The future site for Snohomish Garden Townhomes on Paradise Lake Road on Friday, April 5, 2024, in Snohomish, Washington. (Annie Barker / The Herald)

The future site for Snohomish Garden Townhomes on Paradise Lake Road on Friday, April 5, 2024, in Snohomish, Washington. (Annie Barker / The Herald)

Neighbors’ effort falls short of stopping 196 townhomes near Maltby

Nearby residents said the proposed development would make traffic much worse along Highway 522 — among other concerns.

MALTBY — An out-of-state developer is set to turn two demolished homes on 17 acres in the rural Maltby area into 196 townhomes.

But not without nearby residents first making their opposition known.

Lennar Northwest, based in Florida, submitted its application for Snohomish Garden Townhomes in October. After a December public hearing, Snohomish County Hearing Examiner Peter Camp approved the application in February, despite more than a dozen nearby residents opposing the development.

Even after the county approved the plans for developers, a few residents continued to try to stop the development.

Residents claim that adding multi-family housing units in the area will clog up traffic, reducing the quality of life for current residents.

The lot is located east of Highway 522 on Paradise Lake Road. Residents who spoke at the public hearing said traffic is a big issue, especially along their only exit route. Others said they don’t think the townhomes would fit in with the rest of the neighborhood.

“So they’re going to take and dump 196 townhomes in an area of residential single family dwellings,” said nearby resident Janet Smith in the December public hearing. “Most of the public in that area, they do not want that.”

Smith said she was concerned there wouldn’t be enough resources, like a nearby grocery store, bus lines or sidewalks for the new neighbors and that their presence could add an extra 300 cars on the streets.

Plans for the townhomes call for 757 parking spaces on the property, according to the developer’s application.

A traffic study commissioned by the contractors found the development would cause drivers a delay of 1 to 3 seconds in the surrounding areas. The state Department of Transportation considered the delay as “immaterial,” according to Camp’s decision.

Debbie Wetzel, a Snohomish resident, doesn’t believe those numbers.

“It’s very rural out there and the traffic is already horrific,” Wetzel said.

Wetzel said she lives in the Cathcart area and does not regularly drive on Paradise Lake Road. Once Camp published the approval in February, Wetzel and another Snohomish resident Linda Gray filed a petition to reopen the application.

Wetzel claimed Camp disregarded evidence when making his decision. She points to former Fire District 7 Deputy Chief Mike Fitzgerald, who said more traffic in the area could slow down emergency responses. Since then, the district merged with other nearby districts to create Snohomish Regional Fire and Rescue.

In his February decision, Camp acknowledged Fitzgerald’s statement.

“The regional fire authority that succeeded the fire district did not ratify or express the earlier concerns nor identify any new or different concerns, though it had the opportunity to do so,” the decision states.

Camp also mentioned that the scale of the project has been “substantially reduced” since Fitzgerald made that concern. The project was downsized from 220 townhomes to 196 townhomes.

Camp later added in the decision that an application can not legally be denied because of traffic. Applications are granted when they meet the “measures and tests” prescribed by county code.

“This project meets those measures and tests, even though traffic is already congested and may become more so,” Camp’s decision read.

Camp denied Wetzel and Gray’s petition for reconsideration in March.

Hidden River Middle School sits just across the street from the Snohomish Garden Townhomes site. Behind the property sits Maltby Elementary School.

“Traffic on (Paradise Lake Road) can get backed up at different times of the day,” Wetzel and Gray’s petition stated. “Bringing in the possibility of 300+ cars into a small area is incredibly damaging.”

To address traffic concerns, developer Lennar Northwest is required to improve nearby roads, including turn restrictions, a new crosswalk and widening Paradise Lake Road.

A second appeal by Wetzel and Gray to the Snohomish County Council failed last week.

The county’s notice to the residents said their appeal was untimely and incomplete.

Jenelle Baumbach: 360-352-8623; jenelle.baumbach@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @jenelleclar.

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