Lynnwood City Council supports 3,000 more apartments near light rail

Council Members voted Monday to ease the potential construction of thousands more apartments near transit.

Lynnwood

Update: An earlier version of this article misspelled Council Member Shirley Sutton’s first name and incorrectly listed Council Member George Hurst as Jim Hurst. Both errors have been corrected.

By Daniel Beekman / The Seattle Times

LYNNWOOD — Let’s keep growing.

That’s the message the Lynnwood City Council sent Monday, voting to ease the potential construction of thousands more apartments near transit.

A light-rail station is scheduled to open in 2024 in Lynnwood’s City Center area, a 250-acre expanse of strip malls and furniture stores designated by the council long ago for urban redevelopment. The Sound Transit station is part of a $3.1 billion extension from Northgate to Lynnwood and will be the starting point for a $5.7 billion extension to Everett.

Lynnwood leaders passed regulations in 2012 that preapproved environmental reviews for City Center projects, to speed construction and entice developers. But they capped the preapprovals at 3,000 apartments and capped overall City Center construction at about 9 million square feet.

The legislation approved Monday will raise the cap on preapprovals to 6,000 apartments and eliminate the cap on overall construction entirely. Lynnwood planners said the legislation was needed to accommodate more growth over the next 20 years, noting there already are about 3,200 apartments built or planned in the City Center and warning the cap on overall construction could be legally problematic. The Puget Sound Regional Council has recommended that about 70% of growth should occur along transit corridors.

When council members initially discussed the matter, earlier this year, it looked like they might reject the legislation. Several said the move would encourage too much building and would benefit developers, not current Lynnwood residents.

Council Members Jim Smith and Patrick Decker opposed the legislation Monday, based on those concerns. They said locating 6,000 apartments in the City Center would snarl traffic and crowd schools. Roughly 1,000 apartments have recently opened or are coming soon at the nearby Alderwood mall.

“This would be disastrous,” Smith said, arguing Lynnwood should review each City Center project separately rather than “open the floodgates.”

But Council Member George Hurst said the legislation would advance the downtown environment that Lynnwood residents “have constantly asked for.” Major improvements to streets and sidewalks are underway, and the city plans to create a City Center park, he added.

“I’m excited for the new residents that are going to come,” Hurst said.

Lynnwood doesn’t require affordable housing in Center City projects, though certain projects are including some rent-restricted units in exchange for tax exemptions, city staff said.

Council Member Shannon Sessions, who criticized the legislation months ago, supported it Monday, saying, “Voting no isn’t going to stop the growth.”

The vote was 5-2, with Smith and Decker opposing. Hurst and Sessions joined Council Members Josh Binda, Julieta Altamirano-Crosby and Shirley Sutton in the majority.

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