OLYMPIA - Port of Olympia officials will unveil a new economic impact report at today's commission meeting, a document they hope will underscore the port's importance to the region amid concerns that its peninsula operations might be curtailed.
That concern stems from a proposal included in a draft of Olympia’s shoreline management plan – also known as the Shoreline Management Program – that would require a 30-foot setback from the shoreline. If approved, it likely would limit what the port could do along its marine terminal, at Swantown Marina and at NorthPoint, an area that the port has envisioned for future development.
“I think we have to take the initiative at this point because there’s so much at stake with the (Shoreline Management Program) putting a noose around the port’s neck, so to speak,” port Commissioner George Barner said last week at a commission meeting.
Part of that initiative will take place today as the port presents its newest economic impact report. The port produces such reports about every five years, but also worked harder on this particular report to “add as much credibility as possible,” Executive Director Ed Galligan said.
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A team of economists, including those from Saint Martin’s University, the state Department of Revenue and the state Office of Financial Management, reviewed and provided input on the report, and the end result was produced by John Martin of Martin Associates, a port consultant based in Pennsylvania who has done similar work for ports throughout the Northwest.
Martin will be on hand for today’s presentation. The port spent $41,000 on the report, Galligan said.
The report will show that direct, “induced” and indirect jobs created across all the port’s business units have grown to 7,249 in 2009 from 5,105 in 2004 – the date of the last economic impact report, which was produced by a different company. An “induced” job is defined as a job that is supported in the local economy due to the purchases of goods and services by “directly employed (port) individuals.”
Martin also surveyed 212 companies and tenants that do business with the port, resulting in a 100 percent survey response, up from just 30 percent for the 2004 report.
Meanwhile, the city’s goal is to complete its update to the Shoreline Management Program by the end of the year, said Todd Stamm, community planning manager for the city’s Community Planning & Development Department. If the 30-foot shoreline setback is approved, an idea that was proposed by city staff, it would mean that new buildings could not be built within 30 feet of the shoreline, but existing operations, such as the Bayview Thriftway store near Budd Inlet, would be unaffected, Stamm said.
City staff proposed the idea because the state has asked communities along Puget Sound to take into consideration the threat of sea-level rise, he said. “We will need room to respond to sea-level rise, and it’s best if there are not new buildings there,” Stamm said.
The 30-foot setback proposal, which is part of the SMP draft, currently is being discussed by the Olympia Planning Commission and subcommittees of that group. If all goes as planned, the commission will make a recommendation to the City Council this spring, the City Council will take action on the update, and then it goes to the state Department of Ecology for review before it is sent back to the city to implement, Stamm said.
Stamm said the City Council has yet to decide whether to have public hearings on the SMP update; Ecology likely will offer a public comment period, but he was unsure about public hearings, he said. The port has asked the planning commission to create a special designation for the port that would exempt it from the 30-foot setback proposal.
Some residents, though, think the SMP draft doesn’t go far enough in protecting the shoreline from development, said Robert Ahlschwede, a member of Friends of the Waterfront, a group that has fought hard to protect views along the downtown isthmus. Ahlschwede sympathizes with waterfront developers and the port because it puts those types of operations in a bind, but he said the community needs to think about what the shoreline will look like 30, 40, 50 years from now.
Ahlschwede, using the example of waterfront restaurant Tugboat Annies, said he’s concerned about similar businesses dotting the shoreline “all the way to Priest Point Park.”
Rolf Boone: 360-754-5403 firstname.lastname@example.org www.theolympian.com/bizblog