Point Wells foes want zoning reversal

WOODWAY — Neighbors of a high-end development proposed for the industrial Point Wells site on Puget Sound are asking the state to overturn Snohomish County’s zoning for the property.

The move by the Save Richmond Beach community group and leaders in Woodway and Shoreline could hold up plans for a mixed-use development with up to 3,500 condos. Even as they pursue litigation through the state’s Growth Management Hearings Board, the neighboring communities say they’re still open to discussions.

“Transportation is plainly our No. 1 concern,” Shoreline planning director Joe Tovar said. “Even at this point, we’re not through listening if they want to talk.”

Point Wells is in an unincorporated area at the southwestern tip of Snohomish County. It is only reachable by two-lane Richmond Beach Drive in Shoreline. That’s on the other side of the Snohomish-King County line.

Building out the site would take up to 20 years. And that’s only after an estimated $20 million to $30 million in environmental cleanup.

Point Wells has hosted industrial activities for a century. It’s now home to a marine-fuels depot and asphalt plant. The site’s owner, BSRE Point Wells, is part of Blue Square Real Estate Ltd. and the Israeli holding company Alon Group.

The Snohomish County Council voted last year to change the 61-acre property from industrial to urban-center zoning. This spring, the County Council hammered out its final rules for urban centers.

The result left the neighboring municipalities, as well as Save Richmond Beach, worried that they would be left out of the planning process.

“The level of density applied under the existing zoning is not something either community feels is reasonable,” Woodway town administrator Eric Faison said. “In terms of residential zoning, it would be as dense as downtown Bellevue.”

The zoning appeal was filed with the growth board late last year, but had been stayed for months as the sides tried to reach an agreement.

Now that the appellants have decided to move ahead, a prehearing conference is scheduled Dec. 9 in Shoreline followed by a hearing March 2. Though the appeal challenges the county, BSRE Point Wells has joined the process as an interested party.

Gary Huff, an attorney for the developer, called the neighbors’ decision disappointing, but said his side still hopes to reach an agreement.

“Having to deal with the appeal certainly consumes a lot of man hours that we think could be put to more productive use,” Huff said.

They still hope to submit an initial application with Snohomish County planners before the midpoint of 2011.

The county is ready to defend its actions, said Jason Cummings, chief civil deputy prosecuting attorney.

County Councilman Dave Somers said the county “bent over backwards to include public input” when it adopted urban-center rules. Somers said the county’s regulations should address some of the neighbors’ transportation and density concerns.

There are several other urban-center zones throughout Snohomish County, but all the others are on busy roads such as Highway 99, I-5 or the Bothell-Everett Highway.

Earlier this year, the developer for Point Wells held forums in Edmonds and Shoreline to show its ideas for the site. Eventual plans might share some features with Dockside Green, a Victoria, B.C., development that also occupies a former industrial area.

Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465; nhaglund@heraldnet.com.

Conference

A prehearing conference about zoning issues at the Point Wells site is scheduled for at 2 p.m. Dec. 9 at Shoreline City Hall, 17500 Midvale Ave. N., Shoreline. Members of the public are able to attend the conference, but only parties to the dispute are allowed to participate.

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