WOODWAY — Snohomish County planners have given a developer six months to complete an environmental study of a high-rise development at Point Wells that’s already years in the making.
If developer Blue Square Real Estate can’t answer key questions about the project for a draft environmental study, the planners said they may recommend denying the project application. Some of the unresolved issues include water runoff, landslide risks and building a second access road to the site.
“It wasn’t a surprise. In fact we asked for it,” said Gary Huff, an attorney for the developer, which is operating locally as BSRE Point Wells. “We know there are some things that need to be done.”
The deadline is spelled out in a Nov. 15 letter that references “numerous internal inconsistencies and conflicts with county code.” The letter follows up on a Sept. 20 meeting between representatives from the developer and the county.
Plans call for 3,081 condos, a commercial center and a public pier. They would occupy a 61-acre site, of which about a quarter would remain undisturbed tidelands.
Neighbors in the surrounding communities of mostly upscale, single-family homes have objected to the size of the project and its unprecedented density for the area. Condo towers would rise up to 180 feet, as described in the developer’s plans.
Other objections involve safety. A 200-foot-tall bluff to the east has a history of instability and looms above railroad tracks.
Traffic may be the biggest hurdle. For now, the only route in or out is a two-lane road lined with homes.
To meet fire-code requirements, the developer must build a second access road to the site. Two options are under consideration.
One option involves building a new road off of 116th Street West in Woodway south of Quail Lane. The narrow parcel could work for emergency access, but not as a fully functional public road.
The county also asked the developer to study building an access road that connects with 238th Street SW in Woodway. That would follow a similar route to the former Heberlein Road, which used to serve Point Wells during the first half of the 20th century but eventually washed out.
Construction of the condos would occur in four phases, a county web page says. Each phase would involve an underground parking garage with buildings on top.
The site remains industrial, with active operations for storing marine fuels and making asphalt.
BSRE first submitted its application for the Point Wells project in 2011. At the time, it expected to spend a year or two on environmental studies. Earlier this year, BSRE said it expected to release a draft environmental study sometime this fall.
“There are some tough problems to deal with,” Huff said. “We need to make sure we can do it right for everyone concerned so we can deliver on the promises of the project. And that’s a lot of work.”
BSRE expects environmental cleanup, permitting and phased construction to last 15 to 20 years.
Once a draft environmental impact statement is complete, people and government agencies with a stake in the outcome would have 45 days to comment. The project would go before a design review board before a final environmental impact statement could be completed. County planners would make a recommendation about whether to approve the project before it reaches the hearing examiner for a decision.
That process could change slightly, depending on what happens at each step.
The Alon Group, an Israeli holding company, spawned the idea to build the Point Wells development. The company has been going through corporate turmoil this year with a massive reorganization. The problems at Alon Group won’t affect what’s happening locally, Huff said. BSRE remains affiliated with Blue Square Real Estate Ltd., also headquartered in Israel.
“We’re dealing with the same people and we’ll have the same plan going forward,” he said.
That won’t change how the county reviews the project, either.
“We just look at the application and not the owner,” said Ryan Countryman, a county permitting supervisor.