The Port of Olympia commissioners expressed willingness to collaborate with the Regional Housing Council (RHC), directing Port Executive Director Sam Gibboney to reach out to discuss the Housing Authority’s plan to purchase the former OYO Hotel building.
The building is located in Tumwater, on Port of Olympia property that is controlled by Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) rules. The RHC is an interlocal commission established by the county and Lacey, Olympia, Tumwater and Yelm. The Housing Authority of Thurston County is a division of the county and owns some housing and operates programs to assist low-income renters.
During the commission’s meeting last night, Commissioner Amy Evans Harding recalled they previously requested the staff to investigate what it would take for the FAA grant a waiver that would allow the hotel to be used as a full-time residential building. She said a report was completed, and they can use the information for RHC to consider the property as an alternative to meet the community's housing needs.
"The barrier for us to demonstrate the financial requirements seems rather high," Evans Harding said. "But if we quantify what that cost and time would be, then we could get some insight from our partners on whether this is the best path forward. Then, we would need to decide where to go from there."
The report that Evans Harding mentioned has not yet been released to the public.
Evans Harding said getting some context as to what other initiatives RHC are working on might help them understand whether they would pursue the plan to use the OYO Hotel for permanent housing.
Evans Harding said reaching out to RHC and discussing a potential collaboration would give them a better understanding of the potential costs and timeline. "We would have to decide based on the feedback that we got from them."
"I agree that collaboration with RHC would most likely be a benefit. Collaborating with RHC…we can at least be a part of the solution," Commissioner Bob Iyall said.
Earlier, the Port of Olympia commission expressed its intention to explore the specific work further to see a lift of FAA restrictions.
According to the Port's website, the property was originally acquired for airport purposes under the Federal Surplus Property Act. Because of this, the property isn't allowed for long-term residential use.
In May 2021, the Port requested the FAA to terminate the deed restrictions for the properties on which the OYO and Comfort Inn hotels reside.
The Port announced its plan to enable the sale of the hotel. The Thurston County Housing Authority has expressed interest in purchasing the hotel to convert it into permanent supportive housing.
Doublespeak from the FAA and Port
The FAA replied on June 29, 2021, suggesting that the Port should consider releasing the land from being part of the airport, but "a proposal for a total release permitting the sale and disposal of real property acquired for airport purposes under the Surplus Property Act shall not be granted unless it can be clearly shown that the disposal of such property will benefit civil aviation."
Further, the Port’s website reinforces the challenge to the proposed collaboration by stating this: “Only benefits to the airport may be cited as justification for the release, whether tangible or intangible. The non-aviation interest of the sponsor or the local community – such as making land available for economic development – does not constitute an airport benefit that can be considered in justifying a release and disposal.”
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