Lacey developers get break

LACEY - The City Council gave developers and property owners caught in the economic meltdown some breathing room Thursday night.

The council extended for two more years, or until February 2012, land-use approval for vested development projects.

The vote was 6-1. Councilman Ron Lawson voted against the move.

The intent was to aid developers and property owners who are concerned about the looming expiration of land-use approvals. Otherwise they would have to spend additional money and time after approval lapses to start anew.

The city gives developers and property owners 18 months from the time land-use approval is granted to move the project forward – taking an action such as applying for a building permit. Otherwise, the approval expires. A six-month extension is available.

Community development director Rick Walk said the land-use approval for more than a dozen development projects is in danger of lapsing.

The approval for one of them, Corner Industrial Park, would have expired today without the council’s action. The two-year extension took effect immediately.

The industrial park property owner received land-use approval in February 2008 to develop three industrial buildings totaling 292,000 square feet on 16 acres in Hawks Prairie.

Brad Corner, a property representative, wrote in a Feb. 4 letter that the first developer dropped out because of a tightening of lending terms. A second developer didn’t proceed because he couldn’t secure financing.

Corner wrote that it would be an “economic hardship” to start the approval process over again and asked for an extension.

Walk said the extension couldn’t be granted on a case-by-case basis and that it must be applied to all development projects with existing land-use approval.

Kim Adams, a representative of another property owner, testified that the land-use approval for his firm’s retail development is set to expire in May. He said his firm has sunk hundreds of thousands of dollars into the project and is on the verge of signing its first major tenant.

“If you give us time, we’ll give you a really good project,” he said.

The Olympia City Council has taken similar action to help developers and property owners.

In Lacey, a motion by Councilwoman Cynthia Pratt to limit the extension to one year with the possibility of extending it a second year failed on a 4-3 vote. Also voting in favor of that proposal were Lawson and Councilman Andy Ryer. Mayor Tom Nelson, Deputy Mayor Virgil Clarkson and council members Mary Dean and Jason Hearn voted no.

Pratt said a one-year extension would prod developers and property owners to move their projects forward and allow the city to revisit the economic conditions in a year.

“Let’s not jump into this thing until we find out how deep the water is,” Lawson agreed.

Other council members said developers need more time.

“I don’t see the economy changing that much in a year,” Nelson said. “A year, it goes by really, really quickly.”

Christian Hill: 360-754-5427