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Then this happened — October 2019

It helps to know people. In April, WIP featured a story on the Green Cove Park Project, a housing development proposed in West Olympia on the site of an illegal hazardous waste dump. Neighbors and environmental advocates urged the city to test the site for buried waste, including wood treatment wastes and herbicides likely to contaminate wells and groundwater.

On August 8, the City notified developer Jerry Mahan that he had 6 months to answer many of the same questions raised by citizens. And then this happened: Mahan hired the very well-connected Heather Burgess to represent him at a meeting to negotiate with the City. Burgess serves as the attorney for the Port of Olympia and president-elect of the Thurston County Economic Development Council (one of those friendly public-private things). Also she’s a member of the Chamber. And the Master Builders. Citizens concerned to see that the City acts to protect environmental and public health should contact Senior Planner Cari Hornbein at, and Council members at

No approval for the Green Cove project should be granted unless Mahan meets all city requirements and removes all buried wastes as required by State law. Find details about the project at “Green Cove Park.”

Apparently the City of Olympia has plenty of money. In August WIP covered the City’s refusal to accept a legal decision that required them to fix flaws in its residential rezone known as the Missing Middle. Despite having lost several times, with two more procedural filings pending, the City has now appealed to Superior Court to overturn the Growth Management Hearings Board decision.

The Board gave the city until mid-December to come up with a plan to bring the ordinance into compliance with the law. City Council members never even discussed that possibility – at least in public. Instead, they followed the advice of staff (who wrote the ordinance) and lawyers (who bill by the quarter-hour) to continue fighting the decision.

At this point, citizens challenging the rezone estimate that the City has spent $80 to $100,000 on legal fees. All to avoid redrafting those parts of the ordinance that didn’t comply with the city’s own Comprehensive Plan, as well as some elements of the rezone based on incorrect assumptions.

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