Annual Meeting Updates Public on Conference Center, New GNA Board Elected – UPDATED

More than 200 people met in the Griffin School Cafeteria January 31st to get an update on the Conference Center application and to elect a new Board for the Griffin Neighborhood Association. Reporters and a photographer from The Olympian were on hand and an article describing the meeting appeared in the next day’s paper. The Conference Center is planned by a developer from California, the Willis Family Trust.

An attorney hired by the Association, Tom Bjorgen, delivered a brief description of the steps we have taken to oppose construction of the Center. He then took questions from the audience. At the end of more than an hour on the Conference Center, Jerry Handfield, outgoing Chair of the GNA, literally passed a hat to those assembled. By the end of the night, nearly $3000 had been collected to help offset our current legal expenses.

Voting members of the Association in attendance returned 14 of last year’s Board members. Kathy O’Connor, who has worked tirelessly on the County’s Cluster Development Task Force and has represented Association interests elsewhere with the County, has moved just outside the boundaries of the Griffin School District. Bob Whitener, an executive with the Squaxin Island Tribe’s Island Enterprises, was voted to replace O’Connor.

Conference Center Update

Tom Bjorgen described efforts by the Association to convince the County to declare the application has lapsed. While the Willis Family Trust has not yet filed the Environmental Impact Study (EIS) required by the County, a Hearing Examiner in December decided the application would not lapse.

If the application were to lapse, Robert Patrick of the planning firm Patrick Harron & Associates in Lacey, hired by the Willis Family Trust, has been quoted as agreeing that current county zoning would not allow the conference center to be built.

County Commissioners to Announce Decision on February 20 – Please Join Us at That Meeting

The Association has appealed the decision by the Hearing Examiner. The County Commissioners will announce their decision on whether to declare the application to be lapsed in public session on February 20 at 4 PM, at the Thurston County Courthouse, 2000 Lakeridge Road, Building 1, Olympia.

All members of the public are encouraged to attend this meeting. While the public will not be permitted to speak, either to oppose or support the project, it is important that we make our opposition to the project known to the Commissioners. GNA members will be on hand to distribute stickers which we can wear to express our position against this project.

Unfortunately, the public cannot contact the County Commissioners on this matter, prior to the decision on February 20. The attorney for the GNA has filed the necessary legal arguments and individual Commissioners would have to recuse themselves from the decision, were they to have specific conversations with us about this appeal.

Next Steps, If the Application Is Not Lapsed

If, on February 20, the Commissioners decide the application has not lapsed, it will be up to the Willis Family Trust to complete their application with an EIS. Once their application is complete, there will be a public hearing on whether the County should issue the Special Use Permit required for the application. This will be a public meeting and we will want all our neighbors to turn out to testify against granting the permit.

We have no known date for any public hearings on the Special Use Permit.

If the County Commissioners rule, on February 20, the application is not lapsed, the GNA may choose to take the matter to Superior Court. To do so, we will need the financial support of the community.

What Can You Do, Right Now?

  1. Attend the Commissioner’s meeting on February 20 at 4PM. Bring 2 friends with you.
  2. Make a contribution to the GNA Legal Fund. Click here to make contributions online or by mail (checks payable to “GNA”) to 4931 Oyster Bay Rd., Olympia, WA 98502-9548.
  3. Display a “No Conference Center” sign on your car, home, and place of business. Click here for your copy.
  4. Tell your friends, “The conference center is not dead.” They can get more information online at
  5. Join the Griffin Neighborhood Association. As this application moves forward, we will continue to coordinate effective efforts to oppose it. Click here to join the GNA.

UPDATED: An editorial, written by GNA Board member Steve Lundin, was published in the Olympian on February 11. Click here to read that editorial. Better yet, read the editorial and then attach your own comments, about the conference center, on the Olympian’s web site.

Click here to read our prior Conference Center Update.

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