Pasture & Weed Management Workshop – May 6

Thurston and Mason Conservation Districts are hosting a free “Pasture & Weed Management Workshop” on May 6, 2007 for horse and livestock owners. Topics to be addressed include pasture & weed management, rotational grazing, soil testing, compost and nutrient applications and other related issues. Presentations will be offered by Alayne Blickle, Program Director for Horses for Clean Water, Marty Chaney, the NRCS Olympia Area Agronomist and Brian Thompson, Thurston Conservation District’s Resource Specialist. This workshop will include both lecture and field components.

Workshop attendees will learn ways to improve pasture productivity and reduce invasive weeds while making farm management less stressful and healthier for themselves, their horses, and the environment.

This free workshop will be held on Sunday May 6th from 1pm to 5pm at Griffinwood Stables, 8710 Hwy 101 in Olympia WA. Click here for a map.

Pre-registration is requested.

In Thurston County, contact Sara Carter @ 360.754.3588 ext. 136 or

In Mason County, contact Karin Strelioff at 360.427.9436 ext. 22 or

Invasive Plant Workshop – This Wednesday, April 25th

Thurston Conservation District invites local residents to a free invasive plant workshop, “Winning the War on Weeds” on April 25th. Participants will learn how to identify and manage problem weeds that could be invading their property. The workshop will be held Wednesday, April 25 at 6:30 at the Griffin Fire Hall, 3707 Steamboat Loop NW, off Steamboat Island Road.

Topics to be covered include pasture weeds, ornamental invasives, plant identification and control strategies. Participants are welcome to bring samples of unknown plants for identification.

Noxious weeds can cause many problems for property owners. Some are poisonous to humans and livestock, and most grow rapidly and are difficult to control. Weeds can also reduce crop yields, destroy native habitat, clog waterways and diminish land values. The hard part is to know where to start and how to tell the weeds apart. This workshop will help you learn to identify the worst invaders and give you some tips for effective management.

Pre-registration is requested, but not required. To register or receive more information, please contact Sara Carter @ 360.754.3588 ext. 136 or

Free “Septic Sense” Workshop at Griffin Fire Station, May 3

Thurston County Public Health & Social Services Department sponsors a free “Septic Sense Workshop” at Griffin Fire Station, 3707 Steamboat Loop NW, May 3, 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm.

Click here to register online or by calling Thurston County Environmental Health at 360-754-4111; TDD line is 754-2933.

Participants will receive take-home materials and a coupon for $10 off of tank pumping.

Dr. Diana Yu, health officer for the Thurston County Public Health and Social Services Department, published an article entitled “Don’t let septic system go bad” in the April 14th issue of The Olympian. Click here to read that article and learn more about the critical importance septic tank health plays in the groundwater all of us drink

GNA Board To Build a Strategy to Oppose Conference Center

The GNA Board has decided not to pursue a technical legal appeal of the County Commissioner‘s decision on the Conference Center. Instead, the GNA will focus its resources to positively address the Environmental Impact Study requirements and to oppose the Special Use Permit improperly sought by the developer in order to build this commercial business on residential property.

Here is some background:

In the technical legal challenge, the Griffin Neighborhood Association asserted that the conference center application had lapsed according to County regulation timelines. In the appeal to the Commissioners, the GNA also noted that the County erred when it allowed the application to continue, long after deadlines stated in the County’s own regulations.

While County Commissioners admonished their own staff over the handling of the deadlines, two of the Commissioners ruled that declaring a lapsed application would be too great a penalty, that would be borne entirely by the applicant (The Willis Family Trust) who was not responsible for the error.

Following this decision, members of the GNA Board met with counsel and heard that this precedent-setting circumstance in a court case would likely be decided in agreement with the majority Commissioner’s decision, rather than impose the penalty of lapsing the application.

What we plan to do next:

By deciding not to pursue the rather technical issue of how County staff mishandled this application, the GNA Board has decided to focus efforts to oppose the Conference Center related to the Environmental Impact Study and the issuance of a Special Use Permit, which was not in keeping with the “community club” definitions in the County regulations at the time of the application. The Board believes it is much more likely to be able to defeat the project in this way.

The Board has begun to develop a strategy to oppose the Conference Center’s application in public hearings, in the press and in our neighborhoods. A fundraising effort will continue so that the GNA can afford the kinds of expert witnesses required to counter claims by the developer and the County that no traffic mitigation is required, that the project will not affect drainage or water quality, parking, and that residential property can converted for this commercial use.

