A deal that shows what government can do

In this community we’ve seen both the best and worst of cooperation among elected officials.

Who could forget the multi-year battle among representatives from Lacey, Olympia, Tumwater and Thurston County over a relatively small pot of money collected by the Public Facilities District?

The dispute hinged on which community projects should be financed with PFD dollars. In the end, the dollars were divided between the regional sports complex off Marvin Road and the Hands on Children’s Museum, which will be constructed on the Port of Olympia peninsula off State Avenue.

The months-long backstabbing and gamesmanship by elected officials was a low point for South Sound officials.

Once the dispute was turned over to Olympia Mayor Doug Mah and former Lacey Councilwoman Nancy Peterson, the two struck a deal within just a few hours – a deal that was promptly ratified by their elected colleagues.

The PFD feud was an embarrassing chapter in the local political scene.

Now compare that episode to the recent land-swap between the city of Olympia and Intercity Transit. It was quick. It was clean, and both public entities will be well-served by the results.

The city will receive two parking lots in the downtown business district – lots that are key to easing the city’s shortage of parking stalls. The new lots will replace 45 of the 50 parking spaces that will be lost when the 126-apartment Colpitts project rises on a parking lot at Fourth Avenue and Columbia Street.

One of the lots soon to be in the city’s inventory – at the corner of State Avenue and Capitol Way – will accommodate 25 vehicles. The other lot – on the northeast corner of Fourth Avenue and Columbia Street – has 20 parking spaces.

City officials have bent over backwards to get additional market rate housing in the downtown business district. They sold a city-owned parcel to Colpitts Development Co. so the Seattle company could build a seven-story, mixed-use building with 126 apartments on the parking lot on Columbia Street between Fourth and Fifth avenues.

The City Council voted unanimously in August to sell the land to Colpitts for $270,000. In a follow-up agreement, the council committed to spend $270,000 for environmental cleanup and split any remaining costs with Colpitts – up to an additional $223,000 for each party.

If Colpitts follows through with its plan, the development will be the largest addition of market-rate housing in downtown in more than 30 years.

In essence, the city gave away the property in hopes of launching a housing boom downtown.

The downside, of course, was the loss of city parking stalls. The land swap corrects that deficiency.

In the swap, Intercity Transit will receive city-owned property on Martin Way near Pattison Street where IT has its headquarters. The transit agency has plans to expand its maintenance and operations center. Gaining the additional property will serve Intercity Transit’s needs, too. The city also has agreed to pay IT $50,000 to even the deal.

Clearly the land swap is in the best interests of both government jurisdictions.

Intercity Transit’s board of directors recognized that fact and quickly approved the deal. The Olympia City Council ratified the agreement last week.

That’s how government is supposed to work – to the benefit of both agencies and the constituents they serve.