Vicinity map of the Paradise Lake Road Garden Apartments. (Snohomish County Planning and Development)

Vicinity map of the Paradise Lake Road Garden Apartments. (Snohomish County Planning and Development)

Maltby apartment proposal caught in traffic

Snohomish County planners are seeking a detailed traffic study for the 360-unit project near Highway 522.

MALTBY — A developer seeking to build hundreds of apartments near a congested highway intersection will need to perform a detailed traffic study before securing permit approvals, barring a successful appeal.

Plans for the Paradise Lake Road Garden Apartments have stirred widespread concern in this unincorporated rural part of Snohomish County. Community meetings about the project have been packed by people with strong feelings about how it would impact their area.

The development would put 15 three-story apartment buildings on Paradise Lake Road, east of Highway 522, where daily backups have long caused headaches for commuters. The proposed project includes 360 apartments and parking spaces for twice as many vehicles. An estimated 1,116 people would be expected to live there.

County planners on June 19 issued a decision to require the traffic study as part of an environmental impact statement.

“The county has concluded that the project as currently proposed and mitigated is likely to have a significant adverse impact on the environment, and has issued a Determination of Significance,” the decision says, in part.

An appeal period for the county’s decision is set to run through July 3. The county also is accepting comments until July 10 about the scope of the traffic studies.

The new apartment complex would go up at 9321 Paradise Lake Rd.

The developer, The Wolff Co., is based in Scottsdale, Arizona. It formed the Snohomish Garden Development Co. to pursue the Maltby project. In 2016, the company paid $12 million for the three parcels that make up the site, tax documents show. Houses and outbuildings there were demolished in 2017.

The area has few shopping amenities and no supermarket. It’s outside Community Transit’s service area, so there are no nearby bus stops.

The proposed development site is at the edge of Maltby’s urban growth area. It used to have the same zoning as the houses to the east, where land-use rules typically allow just one home per five acres. The County Council in 2005 approved an up-zone at the request of the former property owners to designate the land as “planned community business.” That classification allows for multifamily housing as well as a variety of smaller businesses.

Traffic through the area already is blamed for delaying school buses and first responders. Businesses say they’re feeling pinched as well.

The Washington State Department of Transportation is studying upgrades for the intersection of Paradise Lake Road and Highway 522. It’s part of a larger project that would widen a 3-mile stretch of Highway 522 north of the intersection and upgrade another highway interchange to the north.

This spring, state lawmakers approved money for design work and right-of-way acquisition. The project will receive $12.8 million during the next two years, with another $10 million available in 2021. That’s years sooner than had been expected prior to the recent legislative session.

With a total price estimated at $180 million, much more help will be needed.

“We still do not have any money for construction,” said Kris Olsen, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Transportation.

A coalition calling itself Finish 522 has brought together civic, business and political leaders to push for solutions.

Pulling off the widening interchange work will require passing a new state transportation package, said Deborah Knight, city administrator for Monroe, which is playing a lead role with Finish 522.

Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465; Twitter: @NWhaglund.

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