Wedding venue Grande Terrace slogs through Olympia permit process

An Olympia business owner wants to bring more weddings and social events to his property across from Capitol Lake, but some neighbors are objecting to his plans.

Two of the biggest obstacles for Grande Terrace are zoning and building codes. Located at 915 and 1007 Deschutes Parkway SW, the private 2.55-acre property includes the historic Worthington House, a brick colonial-revival style mansion built in 1940.

State archeologists have also expressed concerns about Native American artifacts that may underlie the site.

After operating under a temporary permit since last summer, owner Bart Zier is seeking a conditional use permit to host more than currently allowed seven social events a year — preferably about 20 to 30 events, he said. Zier also wants to build a 2,800 square foot covered porch for wedding ceremonies and receptions.

However, the city’s Site Plan Review Committee has recommended denial of the project and has referred the case to the hearing examiner for review.

“It’s been an absolutely brutal process,” said Zier, who initially sought the permit in 2014 and has since submitted several revised applications. “We were looking to have something reasonable.”

According to a committee memo, “the proposed use is commercial in nature and is not an allowed use” in the current residential zoning.

The committee also submitted 16 recommended conditions of approval, many of which address code compliance. Others would require the owner to: :

• Hire an archaeologist to examine the impact from past construction activities.

• Get letters of approval from Burlington Northern Railroad, LOTT Clean Water Alliance and “any other landowner through which the site is accessed.”

• Submit a tree protection plan to the city.

• Remove the existing tent on the property because the tent has “exceeded allowable timeframes set forth in the International Fire Code and is not permitted.”

The project had been scheduled to go before a hearing examiner May 11, but the hearing was cancelled and reset for July 30.

Brian Sandeno, who lives on Terrace Lane Southwest adjacent to the Grande Terrace properties, said he plans to speak against the proposal. .

Sandeno said he can tolerate noise from annual public events in the area such as the Capital Lakefair and Olympia Toy Run, for example. But the loud music from events at Grande Terrace has been invasive for nearby residents, he said, noting that more parties will cause more people to park alongDeschutes Parkway.

“They’re asking for 20 to 30 events, which would be all the nice warm summer nights,” Sandeno said. “That should be a park setting all the way along there. If (the permit) were to go through, it would be very out of place.”

Grande Terrace’s application states that maximum capacity for the venue is 150 people and that all events will conclude by 10 p.m. Most events would be held on weekends during the summer months with plans to provide off-site parking and shuttle service for guests. The application acknowledges that events will generate noise and vibrations when music is played.

Because of the ongoing permit process, Zier said no clients have been booked this summer at the Grande Terrace. Instead, Zier will refer wedding clients to his companion business, the Grand Holiday Ballroom on Fourth Avenue.

Zier said the Deschutes Parkway property is isolated enough to have minimal impact on nearby residents. In defending his proposal, he said the Grande Terrace is a “beautiful addition to the city” that can directly benefit Olympia’s economy, since wedding guests will spend money at hotels and local businesses.

“When you pull it all together, it’s so much bigger than what we thought,” he said.

The Washington State Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation has expressed concerns to the city regarding Grande Terrace and potential disturbances of a registered archaeological site. State law requires a permit to excavate or alter such sites.

That area along Deschutes Parkway once belonged to the Squaxin Island Tribe, according to records pertaining to construction of the nearby LOTT pump station on Capitol Lake.

In 1998, an archaeologist examined the area and found remnants “representing a hunter-fisher-gatherer shell midden site” called the Deschutes Parkway Shell Midden buried in the ground.

A midden is defined as a mound of shells, bones and other debris indicative of human settlement. The tribe had discovered rocks used in fire pits, wood that had been worked with an ax-like tool, twisted cordage and wooden poles that were stripped of bark, according to a report.