Everett may alter new building design standards

EVERETT — If you own land just outside downtown, new rules being considered by the Everett City Council could affect how your property can be developed.

On the flip side, the new rules could protect you from what the city considers an unwelcome and ugly building next door.

The council this week is scheduled to vote on a package of development rules for new apartment and condo buildings just outside the downtown core.

“After 20 years, we’re still getting big, ugly buildings,” said Bill Belshaw, Historic Everett president, who praised the new rules.

“With a few notable exceptions, the quality isn’t there.” Mike Westford and his daughter, Michelle Westford, spoke against the proposed rules at a council meeting two weeks ago.

“It needs to be looked at further,” Michelle Westford said.

The Westford family owns about a dozen houses north of Everett Avenue between Grand Avenue and W. Marine View Drive. They are planning to tear down the homes and build two eight-story condos on their property. The guidelines would lower maximum building heights in some areas, including where the Westfords own property. In other areas, the new rules would increase the maximum height of buildings.

The proposed rules also call for:

Adding architectural design requirements for new buildings and major exterior remodels;

Orienting new homes and apartments, doors, porches and windows toward the street;

Increasing minimum open space requirements from 25 feet to 100 feet per unit, but can include balconies and front porches;

Refining landscaping standards to provide more flexibility;

Allowing 15-foot-tall fire walls at property lines;

Allowing backyard in-law units.

The proposed design standards are “intended to both encourage housing development, but to also do it in a way that is sensitive to surrounding properties,” said Allan Giffen, Everett’s planning director.

The new standards apply to an area roughly four times the size of downtown Everett and include chunks of the Bayside, Riverside and Port Gardner neighborhoods.

It also envelopes a pocket of industrial land south of Everett Avenue, east of I-5.

These areas are expected to absorb much of Everett’s growth in the coming years.

The new rules don’t dictate architectural style, but in many cases offer a menu of several design elements for a developer to choose from. Elements such as upper-level setbacks and special window treatments can help break up the mass of a building and make it more attractive for residents.

For the Westfords, since they have already applied for their permits, they will be allowed to move forward as planned with their two condo buildings. If the rules are passed and they don’t begin construction in the next two years, the condos will have to be scaled back to six stories under the new rules.

Michael Kohl of BAS Construction &Development Services of Bellingham, who is helping Mike Westford with his condo buildings, said with the cost of underground parking being $35,000 a space, a two-story reduction would seriously hurt the project and be counterproductive to the city’s goals of driving density downtown.

Supporters say new rules should ease the growing pains of in-fill development heading their way.

Redevelopment is a sore spot for Everett’s Bayside Neighborhood, which sought to block the construction of the 80-foot tall Bayside Condominiums on the 2500 block of Rucker Avenue.

After four houses were torn down to build the 39-unit complex in 2000, Bayside neighbors objected, saying the planned building was ugly and inappropriate for the neighborhood.

Belshaw said the state’s Growth Management Act of 1990 pushes density but falls short of ensuring an attractive environment for residents. That’s why he supports the new rules.

Repoter David Chircop: 425-339-3429 or dchircop@heraldnet.com.

Learn more

Public hearing: 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, City Council chambers, 3002 Wetmore Ave.

More online: www.everettwa.org, search for “core residential.”

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