Plan to convert Snohomish building meets resistance

SNOHOMISH — The Snohomish group that defeated a plan to bring apodments to the city is again taking up arms against density.

This time, Your Snohomish is trying to stop a Seattle developer from making a vacant Avenue E building into a senior assisted-living facility.

Chris Koh, of Coho Real Estate, wants to put 25 beds in the space he previously wanted to convert into boarding house-style living.

Your Snohomish formed to fight his apodments. The City Council responded by blocking the plan in April 2013. It voted not to allow compact housing in single-family zones, rejecting the idea of allowing several smaller apartments in a larger building with shared common rooms such as kitchens and laundry areas.

Your Snohomish spokesman Mitch Cornelison said the group’s members still want to restrict incentives that increase housing density.

“Our group is trying to preserve the small-town character of Snohomish,” he said.

Allowing the commercial 12,000-square-foot business, Cornelison said, could have negative impacts on the single-family residential neighborhood. He thinks it could lower property values.

Currently, Snohomish does not define the number of seniors that can live in one residence. Your Snohomish is pushing for that number to be limited to six, as outlined for some similar facilities in the state.

“It’s not a single property issue,” Cornelison said. “This could happen anywhere in the city.”

In response, the Snohomish planning commission is working on draft amendments to the city’s code to limit the number of residents in a household. If adopted, these rules would not prevent Koh’s project but would apply to all future proposals.

A similar assisted-living application was approved for the building under a previous owner in 2008. The permit has since expired due to a lack of progress.

Until 2007, the property served between 60 and 90 children as a Montessori school. Prior to that, it was used a daycare. The building also once housed a 76-resident nursing home.

Considering the past uses, Koh said the staunch opposition to his project isn’t warranted.

“The impacts of those uses were significantly greater,” he said. “Further, there’s a need for affordable senior care in Snohomish.”

Your Snohomish fears increased traffic from the seniors’ need for emergency and service vehicles. Koh said impact on traffic and parking would be far less than the building’s previous uses.

The seniors could require as many as 12 staff working at one time. Your Snohomish worries that parking would become scarce with 37 people added to the area.

Koh’s plan includes 13 parking spaces. He said most residents would not have cars.

The location, Koh said, provides opportunity for the seniors to walk to the historic downtown or volunteer at the nearby high school.

The 1897 Victorian building stands at the corner of Avenue E and 4th Street. It was adjoined with a two-story school building in the 1950s. The property also includes a 1920s single-family house.

Koh’s project still requires permits for use, construction and building.

The city’s Hearing Examiner has scheduled a public hearing for Feb. 26.

Snohomish Planning Director Owen Dennison said the city has received a number of emails and letters stating opposition to the project. Koh said he invited opponents to a meeting last week to discuss concerns.

“I am hoping that the developer can find some resolution so he can invest in upgrading that deteriorating structure,” Mayor Karen Guzak wrote in an email to The Herald, “and have the neighbors welcome some kind of a satisfactory conclusion that will save the building and contribute to our community.”

Amy Nile: 425-339-3192;

Public hearing

When: 1:30 p.m., Feb. 26.

Where: Snohomish Fire District, Harvey Auditorium, 1525 Ave. D

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