Officials with the LOTT Cleanwater Alliance are taking a hard look at a portion of the former brewery property in Tumwater as the possible location for a new plant that would convert wastewater into reclaimed water.
It’s a worthwhile project, but LOTT officials should wait to see what Tumwater’s community visioning project produces before moving too far ahead. A reclaimed water plant may – or may not – fit with Tumwater residents’ vision of how the former Olympia Brewing Co. property should be developed for future generations.
The Tumwater City Council has launched a community outreach project to tap into public sentiments about the brewery holdings. The city is using a $90,000 grant from the Thurston Regional Planning Council – pass-through money from the U.S. Department of Energy – to hire Seattle-based LORIG Associates to develop a community vision and land use plan for the site.
It’s an excellent use of public tax dollars because the end result will be a blueprint for development of the brewery parcels which are in accord with the desire of Tumwater residents on how the heart of the city should be developed.
The rapid deterioration of the property, coupled with extended court battles over ownership of the land and buildings, have taken a toll. It’s imperative that the city deliberations and actions be thoughtful, not reactionary. Without a vision and blueprint, development will likely be sporadic and Tumwater officials will find themselves reacting to individual proposals rather than determining whether a proposed project fits within the overall scheme and plan for the brewery property.
The consultants will focus on the buildings west of Capitol Boulevard and the warehouse property on the east side of the roadway that bisects the property. The recently sold brick historic brewhouse below Tumwater Falls won’t be part of the community assessment because plans are already in play for development of that site.
The consultants are leading a team of architects, engineers and public outreach consultants who will analyze building conditions; infrastructure issues such as water, sewer, traffic and stormwater; the ability to reuse, remove or replace buildings; and the potentials for so-called “green development.”
The key ingredient, in our opinion, is community outreach. Residents of Tumwater must get engaged in this visioning process. Future development of the site must be in step with what Tumwater residents want for their community.
Of the visioning process, city administrator John Doan said, “It’s going to be pretty fast-paced. It needs to be, now that the property is on the market. Who the owner is today and who the owner is in 30 days could be very different. We must move quickly.”
Doan is right.
The consultants hope to have completed their public outreach efforts by the end of July with a report and list of recommendations back to the City Council by summer’s end. Then it will be up to the council to put zoning code amendments or comprehensive plan amendments into play to accommodate the vision for the property. City officials also may have to develop strategies for funding and acquisition of a portion of the property. They may need changes in state laws or have to position themselves to seek additional grants. The visioning and recommendations will drive the decision making at the council level.
That’s why we don’t want to see the LOTT alliance get too far ahead of the visioning process, even though the three parcels LOTT officials are looking at – 47 acres in total – are at 4090 Capitol Blvd. S.E. with the others in the Deschutes River valley.
The new plant is viewed as a long-term project that one day might convert 5 million gallons of wastewater per day into Class A reclaimed water – water that would be good enough for public use, such as for irrigation, but not to drink.
Clearly LOTT officials are doing the right thing by thinking ahead and focusing on reclaimed water. That is the future. But before any agreements are signed and resources committed, let’s make sure LOTT’s plan fits nicely with the desires and vision of Tumwater residents.