Before they could say “I do,” there were a lot of tears last weekend for two couples, due to an Olympia wedding venue’s permit woes.
Jenean Binschus said she learned the venue Grande Terrace on Capitol Lake was being shut down by the city about 12:30 p.m. Friday, due to a disruption of an archeological site on the property. Their ceremony was scheduled for 10:30 a.m. the next day.
“I was like, ‘I’m getting married tomorrow, how is that an option?’” Binschus said.
Binschus and her husband, Tim, managed to relocate their wedding for about 100 guests to a friend’s backyard.
“We were calling everyone we knew to come and help,” she said. “Everyone just came and chipped in. ... It was just chaos.”
For two years, Binschus had planned the perfect wedding down to every little detail, like where she’d stand for photographs. None of that happened, she said.
Meantime, Robyn Link said her daughter’s wedding went on as planned at the Grande Terrace. On Friday night, when the venue’s permit was still in the air, she and others in the wedding party had promised to go through with it, even if that meant breaking the law.
“Half the guests didn’t show up because they weren’t sure if they would get arrested,” Link said.
She added that there had been rumors that people had planned to protest the event, but that didn’t happen.
Grande Terrace owner Bart Zier said he worked with city and state officials to get permission for Link’s daughter’s wedding. The final OK was issued Saturday morning, and the wedding was at 6 p.m.
“We got some agreements that would make it possible to proceed with a responsible addressing of the state’s concerns with the shell midden,” he added.
Zier said he now has a permit that will allow the other weddings planned at the venue this summer. He said he’s been jumping through hoops for the past year and a half in dealing with the archaeological site; he even commissioned a report from an archaeological firm.
“My message is that the Grande Terrace is very dedicated to make sure that these weddings are delivered,” Zier said. “... Right now the most important thing is to make sure these five brides have their wedding.”
City of Olympia spokeswoman Kellie Purce Braseth said city staffers were working last week to get a temporary use permit to accommodate the events, but then they were asked to stop the process by officials with the state Department of Archaeology & Historic Preservation.
In a copy of a letter to the city obtained by The Olympian, assistant state archaeologist Gretchen Kaehler wrote that her office made a field visit to the property “because possible human remains and artifacts were reported.”
“We are investigating this matter, and civil penalties may be issued,” the letter states.
It continues to state that no further work should be done on the archeological site, and that a damage assessment will be required. In addition, the state, the affected tribes and the city of Olympia will review the archaeological assessment report and determine mitigation measures.
“We also request that the Temporary Use Permit not be granted at this time,” Kaehler wrote. “As stated in our letter of 4/30/15, we are also concerned about the impact that weddings and social events may have on archaeological resources which appear to be somewhat shallow, and until more is known regarding the condition and extent of the archeological site and a cultural resources management plan developed, it is unlikely that impacts to the archaeological site can be avoided.”
Kaehler said she worked with the property owner Friday night to help identify an area that could be roped off so that the wedding could take place. She said the property has had ongoing issues with the state and the city for months.
“By no means was this to stop a wedding or cause problems for the bridal party,” Kaehler said. “That was not by any means the reason for our concerns. It was the information we provided to the city about the process and make sure the resources were protected.”
In 1998, an archeologist examined the area and found remnants “representing a hunter-fisher-gatherer shell midden site.” The area once belonged to the Squaxin Island Tribe, according to records pertaining to construction of the nearby LOTT pump station on Capitol Lake.
A midden is essentially a trash pile, Kaehler said.
“But what we often find in it is we find artifacts, we find features, and we do often find human remains in them,” she said. “... They’re pretty important archaeological sites. There’s a lot of important information in them.”
Calls to the Squaxin Island tribe were not immediately returned for this story.
Meantime, Link said she plans to pursue legal action over her daughter’s near-canceled wedding.
“It’s been traumatic,” she said.
Binschus said she and her husband also plan to contact a lawyer; they paid nearly $10,000 for the all-inclusive event. In the end, they only ended up with food that had been prepared for the wedding brunch, Binschus said.
Zier said he plans to make things right for the Binschuses.
“We do fully intend to issue whatever refund is necessary when they come back from their honeymoon,” he said.