Court allows high-rise condos at Point Wells

WOODWAY — Plans for thousands of high-rise waterfront condos at Point Wells can proceed under more lenient building rules after a Washington State Court of Appeals decision released Monday.

The ruling overturns a November 2011 decision by King County Superior Court Judge Dean Lum. The earlier ruling had sided with Woodway and the Shoreline neighborhood group Save Richmond Beach. They sued Snohomish County and developer Blue Square Real Estate to force the project to adhere to new, stricter development regulations.

The wrinkle was that the state had forced the county to rewrite the regulations after it had accepted a development application for the project.

The appeals court said that the earlier rules still needed to apply.

The county and the developer both argued the project should be subject to the old rules.

An attorney for developer Blue Square Real Estate said Monday’s decision brings welcome clarity, though a long process lies ahead,

“Under any circumstance, this will take a long time to be reviewed and permitted and cleaned up and then built in phases,” said Gary Huff of Seattle law firm Karr Tuttle Campbell. “It will still likely be a 20-year process.”

The appeals court ruling means Blue Square subsidiary BSRE Point Wells’ project can grow to more than 3,000 homes with buildings of up to 180 feet tall.

The county this fall limited development at the site to about 2,600 homes and buildings of 124 feet in height. Those rules no longer apply to the project.

The county had been forced to make code changes to comply with state growth laws and the county’s own rules, including those governing transportation planning. A state growth board identified the problems in April 2011.

An attorney for Save Richmond Beach said the group was disappointed, but not caught completely off-guard.

“It was a case that presented a novel, somewhat complex issue and we felt all along that it could go either way,” said Zach Hiatt of the Seattle law firm Graham &Dunn PC.

“The important thing is that Save Richmond Beach is still committed to doing whatever it can to advocate for a project down there that’s compatible with the surrounding community,” he said.

The Point Wells proposal has no equivalent in the region. The developer, which is part of a real estate and energy conglomerate headquartered in Israel, aims to transform the 60-acre industrial site into an architectural showcase with condos, shops and public amenities. Plans call for a public pier and beach. The developer also has promised to clean up a century’s worth of pollution that taints the area.

The land is in unincorporated Snohomish County, next door to Woodway and Shoreline. It offers a front-porch view of the Olympic Mountains, with a steep bluff to the east.

A major source of controversy is limited road access to the property. The only route is a two-lane road that runs through Shoreline.

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

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