration ecologist Paul Cereghino characterized the Council’s action in a letter to The Olympian:
In Washington state, shorelines and their fisheries are a 10,000-year-old public trust resource. Coastlines are so valuable and irreplaceable, we don’t leave them to the whims of private land speculators.
Our local government is persistently groomed by a cabal of land speculators. Our citizens need housing, and that makes us vulnerable to manipulation. Not all deals are good. It is important for citizens and their officials to aggressively protect the public trust. Hardel demonstrates our weakness and passivity.
The council has the power and responsibility to demand stewardship. South Puget Sound is bleeding to death and just took another cut. Leaders cannot hide behind staff or procedure or ignorance or hollow words. You preside over the system, you set the rules, you sign the papers. Stewardship of the commons is a fundamental purpose of local government.
Puyallup developer Ronald Dean Newman must raise money for the project but he will soon be working with the Olympia Development Department staff with a Land Use Application. An attorney under contract to the City of Olympia to hear the application will be the one making the decision to approve the application.
Troy Nichols, partner in Phillips Burgess, a prominent law firm active in Olympia politics and representing the developer, said the suit will not delay the project.