Tacoma Hearings Examiner Phyllis MacLeod has decided to make only a minor modification to her February decision to allow the use of the historic Weyerhaeuser mansion in Tacoma’s North End as an event site.
MacLeod’s decision came as a result of a request for reconsideration from a couple, Shawn McRoberts and Sarah McAlister, whose home at 4415 N. Stevens St. abuts the mansion grounds.
The adaptive reuse of the mansion and its grounds at 4301 N. Stevens St. has been the subject of a two-year legal and political battle involving the mansion’s current owners, Corban University, its prospective buyer, Seattle’s Blue Ribbon Cooking, and multiple neighbors. Blue Ribbon has been leasing the mansion as the site for weddings and corporate events. The cooking school wants to buy the historic mansion and its grounds as a permanent site for events. The university, which used the mansion as a religious school for decades, has moved to other quarters. Neighbors have complained that events have spoiled the solitude of their high-end view neighborhood and have crowded their streets with cars from attendees.
The mansion was built in 1923 by timber baron John P. Weyerhaeuser and his wife, Anna. During its life, the mansion has served as the Weyerhaeuser’s home, as a convent, as university housing and as a divinity school. The estate is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
MacLeod issued a ruling in February that set limits on the size of events and required construction of a noise-reducing wall between the mansion grounds and the McRoberts-McAlister house. The hearing examiner’s decision also restricted amplified music on the grounds, constrained the number of events that could be held there and required the event company to hire off-duty Tacoma police officers to provide security and enforce rules at events with more than 30 attendees.
The couple, whom the prospective owners had once accused of disrupting mansion events with loud music and lawn mowing, sought reconsideration of that decision on several grounds.
MacLeod, in a written decision, made only one minor change to her prior ruling based on that request. McRoberts and McAlister had asked MacLeod to require that the off-duty officer be required to walk the boundary of the mansion every 30 minutes to determine if event noise was violating conditions of the use permit for the event.
The university countered that requiring the officer to patrol the perimeter every half hour would reduce the officer’s discretion in responding to situations that might happen at events.
MacLeod said such a tight condition as the neighbors had sought would unduly limit the officer’s freedom to act.
“It would not be desirable to dictate the precise methods to be used by the officers on duty,” MacLeod wrote in her decision. “At the same time, it would be helpful to add language to Condition 14 clarifying that walking the property boundary would typically be a part of the responsibility of personnel providing security at mansion events,” she said.
The hearing examiner denied the couple’s other reconsideration requests. They had argued that the city improperly considered the whole estate as a historic property when only the mansion itself, called Hadaway Hall, was historic. The property also is the site of a classroom building and a chapel built long after the mansion and its adjacent greenhouse and garage structure.
MacLeod said the reconsideration request contained new information on that matter, and thus she said her original ruling would stand.
The examiner also denied the couple’s request that a sound-absorbing wall required to be built between the mansion and their home by the mansion owners be subject to the couple’s desire to dictate placement and landscaping plans for that wall. The couple had argued they feared the wall could negatively affect the value of their home if it were too high, unsightly or poorly sited.
MacLeod said she had deliberately drafted the original condition requiring the wall construction to allow flexibility to allow acoustic and construction professionals to develop a workable solution. The couple’s desires were adequately addressed in her original decision, she said.