WOODWAY — Building height and traffic are among the reasons Snohomish County planners have asked that a project with 3,081-unit waterfront condos at Point Wells be denied.
If the hearing examiner agrees during a scheduled May 16 meeting, that would end seven years of work by developer BSRE Point Wells and the county. Much of that time has been spent in a back-and-forth of reviews and recommendations.
The proposal’s progress stalled in February, when the county signaled its intent to ask the examiner to deny the proposal. This week’s recommendation follows through.
“It is the position of county staff that the information submitted to date does not meet Snohomish County code and is not approvable as submitted,” said Barb Mock, director of Snohomish County Planning & Development Services. “Should the applicant submit additional information before the May 16, 2018, hearing, then the Hearing Examiner has the option to extend the time frame for consideration.”
Gary Huff, an attorney for BSRE Point Wells, said the developer plans to turn in a supplemental filing that addresses county planners’ concerns. He also said the developer plans on a presentation of that filing to the hearing examiner and expects to have an application extension granted.
Over 20 years, the 61-acre mixed-use project would replace a marine fuels depot and asphalt refinery on Puget Sound. In its place: 48 buildings, including more than 20 high-rise towers up to 17 stories with housing, offices and shops. The shoreline, now closed to the public, would become accessible. Imagine it like a few lower Queen Anne neighborhood blocks in Seattle being dropped into unincorporated Snohomish County at the base of a 200-foot forested bluff along Puget Sound.
County planners list “eight major areas of conflict with Snohomish County code.” All of the reasons are problems the county says it identified years ago to the developer that went unresolved: a second access road, lack of “acceptable traffic report and assumptions,” public transportation access, parking and the steep bluffs above the site and nearby wetlands.
One example of the disconnect between the county and developer surfaced in April 2013. The county said BSRE Point Wells “had adequately responded to just one of 42 issues identified by the project planner in 2013 …” In its recent recommendation, the county said the developer made no changes in response to 21 of the issues it identified during the 2013 review.
As many as 24 of the proposed 48 buildings are not up to county code for height and setbacks from lower density zones. The buildings could exceed a maximum height of 90 feet if the developer had an environmental impact statement and if the project was near a high capacity transit route or station. According to the county recommendation, the developer had not provided evidence to satisfy those requirements.
Getting people to and from the proposed development remains a major obstacle. There is only one access road, Richmond Beach Drive. One requirement, per fire code and the county, was to make a second access road because the development is expected to create more than 250 average daily trips.
Initially, BSRE Point Wells concluded that a secondary access was not warranted. By 2017, the developer revised the plan to include a second road, but did not submit required documentation of its feasibility and code compliance. Another problem for the county was that the second access road “would traverse a landslide hazard area” a creek and impact a wetland.
Other problems arose from the traffic impact analysis. Evidence and information about Point Wells’ close proximity to high-capacity transit routes, another requirement per county code, was not provided.
“Public Works concluded the methodology utilized by the Applicant in the 2016 (Expanded Traffic Impact Analysis) ‘is not well justified nor … a fair representation of the development.’ ”
Neighboring Woodway and Shoreline also objected to the project because of concerns over traffic, road safety and landslide hazards. The development also drew concern from the Tulalip Tribes because of possible disturbance of cultural artifacts and impacts to wildlife.
The permit application is set to expire at the end of June, unless denied or extended by the hearing examiner.