After 5 years, Olympia approves comprehensive plan

Official praises effort that involved not just city staff, but the public

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At its last meeting of 2014, the Olympia City Council officially approved a new comprehensive plan, which outlines the city’s goals and vision for the next 20 years.

This is the first major update of the plan since 1994, and the city has been working on revisions since 2009.

“We now have an up-to-date business plan that’s literally informed by thousands of shareholders — the citizens,” said Leonard Bauer, deputy director for community planning and development, at Tuesday’s council meeting.

The plan’s revisions target policy language in areas such as projected population growth, zoning requirements, downtown revitalization, streets and alleys, speed limits, disaster preparedness, park maintenance funding, urban density and sea levels.

Keith Stahley, director of community planning and development, said the comprehensive plan represents a career highlight not just because of the plan’s complexity, but because the city took the time to do it right.

The process has included multiple public meetings over the past five years as well as participation from nearly every city employee, as well as the city council and the Planning Commission. Implementation of the plan comes next, Stahley said.

“People showed up consistently,” Stahley said Tuesday, praising the public’s involvement. “This feels very much like we’ve been on a roller coaster, slowly climbing up to the top. We’re finally there.”

A final draft of the plan can be viewed at imagineolympia.com.

Also Tuesday, the council received an update on construction highlights and more from 2014. According to city engineer Fran Eide, the year’s projects included:

• Remodeling the facade at the Washington Center for the Performing Arts, and repainting The Olympia Center.

• Transitioning to a new regional source of drinking water with the McAllister Wellfield project, located on Nisqually tribal land.

• Replacing nearly 14,000 aging water meters in the city to improve efficiency and data collection for water use.

• Completing the Pacific Avenue stormwater treatment facility, which serves a 13-acre area and cleans stormwater runoff before it reaches Indian Creek.

• Completing a new roundabout at Boulevard Road and 22nd Avenue, which was the second of three roundabout projects designed to improve traffic flow for motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians in southeast Olympia.

• Repaving Fifth Avenue in downtown Olympia between Water Street and Capitol Way. The project eliminated one travel lane and widened the sidewalks.

• Making progress on the West Bay Drive sidewalk project, which is almost finished, Eide said. The project will result in a continuous sidewalk that stretches half a mile between Braun Avenue and the Smyth Landing condominiums.

• Completing the Woodard Avenue Pathway on the city’s westside as part of the Neighborhood Pathways Program. The program creates more options for pedestrians and bicyclists by building paths that connect parks, streets and trails.

• Completing pedestrian crossing improvements on Harrison Avenue, at Rogers and Thomas streets, and at Capital Mall Drive and Archwood Drive. Improvements include flashing beacons and pedestrian “islands” at crosswalks.

• Performing sidewalk repairs at 63 locations, Eide said, with a goal of eliminating “trip hazards” through smoother sidewalks.

• Expanding the number of neighborhoods where garbage is collected on the same side of the road. Eide said the city has converted 29 areas and 1,500 customers to the one-side collection system, and as a result, the city’s garbage trucks will drive 1,100 fewer miles a year.