Vista Park News
After a thorough discussion, the City Council did not approve the proposal to put a referendum on the November ballot to ask voters to approve bonding authority to purchase the Capital Center complex, sometimes called the "mistake by the lake". The Council did ask staff to move ahead to purchase the Larida Passage parcels as soon as feasible.
The Trust for Public Land has obtained an option from the building owners for the City to purchase the nine story "mistake" and four adjacent parcels for $9.995 million. The Capitol Park Foundation urged the City to accept this proposal because we have a willing seller, at a feasible price and polling showing a supportive electorate. The majority of the Council had concerns regarding the short timeline required to make a decision to place the measure on the ballot. Concerns were also raised about the current fiscal challenges facing the City in its operating budget, and that the citizens of Olympia would be carrying the largest share of financing an improvement that has a clear statewide benefit.
Although disappointed that we are not moving ahead with a referendum now, we appreciated the fair consideration that all members of the Council gave to the proposal. We understand that members of the City Council have many factors to consider when deciding on a purchase of this magnitude. We also recognize that since the election of 2009, the City Council has done much to move forward on the vision of creating a great public space on the Isthmus. They reversed the decision of the prior council to raise the height limits to 90 feet for new buildings on the Isthmus. They added the Park as a goal in the City's official park plan. They partnered with our Foundation and the Trust for Public Land in obtaining a $600,000 grant from the Thurston County Conservation Futures program for land acquisition. They asked the well respected Trust for Public Land to explore with landowners if they would become willing sellers. They also allocated $1 million in the City's capital budget for the Park. They are now partnering with us in an application to the State for an additional $1 million grant. We respect and accept the decision made by the Council.
Three very good things did come out the discussion about the current bonding and purchase proposal.
First, the Council reaffirmed its commitment to the vision of a great public space on the Isthmus, both as the key to perfecting the views to and from our State Capitol campus, and as an essential entry corridor to a revitalizing downtown.
Second, the Council gave explicit direction to staff to move ahead, as soon a feasible, with acquisition of the two parcels on the west side of the Isthmus that are proposed for the high rise project called Larida Passage. It is important to remember that although the Larida Passage project has stalled due to economic factors, the owners of the parcels believe they have a vested right to build the project. Although we disagree that any rights have vested, the only way to be absolutely certain that the project will not be built is to buy the land.
Third, the Council asked staff to prepare a timeline for the steps required to acquire the five parcels containing the "mistake by the lake". They asked that this plan be ready for Council review in August.
We remain optimistic and appreciative that the Council and community are united in the shared goal of creating a great public space on the Isthmus. As has been the case every day since the Fall of 2008, when nearly four thousand Olympia citizens petitioned the City to explore the feasibility of the Park, we are closer than ever to protecting and perfecting the views to and from America's most magnificent Capitol Campus settings.
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