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State appeals court affirms city development policies

The Washington State Court of Appeals determined that developer DR Horton did not demonstrate compliance with the City’s development standards, and affirmed the City Council rejection of the proposed Trillium development. Trillium was a proposed 500 home “Neighborhood Village” to be located in southeast Olympia near LBA Park.
The Olympia Safe Streets Campaign, an advocacy group for people who walk and bicycle, convinced the City Council that the proposed development did not show compliance with the City’s requirements for short block lengths and frequent walking and bicycling connections. The Council turned the developer down in their Master Plan Application after extensive public comment and public hearings. The developer, DR Horton, appealed to Thurston County Superior Court, which affirmed the City Council, and then appealed again to the State Court of Appeals.
“We participated from the beginning for a simple reason: we wanted the new development to be one that people could walk to and through. In 2006, 2008, and again in 2010, we told the Developer and the City that this project needed to meet the City’s connectivity rules. Instead, they designed it as a bit of a fortress, with some very long blocks that would be a real barrier for people wanting to walk to McKinney Elementary School and to nearby neighborhoods,” said Karen Messmer, President of Olympia Safe Streets.
The City Council originally rejected the proposed plan because of inadequate connectivity, for failure to provide for neighborhood school needs, and because it could not be served by transit. Horton appealed all three parts, and the Court rejected Horton’s arguments on all counts.
“The Court was very clear in ruling that the developer had to follow the City’s Comprehensive Plan, and Horton did not prove that they had complied,” said Messmer. “Having spent 11 years as a Planning Commissioner, and 4 years on the City Council, it’s good to know that our adopted policies and regulations mean something” said Messmer.
Horton applied for a rezone of the property, which was approved by the City Council last December. It will be allowed to build fewer homes, but not have to provide as many features as were required for the “Neighborhood Village” proposal that was turned down.
Messmer commented: “The requirements for connectivity are exactly the same with the new zoning. We’ll be there again to make sure that the new design is done right. People should be able to walk to their neighbors, walk to school, and walk to the bus.”
“Basically, the Court said that if DR Horton was not willing to follow the City’s Comprehensive Plan and Development Code, then it could not build it’s proposed development,” said Messmer.
—Olympia Safe Streets Campaign


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