Economy and Environment

Tumwater to Port (and Panattoni):  We’re going to think about it some more

City takes control of its side of planning for the proposed development at the Port of Olympia’s New Market Industrial Campus following hearing


Despite a last-minute request by the Port of Olympia to cancel it, the Tumwater City Council held a planned hearing regarding the proposed development agreement for some 200 acres of industrial-zoned land at the Port’s New Market Industrial Campus on Tuesday night.

Doan clarified that the proposed Port-Tumwater New Market Development Agreement/Interlocal Agreement (DA/IA) document is not a lease agreement between Panattoni and the Port of Olympia, “that’s a separate agreement,” the city manager said.

Timeline: This gets a little complicated

The hearing didn’t focus on the agreement but on the various concerns of local citizens and a last-minute “Mayor’s Version” proposed by Tumwater.

Tumwater set the public hearing on Nov. 16 with the understanding that the city would consider the proposed agreement that was hammered out during a year and a half of negotiations and planning between Port of Olympia and City of Tumwater staff and elected officials. Terms of the agreement were approved by the Port commissioners on Nov. 8.

The Port transmitted the “final version that reflects the key terms in our agreement” on Nov. 17, according to Port of Olympia Executive Director Sam Gibboney.

From Nov. 17-23 Mayor Pete Kmet huddled with city staff to re-evaluate the DA/IA from the perspective of the city and drafted a modified DA/IA. On Nov. 23 City Administrator John Doan emailed that document to Gibboney, commenting “I fully understand this is a shock,” in his message.

The next day, which was the day before the Thanksgiving, the last business day before the scheduled Nov. 30 hearing, Gibboney rescinded the Port’s request for the Tumwater council to consider the DA/IA and requested that the public hearing be cancelled. “Tumwater sent documents [to be discussed during the hearing] without any opportunity for review or response by the Port,” Gibboney told The JOLT. 

Some 30 people spoke at the hearing

The hearing ran more than two and a half hours on Tuesday night. Observers on YouTube and Zoom listened to testimony from some 30 residents, most of whom were opposed to various aspects of the proposed development, citing concerns about environmental protection as well as health and public safety.

Some of the issues that were raised by others who spoke with the proposed development include limiting the size of the warehouses to 200,000 square feet, preserving certain groves of trees, providing a space for an outdoor recreation complex and Tumwater-owned community center, constructing more bicycle and pedestrian trails, relocation of a section of Kimmie Street, truck traffic, prairie mitigation, and bark waste.

Allyn Rowe, director of business development and real estate for the Port, offered comment at the meeting and asked the city council to approve the version transmitted by the Port.  He stated that the Mayor’s Version “makes significant and material changes” and cannot be approved by the Port.

During the hearing, Port of Olympia Commissioner E.J. Zita, who identified herself as vice president of the Salmon Creek Basin Neighborhood association, “just south of this development,” confirmed that the full Port commission has neither been informed about this matter nor weighed in on it.” Regarding Gibboney’s request to withdraw the agreement for consideration by Tumwater, Zita explained that the Port commission, not the Executive Director, is responsible for making such decisions. “The executive director is a port employee,” Zita said. She also advised the city council to issue an action regarding the proposed agreement.

The Mayor’s biggest concern: Vesting

Explaining why he took the approach of creating an alternative agreement, Kmet said, “obviously we could have put this off and tried to negotiate with the Port some more. What I heard from our staff was, at the staff level at least, they had reached the point where they couldn’t go any further with the [Port] staff.  And I felt there were some key issues here that the agreement did not address.”

He continued: “Most of the things I proposed changing were in my view, clarifications … putting in some deadlines, those sorts of things. It all boiled down to the vesting.” Vesting offers specific rights to a developer, including the promise that zoning and other land-use ordinances won’t change during the course of the agreement.

“Normally a development is not vested until they’ve put in a complete application, […] the final plans, ready to go. We’re nowhere near that here. We’re still at the highly conceptual stage.  We’re not even sure of the size of the buildings, what the uses will be, ultimately. What the configuration of the road system will be. And as you heard tonight, a lot of uncertainty about how stormwater will be handled, Kmet explained, adding “I think there are a number of things in this agreement that lay out a framework for how we think the future development of this area should occur.”

The Port’s position

Gibboney told The JOLT that, “The port believes that the vesting language put forth is reasonable and similar in nature to other development agreements that have been approved locally, in Olympia in particular. The city is in its purview to reject the vesting language.”

She added that “Tumwater doesn’t have standards for vesting agreements. Other jurisdictions do.  We believe that the vesting language requested by the Port is reasonable and equitable given the consideration offered in the document,”  The consideration includes providing the city with 9.7 acres – for a dollar a year – to be used for a community center, 1.7 acres for a walking trail and other elements.

The Port issued a statement that reads: “The Port appreciates the level of effort expended by both our organizations in attempting to reach an agreement that would benefit the community of Tumwater and help the Port achieve our mission of economic development. The Port stands by its commitment to continue work with the City of Tumwater to ensure a reasonable and amicable development agreement.”

Tree canopy

 During the presentation, Doan clarified that 122 acres of the proposed lease area are covered by a tree canopy, with 97 acres consisting of high-quality trees. Once approved, the tree canopy would be reduced to only 25 acres.

More discussion planned for next week

The city council unanimously approved a motion to table the discussion and hold a work session focusing on the DA/IA after the city council meeting planned for next Tue., Dec.7.


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