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Olympia developer plans ‘sex emporium’ if grocery store falls through

Tacoma, WA – If the owner of a South Sound adult video business is unsuccessful in bringing a discount grocery chain to the city, he has another business in mind — one that could open a year from now and feature male and female strippers, live sex shows and an adult motel, city documents show.

Levi Bussanich of Centralia, who has owned Desire Video in Olympia for 10 years, will meet privately with city planners Nov. 5 to get feedback on a new business he is considering.

The business is a store called the Olympia Sex Emporium, a nearly 15,000-square-foot expansion of his existing business at 3200 Pacific Ave.

Bussanich has proposed adding strippers, a fetish and bondage area and a “drive-up window for great customer access,” according to a completed application for next week’s meeting.

Bussanich said Tuesday that he still hopes to bring an 80,000-square-foot WinCo Foods to property adjacent to the video store, rather than expand his business. He also said he was frustrated with city leaders that the proposed WinCo development has taken so long.

“It’s ridiculous to me that we’ve spent 13 months on this and we’re not any closer,” he said.

Besides Desire Video, Bussanich owns about 13 acres of forested property next to the business that stretches from Pacific Avenue to Martin Way.

Nine of those acres was put up for sale a year ago, and it attracted the interest of Boise-based WinCo Foods, an employee-owned Northwest chain of “bag-your-own” grocery stores, Bussanich said. The closest WinCo to Thurston County is in Puyallup.

Since, WinCo has put the property under contract, which allows the grocery chain to explore development options on the property, he said. This includes building an 80,000-square-foot store, Bussanich said.

WinCo officials could not be reached to comment.

Colliers International commercial real estate agent Larry Gilliam confirmed Tuesday that WinCo has had the property under contract for about 13 months. The parcel is listed for $5.75 million, he said.

Still, the city has been “impossible” to work with, Bussanich said.

“We have bent over backwards with the city on this,” he said about the WinCo proposal. “All we’re asking for is a wetland buffer reduction.”

Olympia Community Planning Development Director Keith Stahley acknowledged Tuesday that it is a complicated development site because it is near two wetlands. Under the city’s critical-areas ordinance, the wetlands need to be at least 100 feet from the west side of the proposed development and 120 feet from the east side of it, Stahley said.

“As a result of that, it makes development there considerably more challenging,” he said.

Bussanich appeared before the Olympia hearing examiner Monday night seeking to reduce the wetland buffer to 25 feet. A decision on that request isn’t expected until mid-November, he said.

Bussanich said that if the examiner rules in his favor, he would like to see WinCo here in 2010. If not, he said, he is prepared to move forward with the sex emporium, but he wouldn’t say whether he would give up on WinCo.

“We will cross that bridge when we get to it,” he said.

He operates nine adult video businesses, some with a partner, in Washington and Oregon — Desire Video, Taboo Video and Your Choice Video. He employs 120 people at those stores and says business is strong, adding that revenue continues to grow nearly 10 percent annually.

As to whether the emporium is allowed under city law, Stahley said that could be addressed at next week’s meeting. Known as a “presubmission conference,” it gives planning staff a chance to make suggestions or point out critical flaws in a development proposal, he said. Stahley said it was the first time in his four years with the city to see such a proposal.

Olympia City Attorney Tom Morrill also couldn’t say whether the emporium would be in violation of city law, although he expects to be called to next week’s meeting.

Bussanich said he is prepared to defend the emporium.

“There’s no way the city can prevent me from expanding my location,” he said.

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