Point Wells project may shrink due to code changes

EVERETT — The Snohomish County Council on Wednesday approved legislation that could thin and trim a large-scale development proposed along the waterfront off Woodway.

In government-planning speak, the county is changing the zoning and codes at Point Wells from an urban center to a less-dense urban village designation.

Point Wells covers 61 acres, much of it devoted to fuel- storage tanks and an asphalt plant. It’s been an industrial site for about 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. The company has been exploring a redevelopment of the property to include a high-rise condo project and retail space on the site for about five years.

Transportation has been the biggest roadblock to making that happen.

Though Point Wells lies in unincorporated Snohomish County, next door to Woodway, the only way to reach it is by a two-lane road running through the city of Shoreline. That has city officials and neighbors to the south worried that they’ll be left to cope with increased traffic and other fallout from a project they are powerless to control.

The Snohomish County Council is making zoning and code changes now to fix violations with state growth laws and its own rules, including transportation planning. The changes are aimed at bringing the county into compliance with requirements of a state Growth Management Hearings Board decision. Opponents had appealed the county’s designation of Point Wells as an urban center.

The hearings board will review in December the changes the County Council made on Wednesday.

Blue Square’s current proposal includes nearly 3,100 condo units, plus stores, in buildings of up to 180 feet tall. The new neighborhood would include a public pier and beach.

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

Building out Point Wells would take an estimated 20 years, after three to five years of environmental cleanup. BSRE representatives have said a large-scale project is necessary to pay for cleanup and other costs.

Woodway officials have kept a close watch on Point Wells proposal and argued for amendments approved Wednesday that give their town and surrounding communities a greater voice in decisions.

“It provides us more leverage,” Woodway Mayor Carla Nichols said after the hearing.

She pointed to language requiring that the developer “successfully negotiate binding agreements” for public services and utilities before getting permits.

“This binding agreement will be the test,” Nichols said.

Gary Huff, an attorney representing Point Wells developers, said his side needs time to assess the new language and requirements.

“This created essentially another alternative,” Huff said.

The developer has argued that the project should be able to proceed under the old building rules, prior to the growth board’s ruling. Woodway and the Save Richmond Beach neighborhood group sued BSRE and Snohomish County last year to prevent that from happening, and prevailed in King County Superior Court. That decision is under appeal.

Woodway, Shoreline and Save Richmond Beach have said they would be willing to support the development going forward if county regulations adequately address the project’s impacts on neighbors.

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

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