The conference center proposed for Steamboat Island Road is no “community center,” as the applicant, Mr. Lance Willis, claims. It does not qualify for the special use permit required to convert this residential property to commercial use. The county has done an enormous disservice, both to Mr. Willis and to residents of the Steamboat Peninsula, by allowing the application to go forward since 2003.
County law permits residential property to be converted for commercial use under narrowly-defined circumstances. One of these is to build a “community club.” County code specifically defines what a community club is. This is no community club. This is a large for-profit conference center which cannot hope to compete against the full-scale convention and hotel facilities at Little Creek, 4 minutes up US-101.
If the county permits this application to go forward, no homeowner can rely upon a valuation of their property. At any time, a developer could claim a special use permit and convert the property next door for any urban density, commercial use. Apparently, in Thurston County, it doesn’t take much to call something a “community club.”
Call it what you will, it’s no community club that’s been proposed for Steamboat Island Road. No matter how you dress up that pig, it doesn’t qualify for a Special Use Permit. The Griffin Neighborhood Association, the League of Women Voters, and local residents are correct to oppose it.
— MARK MESSINGER
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