How you can help:

  • Stay informed via the GNA website at
  • The GNA will be creating small groups to develop our case, for public hearing, against the conference center. These groups will focus on these key areas:
    • Legal strategy
    • Water
    • Traffic/Parking
    • Noise/Outdoor Light
    • Quality of Life
    • Fundraising and Public Outreach
  • The Board will soon be asking for volunteers to help staff these groups. Bring your time and input to small group meetings that will brainstorm and plan for opposition strategies.
  • One of these groups will be coordinating a letter-writing campaign. Volunteer to write letters to the County, to The Olympian, and elsewhere.
  • Volunteer by contacting the GNA: Leave a voice mail message at 252-6047 or email us at
  • If you are not already a member of the GNA, click here to join us!

Thank you for becoming involved in preserving the rural nature of our community.

Court Rules Against County in Growth Management Suit, With One Important Exception

The Washington State Court of Appeals has largely ruled against Thurston County, who was hoping the Court would overturn a Western Washington Growth Management Hearings Board decision that invalidated certain portions of the County’s comprehensive plan and development regulations. However, there was one victory, for the County, with possibly a significant impact to residents in rural parts of the county.

Click here to read the entire ruling.

“The Board, acting on 1000 Friends of Washington’s challenge to the County’s periodic review, found that the County failed to explain why its urban growth areas exceeded projected population growth by 38 percent, improperly designated agricultural land of long-term significance, and failed to create a variety of densities in its rural areas.”

1000 Friends of Washington is now Futurewise.

In its case, the County sought to have the Court rule that 1000 Friends of Washington did not have standing in this case. The County lost that argument.

The County sought to have the Court rule the Growth Management Hearings Board lacked jurisdiction to review land use decisions the County made years earlier and did not revise in its recent update. The County lost on this point, too.

Perhaps you, like I, are hearing the sound of our tax dollars being siphoned away on losing legal arguments. We’ve seen this before of course: As an example, the sexual discrimination case against the Thurston County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, where legal fees mounted to close to $6 million and where the County lost – utterly – and was ordered to pay $1.52 million in damages.

The Olympian, reporting on the Court opinion, quotes Tim Trohimovich, Futurewise planning director, ” The county needs to stop wasting its money on appeals and start meeting its deadlines to protect water quality and preserve rural character in Thurston County.”

The Building Industry Association of Washington and Olympia Master Builders also backed the County in its losing case. Recently, the BIAW and OMB have spent a great deal of money backing similar losing causes (I-933, John Groen’s candidacy for Washington State Supreme Court Justice, Kevin O’Sullivan’s campaign. . . if they weren’t spending so much money on these losing efforts, they might have more to contribute to, as OMB likes to say, “keeping housing affordable”).

The Court found “The County projected that demand for residential urban lands in 2025 would be 11,582 acres. It allocated 18,789 acres for this use. This projection leaves 7,205 acres, or approximately 38 percent of available residential lands, unused at the end of the current 20-year planning period.” In other words, the Court found the Hearings Board was correct: the Urban Growth Areas the County identified were way too big.

I find it worth noting that, long before the Hearings Board took action, 1000 Friends of Washington testified to the County Commissioners that the County was not correctly addressing its requirements with respect to growth planning. The Commissioners ignored those warnings and this case – and the entire rezoning effort in which the County is now engaged – is the result.

In the end, the County won only one point: “In reviewing the County’s rural densities, the Board erred in concluding that the County’s zoning designations did not provide for a variety of rural densities.” What does that mean? Quite possibly, this means rural areas do not have to be rezoned. A knowledgeable GNA member writes, “The court said that the Growth Management Hearing Board put the burden on the county to prove that its ‘innovative techniques’ (cluster development, transfer of development rights, etc.) provide a variety of rural densities when the burden of proving those techniques do not provide a variety of rural densities should be on Futurewise. The court returned the case to the Board for the Board to consider evidence and argument consistent with the court’s decision.”

For those of us who oppose the kind of development along Steamboat Island Road that the County has already allowed (Mr. Nicholson’s tennis club) or is currently entertaining (Mr. Willis’ Conference Center), there is this description of what the Court finds “rural character” means:

“The patterns of land use and development established by a county in the rural element of its comprehensive plan:

(a) In which open space, the natural landscape, and vegetation predominate over the built environment;

(b) That foster traditional rural lifestyles, rural-based economies, and opportunities to both live and work in rural areas;

(c) That provide visual landscapes that are traditionally found in rural areas and communities;

(d) That are compatible with the use of the land by wildlife and for fish and wildlife habitat

(e) That reduce the inappropriate conversion of undeveloped land into sprawling, low-density development;

(f) That generally do not require the extension of urban governmental services; and

(g) That are consistent with the protection of natural surface water flows and ground water and surface water recharge and discharge areas.”

Kinda sounds like our neighborhood, doesn’t it?

I wonder if either the County’s Hearing Examiners or the County Commissioners will get to the bottom of Page #24 to read about what their development efforts so often fail to take into consideration.

