County studies new zoning for urban centers

EVERETT — Snohomish County leaders are preparing new development rules aimed at creating pedestrian-friendly clusters of shops and homes along major transit routes.

The new zoning regulations are for areas designated as urban centers. The site that has drawn the most attention — and controversy — is the waterfront property of Point Wells next to Woodway. Other centers are planned at major arterials along I-5 and Highway 99 in south Snohomish County. Another one is near Bothell.

Eventually, the centers could become hives of investment, attracting hundreds of millions of dollars.

“We don’t want to miss opportunities for high-quality development,” Councilman Dave Somers said. “The whole idea is to get good mixed-use development that’s served by transit. It’s important that we get those areas developed properly, and that’s why the ordinance is important.”

County leaders have yet to decide maximum building heights, which could be up to 180 feet. They also have to decide what transit services to require and the allowable intensity of development.

The County Council last week agreed to pay the nonprofit Urban Land Institute’s Seattle office $13,000 to assemble an expert panel to answer technical questions for a day late this month or early April. Snohomish County councilmen will use panelists’ advice to decide the final urban-center rules. That could happen at public hearing scheduled for 1:30 p.m. April 21.

The Urban Land Institute is based in Washington, D.C., and is active globally. In 2006, the institute’s local office advised Everett officials on how to liven up the city’s downtown. The nonprofit has also assisted Seattle and Bellevue.

Urban-center developments are planned for: I-5 at 164th Street SW near Lynnwood; I-5 at 128th Street SE in south Everett; 44th Avenue W. at I-5 near the Mountlake Terrace-Lynnwood city line; Highway 99 at the Mukilteo Speedway in south Everett; Highway 99 at 152nd Street SW north of Lynnwood; and Highway 527 at 196th Street SE near Bothell. Another, Point Wells, is only accessible by a two-lane road through the city of Shoreline in King County, making it the sole urban center not on a major highway or freeway.

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

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