Commissioners Vote Split 2-to-1 Against GNA Appeal

On Tuesday, County Commissioners faced a standing room only crowd of Steamboat Peninsula residents, wearing “No Conference Center” stickers, to vote 2-to-1 against the Griffin Neighborhood Association appeal to declare the conference center application to be expired. While the Commissioners admitted county staff made errors in the handling of the timelines associated with the application, Diane Oberquell and Cathy Wolfe voted to allow the application to go forward. Bob Macleod expressed concerns that this or any developer could, as reported in The Olympian, tie up projects for years by “banking development rights” only to “have them be reviewed later under archaic guidelines.” Macleod voted with the GNA.

You may want to read that again. The commissioners agreed that our county staff should have monitored the approval process deadlines better. But, county staff didn’t, so the application to build a large, commercial conference center, on residential property, can move forward. Incredible.

In related news, the Thurston County League of Women Voters has officially come out against the conference center. In an email to commissioners, E.L. Johnson, president of the League, wrote, “The availability of water, sewer, roads and other utilities cannot sustain a large development on that small tract of land. We join [the] Griffin Neighborhood Association in opposing this effort to put a totally inappropriate ‘community center’ in an area designated rural.” The Olympian is reporting that Johnson said, at Tuesday’s meeting, “The cost of that project will be borne by everyone from Tenino on up to Lacey.” “A variance is not called for.”

What This Means – When the Application is Complete

At any time convenient to them, the Willis Family Trust will file the Environmental Impact Statement required by the County to complete the application. There will then be a public hearing on whether to grant the Special Use Permit required to allow this commercial facility to be built on land zoned for residential use.

Public testimony will be taken, at the hearing, and you had better believe that your neighbors and the Griffin Neighborhood Association will be there.

When will that happen? The County has given this developer carte blanche to take however long they want.

What This Means – Possible Legal Action

Meanwhile, legal counsel for the GNA is awaiting the Commissioner’s vote on whether to issue a formal written decision on this appeal. The Board and its lawyer will review that decision and will need to choose whether to appeal the county’s ruling to the Thurston County Superior Court or abandon a challenge in the courts.

A decision to challenge the conference center in court cannot be made without the financial support of the community. Click here to contribute to the GNA legal fund.

If we succeed, in Superior Court, we will not only squash this application, but we will set an important precedent which can be used by others seeking to ensure that development applications are handled by the County in a timely manner.

A case before the Superior Court will also put us in an excellent position if we need to appeal a decision by the County to grant the Special Use Permit, or if we need to defend an appeal by the Willis Family Trust, should the County deny their application.

What You Can Do

Do you feel that developers should not be able to grab residential land for their commercial use? Do you think large, commercial developments are out of place in our rural community? What do you think about the county’s decision to let this building go up along a two-lane road, sending traffic through the interchange with US-101 (to say nothing of that underpass heading south with the intersection of WA-8)? Does your idea of a “community center” include a for-profit facility which competes with the Little Creek Casino, St. Martin’s University, and the Greater Tacoma Convention and Trade Center?

Make your opinion known.

Tell your neighbors. Ask them to visit our web site to learn more about this development.

Click here to write a letter to the Editor of The Olympian. Stuck on some of the details? Click here for plenty of information about this development.

Join the Griffin Neighborhood Association. If you’re not yet a member, we need your support. We don’t want the Willis Family Trust and their plans to keep us from our other projects on the peninsula, such as our partnership with the Griffin Fire Department and Griffin School District to prepare for major disasters. Join us online at

Together, we can work to ensure that large, commercial facilities that don’t serve our community won’t get built near our school, our homes, or our shorelines.

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