A (Conditional) Green Light for Blue Ribbon Parties at the Old Weyerhaeuser Mansion

A request that would allow Corban University and Blue Ribbon LLC to continue to host weddings at the old Weyerhaeuser Mansion at 4301 North Stevens Street has been approved - subject to a significant list of conditions.

The continued and increased use of the space for weddings and events has not gone over well with some neighbors, and the conversation has gotten pretty heated. 

The conditional use permit received approval on Friday, based on the site's history of use as a religious assembly and educational facility, extending back prior to the establishment of Tacoma's zoning code in 1953. As some public comment pointed out, although the site is zoned for single-family residential use, it does seem unrealistic to expect that use of this particular property - at least at this point in time. The continued use of the site for weddings and other special events was found to be consistent with goals and policies related to adaptive re-use of historic properties and other unique sites.

The approval comes with a list of limitations on what those events can look (and sound) like that tries to find a middle ground allowing for the continued use of the site, while mitigating the impacts of those events on the neighborhood.

Historic and property considerations.

  • Any future modifications of the site must be approved by the Landmarks Preservation Commission
  • A plan of action must be submitted for the restoration of the historic greenhouse.
  • A wall and landscaping must be constructed between the property and an adjacent residential property just north of the site.
  • Plans for additional on-site parking must get approval from LPC. 

Event size

  • Based on the 24 on-site parking spaces currently available, events are limited to 57 guests (based on 19 spaces for guests, plus 5 for event staff).
  • Additional on-site parking added may increase that limit by 3 guests per additional spot. 
  • Events are capped at 150 guests, compared to the 250 requested by Blue Ribbon.

Other event criteria

  • Sunday through Thursday events can run between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m.
  • Friday and Saturday events can run between 10 a.m. and 10 p.m.
  • These hours include event set-up and clean-up, and are earlier than the midnight Friday/Saturday and 11 p.m. weeknight cut-off times requested.
  • Alcohol service ends 30 minutes prior to the end of any event.
  • Amplified music, dancing, dining, food service, beverage service, and "related activities" must be done indoors.
  • Private, professional security must be hired for all events.
  • Other safety and noise code requirements must be met for all events.

Neighbors not satisfied with that list of limitations have until June 27 to request a reconsideration of the decision. If it is upheld, this conditional use permit lasts for five years, at which time the event company must reapply.

Does this seem like a fair list of conditions? Are you ready to start sending out save-the-dates?

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I was married here when it was Northwest Baptist Seminary so I can offer a little insight.  I can see Blue Ribbon pushing back on “music, dancing, dining, food and beverage being limited to indoors” simply because I don’t think indoors can accommodate 150 people in a sit down fashion and also have room for dancing and a cake setup.  But I agree after reading all that has gone on since Blue Ribbon has started working there that this is a must due to noise. I can’t believe Blue Ribbon wanted to put 250 people at events there, way too much.

It all depends on the clientele as well.  You have to have respect for where you are, the history of the property and the fact that you are in a neighborhood, something I took to heart when getting married there 7 years ago and something that Northwest Baptist embraced and set rules for.  When I was married there it was still an active Seminary so no alcohol or dancing (other than first dances) was allowed.  Of course music was still played but kept to a respectful level.  I understand Blue Ribbon wants to make a profit but they need to scale back and not be greedy. 

I will be interested to see how Blue Ribbon responds as I’m sure they will not by happy.  Kudos to the neighborhood for banding together and taking action.

June 16, 2014 at 11:23 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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One of Tacoma’s best wedding venues lives to see another year, barely! It would have been a shame to see it close. A parking lot would be a really nice addition to the place, because parking is terrible there. Hopefully Blue Ribbon can make the costs pencil out. I think the other restrictions are reasonable, and won’t scare off too many potential wedding bookings. There are plenty of other wedding venues with neighbors where it’s party over at 10pm and no amplifiers outdoors.

For those interested, here’s a link to highlights from two weddings I photographed there last year: http://tacomaweddingvenues.com/galleries/Gal12_Weyerhaeuser_Estate.

June 17, 2014 at 12:38 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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So, as someone that is making money off the events at the Mansion, perhaps you may have a conflict of interest?  Let me guess, you were allowed to park on site, in one of the 11 parking spots allowed for event staff?

July 20, 2014 at 11:36 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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As a neighbor within 2 blocks of this venue, things have changes under blue ribbon.  250 people at a wedding is more than this neighborhood can handle on 100 year old wide roads.  Last summer, an ambulance was unable to get to a house due to parked cars on both sides of the street.  Blue Ribbon has no intent to add a parking lot to limit parking to on-site, due to the cost. 

Last week, the solution was to have guests park at a nearby elementary school via valet parking.  The neighbors around the elementary school were impacted with parking - several guys in a truck and trailer were over heard talking about it, as we walked by.  Just shifting the problem to another area, ones less organized, seems to be the current solution. 

Last night, one of the two gates was locked during an event.  Word in the neighborhood was that the fire department had to tell them to open the gate, and move cars out of the fire lane - no valet parking was available.  Again, both sides of the street had cars parked - no way any fire truck could have made it through the road.

This is a public safety issue, pure and simple.

July 20, 2014 at 11:31 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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