The development would be a permanent home for Camp Quixote, a tent city in Olympia that’s now on the grounds of First United Methodist Church of Olympia but is required to move at least every six months. Camp supporters want to build 30 one-room cottages for the homeless and a 4,000-square-foot community building on Thurston County property off Mottman Road.
The land belongs to Thurston County government but is within Olympia’s city limits, meaning the city had to decide whether to issue a conditional-use permit to allow the camp. The city’s hearing examiner did so in June.
But a group calling itself the Industrial Zoning Preservation Association – along with landowners John Peranzi, Vallie Jo Fry and Isobel Cairone – appealed the case to Lewis County Superior Court. They have questioned whether an industrial site is appropriate, given that heavy trucks go in and out, creating noise and other issues.
The judge threw the case out in an oral decision Wednesday.
“It’s very good news,” said Jill Severn, chairwoman of the Panza Board, a nonprofit that supports Camp Quixote.
Heather Burgess, an attorney for the Industrial Zoning Preservation Association, said her clients haven’t decided whether to appeal. They have 30 days to appeal after a written order is entered, which hasn’t happened.
Work to construct the camp could begin in April and be completed by Christmas, Severn said. But the camp is waiting to hear whether opponents will appeal.
She said the $2.5 million project is within $139,000 of being fully funded, and the Panza group is seeking donations for the rest. The camp also is trying to complete its fundraising, which is necessary before work can begin, Severn said, because government money is involved. The group has received $1.5 million from the state and $604,000 from a federal Community Development Block grant.
The City Council has supported the Quixote Village project, and it agreed to change its comprehensive plan to allow permanent homeless encampments this year in response to another appeal from opponents. Thurston County is allowing its property to be used for the project.
Quixote Village has been a dream for residents at Camp Quixote, who started their tent city nearly six years ago. The Thurston County property was first proposed in 2010 by Panza.
Supporters want to build 30 eco-friendly cottages with plumbing to allow toilets and a sink, Severn said. Showers would be placed in a community building, and Severn has said there would be a workshop where residents could work on projects that make money.
Camp Quixote began Feb. 1, 2007, on a small, city-owned parking lot at State Avenue and Columbia Street in downtown Olympia. The impetus was a protest of the city’s Pedestrian Interference Ordinance, which made it a misdemeanor to sit, lie down, sell things or ask for money within 6 feet of the edge of a downtown building during certain hours, with limited exceptions.
City leaders told campers to leave, and police eventually kicked them out. The Olympia Unitarian Universalist Congregation offered sanctuary for the campers on a site it owns at 2409 Division St. NW.
City leaders eventually softened their position on the camp and passed an ordinance allowing campers to stay at a church’s property for 90 days; the time limit later was extended to 180 days. The camp has been moving regularly ever since, with its hosts including The United Churches, St. John’s Episcopal Church and First Christian Church.
The camp has put stress on the churches, Severn has said. And campers have grown weary of moving every few months.