The opinion of the Court ends:

“In conclusion, we hold that Futurewise, as a participant before the County, had standing before the Board and that the Board had jurisdiction to consider both revised and unrevised portions of the County’s comprehensive plan and regulations. We affirm the Board’s decision invalidating the County’s current use criterion in designating farm land and the Board’s decision invalidating the County’s urban growth area designations. But we reverse (1) the Board’s invalidation of the County’s parcel size criterion for designating agricultural lands of long-term significance and (2) the Board’s finding that the County failed to provide for a variety of rural densities through the use of innovative techniques.”

See the previous post, on the activities of the County’s Planning Commission, and next steps the Commissioner’s may take to respond to the findings of the Board.

Thurston County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Jeff Fancher will brief the County Commissioners on the impact of this opinion and possible next steps, at 2 p.m. Thursday. A public presentation will follow, The Olympian reports.

UPDATE: Here is the text of an email sent on April 4 by Futurewise regarding this decision:

Huge win for a better Thurston County! The Court of Appeals says growth should stay in our cities and we must protect our rural and agricultural areas.

Read more about Court’s decision from The Olympian by clicking on the following link:

Now’s the time to write a letter to the editor to build on the momentum of this win. Ask the County to stop wasting taxpayer money filing appeals the county loses and to enact better protections for our drinking water, preserve more farmland, and reduce sprawl.

Please click on the following link to submit a letter to The Olympian:

Suggested talking points:

  • Protect rural character – More than 21,000 rural acres are zoned at 1 housing unit per 2 acres or greater, this is far too urban for a rural area. Our rural areas don’t have adequate infrastructure to handle urban density so we’ll have to spend more money on improving our roads, schools, and emergency services.
  • Support a sensible rural rezone – We need a greater variety of rural zoning with more land designated at 1 housing unit per 10 acres and 1 unit per 20 acres.
  • Protect working farms – Out of the 74,442 acres of working farms in 2002, Thurston County has only designated 14,000 acres (18.8%) of farmland to protect.
  • Prevent urban sprawl – The urban growth areas (UGAs) are 61% larger than necessary to accommodate the county’s population target. Excessively large UGAs increase sprawl, meaning we spend more time in gridlock and cost taxpayers more money.
  • Don’t waste money on another losing appeal against the public interest – It’s time for the County to start working to meet the Court appointed deadlines to update its plan to protect our drinking water and water quality.

Background on appeal

Futurewise appealed the County’s 2004 Comprehensive Plan because it promoted urban sprawl. On July 20, 2005, the Western Washington Growth Management Hearings Board agreed with Futurewise and declared the Thurston Plan to be noncompliant with state law for four reasons:

  • Designation of rural lands at urban densities
  • Lack of variety of rural densities
  • Minimal farmland protection
  • Excessively large urban growth areas

The County then appealed this decision, leaving it to the Court of Appeals to decide.

Yesterday, April 3, 2007, the Court of Appeals decided almost entirely in our favor, they:

  • Upheld the Board’s determination that Thurston County’s Urban Growth Areas were too large by 7,000 acres.
  • Agreed that agricultural land must only be capable of use in commercial agricultural, rather than currently farmed.
  • Upheld that the County must provide for a variety of rural densities, which must be less dense than 1 housing unit per 5 acres.

Reversed the Board on two smaller issues:

  • That predominant parcel size rather than farm size may be used in designating farms to be protected
  • That Futurewise rather than the County had the burden of proving that innovative rural zoning techniques were ineffective at ensuring a variety of rural densities

Overall this is a big win for Futurewise and the protection of Thurston’s cities and rural communities!

Please click on the link to submit a letter to the editor, urging the County to stop wasting taxpayer money and to start protecting our drinking water and rural character:

Thank you for your continued support in Thurston County.

April Putney
Futurewise, Field Organizer


Emergency Preparedness Fair – Saturday, April 14

Thurston County, the City of Lacey and others are sponsoring a free Emergency Preparedness Fair. Saturday, April 14, 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. at St. Martin’s University Worthington Center, 5300 Pacific Avenue SE, Lacey.

Visit the web page at for a complete schedule of events, list of vendors and displays.

Included among the list of presentations are:

  • Prepare Yourself: Individual and Household
  • Preparing a 72-Hour Kit
  • Map Your Neighborhood Resources and Hazards
  • Thurston County’s Exposure to Volcano Hazards
  • What to Do About Bird Flu: Pandemic Influenza
  • Carbon Monoxide and Generator Safety

For More Information Contact: Vivian Eason, Thurston County Emergency Management, at 360-786-5243 or email

For information on what the Griffin Neighborhood Association is doing about emergency preparedness right here, click here to see the GNA Emergency Preparedness web page.