Karmen Franko has been watching with dismay as a two-story, four-unit complex rises behind her house.
Shes upset because the project was approved in 2003, and her understanding, based on communication from the city, was that the development rights had expired and new zoning wouldnt allow it.
It was talked about that nothing was happening, said Franko, president of the Grass Lake Village Homeowners Association.
But she and others were surprised when Highmark Homes LLC of Tukwila began construction last year. The reason: a state law passed last year extended development rights to nine years from five or seven years, allowing approved developers stymied by the recent recession more time to fetch building permits. The development was grandfathered under earlier zoning rules.
One four-plex is rising behind Frankos house now, and several more multifamily buildings are planned, Franko said. The neighborhood has mostly single-family homes.
Neighbors are concerned about that will lead to a parking problem on the deliberately narrow streets serving the subdivision.
I think its awful, said Cathy Ryan, who owns a home across the street from the four-plex. They put these huge buildings right in the middle of a nice residential area ... Its just something that should have never happened.
To the contrary, the developer is building exactly what the city had already approved, said Tom Tollen, president of Highmark Homes.
It was originally zoned for that, designed for that and they certainly should have been aware of the multifamily that was designed to go into that community he said.
I dont they have a valid argument here at all.
Tollen said the change in state law is valuable, because it helps projects continue in a struggling economy.
It creates jobs, he said. That neighborhood sat for many years. I think this is the best thing that couldve happened.
Todd Stamm, planning manager for the city of Olympia, said the Grass Lake situation is probably the most interesting and highlighted project that the bill affected. But its not the only one; more than 200 lots are affected in at least four subdivisions on the west side. Those are Grass Lake Village and Bay Hill on Harrison Avenue and Woodbury Crossing and Evergreen Hills on Kaiser Road.
In most of those lots, the bill didnt reinstate development rights that had already expired, but it did extend the rights.
Another affected subdivision, Newman Park in Chambers Basin in southeast Olympia, hasnt broken ground, so it appears the developer wont take advantage of the extension, Stamm said.
What we have seen is the only property developers that have taken advantage of it were those that already had substantial investments, he said.
Matt Batcheldor: 360-704-6869 email@example.com @MattBatcheldor