Point Wells decision on hold

Settling some of the most contentious questions about the scope of a proposed high-rise condo project at Point Wells will have to wait a while longer.

The Snohomish County Council on Wednesday postponed for a week its decision on changing the planning and development regulations at the waterfront industrial site.

About 50 people packed council chambers for a hearing. They included two state lawmakers, representatives for developer Blue Square Real Estate, neighbors of the proposed project and officials from the cities of Woodway and Shoreline. More than 15 people testified about various changes affecting building density, building heights and traffic effects.

“This is a big land-use decision and I think we should all be very cautious and thoughtful,” Woodway Mayor Carla Nichols said. “I want to make one thing very clear: The residents of Woodway are not NIMBYs.”

Point Wells has been an industrial site for a century. It’s owned by Blue Square subsidiary BSRE Point Wells. The companies are part of Alon Group, a real estate and energy company headquartered in Israel that for five years has been looking at transforming the property into a dense mix of condos and shops.

The 60-acre parcel is in unincorporated Snohomish County, bounded by Woodway and Shoreline. The biggest challenge for building condos there is access. The only way to reach the property is a two-lane road, from the south, through Shoreline.

In April 2011, a state board that oversees development regulations ruled that Snohomish County violated state laws and its own rules when zoning Point Wells.

The county faces an Oct. 24 deadline to fix problems the board identified, which include questions about transportation planning.

Blue Square’s current proposal includes nearly 3,100 condo units in buildings of up to 17 stories, or 180 feet. Building it out would take an estimated 20 years, after three to five years of environmental cleanup.

One scenario the County Council has considered would limit the number of condos to about 2,600 and building heights to 124 feet.

That entails the council changing the zoning from an urban center, which is generally used along major highways, to something called an urban village.

Some of the people who testified Wednesday warned the Council against changing the name of the zoning, without doing anything to rein in the scope of the project.

“It’s just a renamed urban center without substantive changes,” Peter Block of Woodway said. “It’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing.”

Blue Square consultant Steve Ohlenkamp said the change from an urban center to an urban village would be significant, particularly if it ties what the developer can build to specific traffic levels on Shoreline roads.

The County Council vote is now scheduled at the regular 9 a.m. meeting next Wednesday. The council is no longer accepting testimony or comments on the issue.

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

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