Olympia City Council votes down proposal to allow drive-throughs on Plum Street


After almost an hour of discussing options for balancing housing, climate goals, safety, and health, the Olympia City Council voted not to adopt the proposed amendment to allow drive-throughs on Plum Street.

Before voting, Mayor Dontae Payne acknowledged the concerns expressed by each councilmember. He said the city would continue engaging as a council to determine the future vision and role of the Plum Street corridor.

At Tuesday's meeting, Olympia's associate planner Casey Schaufler presented the request to amend the OMC 18.06 to allow drive-throughs in mixed-use development along portions of Plum St. The proposed amendment intends to facilitate the development of mixed-use multifamily projects in auto-oriented areas of downtown Olympia by allowing drive-through businesses to increase density.

Councilmember Clark Gilman noted uncertainty around the long-term planning and zoning of the Plum Street area, as there were multiple zones but no clear framework.

Gilman urged the city council not to make a "piecemeal" decision like approving a drive-through that could commit the Plum Street area to being auto-dependent without a comprehensive plan to guide the corridor's future.

He advocated for the city to establish a clear and aligned vision to guide development towards the east as downtown grows.

Gilman said the city needs a clear plan for the area between Plum Street and East Side Street. He noted seven zoning categories across this corridor, indicating it needs a unified vision.

"I think we all share a vision for a walkable, safe, healthy, livable city,” Gilman said. “We should be intentional, rather than piecemeal, in making major decisions like this."

Councilmember Dani Madrone, who had voted to recommend the proposal in the Land Use and Environment Committee, agreed with Gilman, saying, "If we are to make this kind of a change to Plum Street, it should be done in the context of a larger planning decision."

Councilmembers Robert Vanderpool and Yen Huynh opposed the amendment, arguing that it would compromise the city's values on climate goals, health and safety of residents.

Vanderpool argued that the auto-centric design is incompatible with dense, livable communities. He argued that approving drive-throughs, which are auto-centric developments that promote more vehicle traffic, would achieve the opposite of the city's goals around climate protection, public safety, and accessibility/transportation options.

Huynh felt the proposal needed to be more of a compromise of the city's stated values on climate goals, increased multimodal transportation/walkability, and health and safety for residents.

Mayor Dontae Payne and Councilmembers Jim Cooper and Lisa Parshley supported the proposed zoning change to allow drive-throughs because they believed it could create more opportunities for housing development.

Acknowledging the conflict between housing and climate goals, Cooper said he sees the drive-through as an opportunity to introduce two floors of housing in the neighborhood. He leans towards prioritizing density over prohibiting the policy change.


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  • KarenM

    I appreciate that the Council had an open discussion about this and then decided not to adopt the amendment. What became evident during this process was that the entire Plum Street and Eastside Street area really needs a broader look at zoning and future plans and needs. There is currently quite a checkerboard of zoning in this area and things have changed quite a bit with less need for office spaces. I hope that process will begin soon.

    Thursday, April 11 Report this

  • Honestyandrealityguy

    Looks like some liberal politicians are closing businesses, or, keeping other taxpayers to be successful. They closed Olympia Brewery, got rid of Hardel's and more. Instead of viewing these as horrible taxpayers, maybe look at them as "our best customers"! Sad these things are happening at "home".

    Thursday, April 11 Report this

  • jimlazar

    Clark Gilman and Robert Vandepool both had this right from the get-go: it was an effort to change a regulation so an existing land owner could sell his land to Burger King, and in the process make the Plum Street mess even worse.

    Fortunately, Councilmembers Madrone and Huyhn listened carefully, and reached the right decision.

    It was good to see the Council having an open and honest disagreement in public. So often they are prepped by the City Manager in (probably unlawful) serial one-on-one meetings, so that by the time an issue comes before the Council, the sausage is already made.

    Councilmember Cooper had it exactly wrong when he pleaded for "gentle treatment" for a family-owned business. Casa Mia is not going to put in a drive-through for ravioli! They were going to sell it to a fast food operator.

    The decision to defer any changes to a sub-area planning effort, encompassing the area from State Street to I-5, Plum to Eastside street, is the right step to take. That area is a mixed bag of commercial, office, retail, gas stations, veterinary, and miscellaneous other uses. A vision is needed for this entrance corridor to our city. That planning effort should come before any spot zoning changes like the one rejected Tuesday night.

    Friday, April 12 Report this

  • Duffish

    I Like the way the Council evaluated the proposal, based on the need to examine the entire area. Spot zoning sets a bad precedent and has nothing to do with closing businesses. This is a complex area and making hasty decisions and adding another layer of congestion would not enhance the area.

    Saturday, April 13 Report this