Neighbors worry proposed Harrison Avenue development will overload streets

Proposed Harrison Avenue development has some neighbors worried

A plan to develop along Harrison Avenue in west Olympia has some neighbors in the Grass Lake area concerned about traffic.
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A plan to develop along Harrison Avenue in west Olympia has some neighbors in the Grass Lake area concerned about traffic.

Neighbors of a proposed development in west Olympia say they’re concerned traffic to and from the site will clog neighborhood streets, but the developer says he is just following the city’s orders.

Kern Rexius wants to subdivide about 7 acres of land he owns on Harrison Avenue west of Yauger Way Northwest into five commercial lots for mixed-use development, including multifamily housing and dining, retail and office space.

Rexius owns Bark and Garden Center, which will remain on the site.

Plans call for traffic in and out via Yauger Way Northwest and Third Avenue Northwest, a stub of a street two houses long, with a future road connecting Harrison to Craftsman Drive Northwest to the north.

An entrance from Harrison would be only for drivers making a right turn in or out, according to Rexius.

“It will destroy our community,” said Jennifer Walker, president of the Grass Lake Village Homeowners Association, which covers about 180 homes north of the proposed development.

The homeowners association hired a lawyer and commissioned a traffic study that determined a significant increase in traffic on Third Avenue would render it “unsafe and inadequate.”

Walker, who also expects backups on Yauger Way, said she has heard from some neighbors who say they will move if the plan goes through. She also faults the city for giving Rexius extensions on his application and not keeping neighbors in the loop.

Rexius submitted a binding site plan application, which is used for commercial property subdivisions, in late 2016. City staff asked for several changes and a revised application was submitted in July.

Staff will host a public meeting at 6 p.m. Thursday at City Hall to gather feedback on the revised application.

Rexius said his original proposal did not involve extending Third Avenue, but city staff asked for that.

The city favors street connections to keep traffic moving, said Paula Smith, an associate planner for the city. Third Avenue and Craftsman Drive, another dead-end street, were built with the expectation that they would connect as part of future development, she said.

Rexius said neighbors’ anger over traffic should be directed toward the city.

“We spent three years on this with the city of Olympia. I know some of the neighbors don’t like me, I know some of the neighbors hate me,” he said. “Unfortunately if you’ve never gone through the process with the city of Olympia, it’s painstakingly painful.”

Smith said staff hope to decide in September whether to ask for revisions or approve the application with conditions.

If approved, each lot would go through a land use review based on the proposed development for that lot.