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Published: Thursday, March 3, 2011, 12:01 a.m.

Group challenging county’s zoning decision for major Point Wells development

Neighbors say the Point Wells project breaks state laws and Snohomish County rules.

EVERETT -- An entrepreneur's vision to transform an aging industrial site near Woodway into thousands of high-rise condos was challenged Wednesday by neighbors seeking to overturn the property's zoning.
Snohomish County's zoning for Point Wells breaks state growth laws and the county's own rules, according to attorneys for Woodway, Shoreline and a community group.
The project would put just over 3,000 homes at the end of a dead-end, two-lane road and create too much traffic, they argued. And although the developer has promised to build a stop for Sound Transit's Sounder commuter train, opponents say there are no definite plans for such a station and, therefore, cannot count on that to relieve some of the traffic.
"We can't have planning based on a rich person saying he's going to do something," said Wayne Tanaka, an attorney for the upscale residential community of Woodway.
Woodway, like other neighbors, would like to see smaller development of homes and businesses on the property, Tanaka said.
Attorneys for the county and developer BSRE Point Wells defended the zoning during Wednesday's three-and-a-half-hour hearing at the county campus in Everett. The state Growth Management Hearings Board board has until April 25 to reach a decision.
The Tulalip Tribes also have joined the case as a "friend of the court" observer to try to protect historical artifacts and fishing rights that might be harmed by development. The Snohomish Tribe, one of the members of the Tulalip tribal confederation, historically lived in areas stretching from Richmond Beach to the north.
A reversal of county zoning wouldn't necessarily stop the Point Wells development.
The developer's attorneys say the development rules can't be changed since their initial plans have already been accepted by the county. County planners aren't so sure.
On Friday the developer is set to turn in more plans that even the county agrees would lock rules in place.
Point Wells is now home to aging fuel tanks and an asphalt plant. BSRE Point Wells is part of Alon Group, a real estate and energy company headquartered in Israel.
One of Alon's principals, Israeli attorney Shraga Biran, envisions transforming the 61-acre site into a signature development with some buildings as tall as 18 stories. He's enlisted the help of world-class architects to do it, promising cutting edge environmental techniques, European design and public access to the waterfront.
The County Council changed zoning at the site from industrial to an urban center in 2009. Last year, the county finalized its rules for urban centers. The rules allow for buildings of up to 180 feet -- about 18 stories -- if certain conditions are met.
The county's other urban centers are near Everett, Lynnwood and Bothell. All are on highways or freeways. The County Council qualified Point Wells for the zoning by allowing high-capacity mass transit, such as a rail line, as an alternative.

Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465; nhaglund@heraldnet.com.

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