Homes replace store in plan

STANWOOD – People in Stanwood who successfully opposed putting a Wal-Mart on 23 acres near the high school have been worried the developer might try again.

They can relax now.

Arlington developer Brent McKinley’s Vine Street Group has requested a land-use change for next year that would allow mostly housing or apartments, with four acres of pedestrian-friendly retail stores.

That would effectively rule out building a Wal-Mart or other similar large retail competitors.

Four acres is not enough for their stores and parking lots.

Just one of those big stores would have had to squeeze to fit on the 15 or so acres of buildable land there, said Stephanie Hansen, Stanwood’s director of community development.

The remaining several acres would need to be set aside near Church Creek because of environmental rules to protect salmon.

Opponents of McKinley’s original proposal gave the developer credit for changing his approach.

“I think we kind of owe it to Brent McKinley,” said Kristine Kaufman, a co-owner of Snow Goose Bookstore who started an anti-Wal-Mart petition in town. “I think he listened to what the people were saying. He came back to us with a proposal that has its merits.”

McKinley did not return a call seeking comment.

The proposal he submitted to the city calls for the four acres of commercial land to be set at the northeast corner of Highway 532 and 72nd Avenue NW, Hansen said.

The rest of the property would be used for houses and apartments, she said.

To make it work, McKinley needs the city to change the land-use and zoning for the parcel. Right now, only moderate-density housing is allowed on those 23 acres, Hansen said.

McKinley would need the four acres changed to commercial zoning. The zoning would need to be changed to allow the apartments, too, Hansen said.

It’s too early for specific project plans, but Hansen said the developer has indicated his intent to design pedestrian connections between the commercial and housing areas.

Developers and landowners get one chance each year to change city or county zoning.

A year ago, McKinley requested a land-use change that would have made all 23 acres commercial.

When word got out that Wal-Mart was interested in the property, opposition quickly mounted.

Kaufman’s petition gathered more than 3,000 signatures. Opponents packed public hearings.

McKinley eventually withdrew his request.

His latest request will be added to Stanwood’s list of potential land-use changes that the City Council will consider in February and March, Hansen said.

Kaufman said she and others will continue to watch other nearby properties in case a large retailer wants to move in.

More important to her is the momentum built during the conflict for Design Stanwood’s many projects to revitalize the town.

“We really started making a lot of connections in the community and people really started thinking about things,” Kaufman said. “It wasn’t ever a win or lose situation. It was about making the community a stronger place.”

Reporter Scott Morris: 425-339-3292 or

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