In a vote of 6-1, the Olympia City Council approved a development agreement with a developer interested in constructing housing and amenities along the waters of Budd Bay on West Bay Drive NW.
The project had drawn opposition from many locals, concerned about negative effects to the local ecosystem, traffic and the project’s timeline. Within the last week, the developers agreed to a $250,000 donation to promote affordable housing in the city.
The project as currently planned includes 478 market-rate rental housing units in five mixed-use buildings and 20,500 square-feet of business and recreational space located at 1210 West Bay Drive. Included in the plans are shoreline restoration efforts.
During last week’s city council meeting, officials held a public hearing where 25 people spoke — a majority of them opposing the project. Those who spoke in favor argued the project is in-line with Olympia’s goals and vision for the future, including dense housing options and a shoreline improvement project that has been needed for years.
Since then, the project development team agreed to make a one-time payment Olympia’s Home Fund to the tune of $250,000, said Tim Smith, Olympia’s community planning manager.
“The specific language that will be added to the agreement … says ‘The property owner shall make a one-time payment of $250,000 to the City of Olympia Home Fund to develop and sustain supportive and affordable housing in the city,” said Smith.
Some citizens expressed concern and frustration that housing units to be constructed at West Bay Yards were planned at market rate rather than affordable.
As each city council member provided a brief statement on their positions, Councilperson Renata Rollins said she hoped the home fund contribution becomes precedent in future private development projects.
“My support for this agreement is that ultimately I really can’t think of a reason why I would vote against it,” said Rollins. “… When I think of all the public benefits around restoration and this additional support for the home fund … I really can’t think of a reason why I would vote no.”
Other council members noted that they initially shared some of the concerns citizens had about the project, but said they were convinced upon doing further research.
Councilperson Yến Huỳnh said there will be future public hearings for the project and a traffic impact analysis will be completed.
“The shoreline restoration would provide habitat for fish and other living resources. Stabilization and revegetation of the shoreline will also be positive to the existing water quality,” said Huỳnh. Addressing public concerns that the project has moved ahead too quickly, Huỳnh advocated that further projects like this be brought before the land use and environment committee to provide “another touchpoint for the community to not only voice comments, but also to learn more about the process along with council members at a more moderate pace.”
The only council member who voted against the agreement was Clark Gilman, who noted the amount of feedback the project has received.
“It makes me think that this is a really big decision, that we haven’t had a single project that elicited this kind of conversation. It’s been important for so many people. And I think a decision of this magnitude is the kind of decision that requires transparent public process and agency review to fully shape a proposal in line with community and the residents’ priorities before we consider offering any special conditions,” said Gilman.
The development agreement locks into place current land-use regulations on the site for the next 15 years, as developers work their way through the permitting and construction processes.