EVERETT — A days-long hearing will start this week to determine the fate of a controversial proposal to turn an industrial site on Puget Sound, south of Edmonds, into thousands of condos.
The public will have a chance on Wednesday to weigh in on developer BSRE Point Wells’ plan to build the high-rise community on roughly 60 acres in the southwest corner of the county. The hearing, to be held virtually before Snohomish County Hearing Examiner Peter Camp, is slated to continue on Thursday, Friday, Nov. 12 and Nov. 13.
Camp, who denied an earlier version of the project in 2018, will then decide whether it can advance. Even if he approves the development application and related permits and variances, the proposal will still be subject to an environmental impact statement, as required by state law.
BSRE, an acronym for Blue Square Real Estate, has for nearly a decade sought to build the condos over the wishes of neighboring residents and government authorities.
Staff at the county’s Planning and Development Services department have recommended that Camp reject the proposal, saying the buildings would violate height and setback requirements of the county code.
The county’s chief engineering officer has also denied the developer permission to build in a landslide hazard zone.
County staff recommended against the project’s approval in 2018, too. The hearing examiner then concluded that it could not be built as proposed. On appeal, the Snohomish County Council upheld the examiner’s decision.
Last summer, King County Superior Court Judge John McHale provided the developer additional time to seek approval for the project. McHale’s decision focused on whether development applications had been processed correctly under the urban center code when they were submitted in 2011.
The plan’s backers met a court-imposed deadline to resubmit paperwork by Dec. 18.
This time around, BSRE attempted to address some of the hearing examiner’s past concerns by revising drawings so that buildings would be outside of a shoreline buffer.
In the developer’s new proposal, the number of condos was reduced, from 3,085 to 2,846. The latest submittals called for 45 buildings, 17 of which would be higher than 90 feet.
In addition to the homes, the proposal also includes shops, a public pier and an open-air amphitheater.
BSRE has argued that some structures have to be built in a landslide hazard area because there’s nowhere else to put them.
The project’s critics have voiced concerns about how it will impact traffic in the area, which can only be driven to via the two-lane Richmond Beach Drive in Shoreline.
BSRE has proposed building a second access road to 116th Avenue West in Woodway.
The developer is seeking variances so that it does not have to comply with two provisions of county code: one that requires setbacks from tall buildings to lower-density residential development; and another that bars buildings higher than 90 feet unless there’s a “high capacity transit route or station” nearby.
The hearing examiner typically issues a decision within 15 days after the close of the hearing; however, in the case of more complex projects, that can take longer, said Ryan Countryman, county planning and permitting supervisor.
The state Supreme Court recently ruled that Point Wells is within the boundaries of Olympic View Water and Sewer District, ending a years-long dispute over which jurisdiction had the service rights to the area; but that ruling won’t be a focus of the upcoming hearing, Countryman said.
Last month, the state’s highest court upheld a lower court’s ruling that Ronald Wastewater District does not include Point Wells, despite a 1985 court order that purportedly transferred the area from King County’s jurisdiction to Ronald’s service area. In the mid-1980s, King County served a handful of customers by contract in Snohomish County.
Residents who wish to comment on the Point Wells development project can choose from two sessions, one at 2 p.m. and one at 6 p.m. on Wednesday. Anyone interested in testifying should email Administrative Hearings Clerk Pamela Yount at email@example.com in advance to be added to a list of speakers. Yount will also accept comments submitted via email through Wednesday. For information about how to access the meetings, to be held via Zoom, visit snohomishcountywa.gov/189/Hearing-Examiner.
Rachel Riley: 425-339-3465; firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @rachel_m_riley.