Editorials

‘Mistake by lake’ project needs quick ruling

The Views on Fifth renovation project in downtown Olympia. In recent weeks, crews stripped the nine-story tower of its exterior, leaving the steel frame, elevator shaft and stairs.
The Views on Fifth renovation project in downtown Olympia. In recent weeks, crews stripped the nine-story tower of its exterior, leaving the steel frame, elevator shaft and stairs.

Critics of the high-rise renovation under way on Olympia’s isthmus have reached out to the state Supreme Court in a bid to void building permits issued by the city.

The best outcome is that if the court accepts the requested review, it rules quickly and clarifies whether any land-use questions remain to be settled on the controversial project.

All signs point to the Views on Fifth project going full-steam ahead.

Developers plan to put in new windows and cladding on the stripped-down steel tower by the end of October. Foundations for the two adjacent low-rise buildings may be poured in a couple of weeks.

The coalition that sued to block permits has lost all of its challenges to city permitting decisions.

Critics’ concerns included the applicability of state shoreline law and impacts the project has on a legacy “view corridor,” which lawyer Allen Miller contends is of statewide significance.

That “view shed” runs from the state Capitol Campus over Capitol Lake and Puget Sound and extends to the distant Olympic Mountains. Miller argues it is part of the vision outlined by Capitol Campus architects more than a century ago.

Miller filed the request for a Supreme Court review Friday. He says his clients deserve standing to challenge the building permits.

But a Thurston County judge ruled firmly in early June that the coalition has no right to challenge the permits.

A failed appeal could mean opponents must pay any new legal costs for project owners, who include developer Ken Brogan of Thurston County, Brogan’s wife, and two Russian investors based in California.

The roughly $30 million project includes 138 high-end apartments, a street-level restaurant facing Capitol Lake, and space for businesses.

A $1.2 million seismic upgrade of the tower is completed, project Brogan’s spokesman Troy Nichols said.

The Olympia Capitol Park Foundation is among the opponents that helped push for creation of a city park next to the high-rise, and some still want to add the tower area to the park.

Dedication of the new park is planned for Thursday, according to foundation spokesman Jerry Reilly.

Other opponents are Behind the Badge Foundation, which supports the hill-top monument to fallen police officers, four former Washington governors, former secretary of state Ralph Munro and former state senator Karen Fraser.

Brogan clearly has legal rights to develop his property. The question is how he develops it.

The high court should do everyone a favor — clarifying whether this project with long-term impacts needs more review — by settling the argument.

Time is of the essence.

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