The Port of Olympia commission voted 2-1 on Monday to approve the terms of a development agreement tied to port-owned land in Tumwater.
But the three-member commission did not arrive at that decision easily.
Commissioner E.J. Zita challenged and questioned parts of the development agreement and made several motions throughout the meeting to move, table and even alter an element of it, but was thwarted at each step when her fellow commissioners did not support her. Zita finally voted against the development agreement, while commissioners Bill McGregor and Joe Downing voted for it.
At issue is a 200-acre parcel of port-owned land in Tumwater that is part of the port’s New Market Industrial Campus, a light-industrial area west of the Olympia Regional Airport and east of Interstate 5. A little more than a year ago, the port and the Southern California-based Panattoni Development Company struck an agreement that allowed the business to explore development of the site.
Panattoni is known for developing large warehouses. After residents and Tumwater City Council members raised concerns about that type of development and impacts such as truck traffic, port and Tumwater staff began negotiating a development agreement to guide development of the site.
Allyn Roe, real estate and business development director for the port, explained the general provisions of the agreement, as well as the revisions to it that emerged during negotiations.
In general, the agreement will be consistent with city of Tumwater code, have a vesting period, address truck traffic, retain trees on the semi-forested property, create a multi-use trail and set aside acreage for a city community center.
He also highlighted some key revisions:
▪ The vesting period has been lowered to 10 years from 20 years after the completion of a habitat conservation plan for the site. The plan is expected to be wrapped up at the end of 2022 or early 2023, Roe said. A vesting period means the city of Tumwater would abide by its current zoning code for a period of 10 years.
▪ The mile-long multi-use trail will be widened to 10 feet from 8 feet.
▪ Unsuitable materials found on the site will be addressed through the model toxics control act.
▪ Underground injection control wells, a kind of well used to control stormwater, will not be used, Roe said. What he described as an “emerging narrative” about the wells is not true. “There is no planned use of such wells,” he said. “We have gone back to Panattoni and they have reassured us that there has been no discussion of these types of wells.”
Among the many motions Zita made Monday was one that zeroed in on the underground injection control wells, and she raised concerns about their impact on drinking water. Although state law might prevent the use of them at this site, she wanted to add specific language to the development agreement that would explicitly prohibit the use of them.
In an email to The Olympian Tuesday morning, Zita elaborated on her concerns. She said a “mega-warehouse” in Vancouver, Washington used a underground injection control well for stormwater before 2007. A diesel truck then spilled fuel into the well and contaminated a drinking water aquifer in the area, she said.
While business development director Roe said there is “no planned use for such wells,” Zita believes Tumwater “would welcome our assurance that (UIC wells) not be permitted here,” she said.
She received no support for her motion from either McGregor or Downing and only concern from port Executive Director Sam Gibboney.
The language of a blanket prohibition could be misinterpreted and then be used to preclude any type of development on the property at all, Gibboney said.
Downing, too, wasn’t interested in sabotaging the agreement. “We already have state law and local ordinances controlling stormwater,” he said.
The development agreement now heads to Tumwater for consideration. Tumwater City Council was set to be briefed on the matter during a work session on Tuesday evening (Nov. 9), but was not expected to take action on it.
This story was originally published November 9, 2021 5:45 AM.