WOODWAY — Snohomish County planners have signaled they might recommend against approving a controversial high-rise condo project at Point Wells, after denying the developer’s most recent request to extend a key deadline.
A major decision about the project’s fate could wind up with the county hearing examiner, possibly in late spring.
County planners have been asking BSRE Point Wells to resolve major issues with the 3,081-unit project. The developer has failed so far to show how it intends to meet requirements to double building height limits to 180 feet, planners said in October, and still needs to address parking and landslide concerns.
“After 3.5 years of granted extensions, BSRE has not submitted project application materials that demonstrate the project does or can meet applicable codes and regulations,” county planning director Barb Mock wrote Jan. 24.
The company has sunk an estimated $10 million into planning, designing and permitting its project. It isn’t about to give up.
“BSRE is not about to walk away from this investment,” attorney Gary Huff wrote. “BSRE remains fully committed to see its Urban Center Development Application approved.”
BSRE, an affiliate of Israel-based Blue Square Real Estate, submitted the application in 2011. Its permit application was set to expire at the end of June. It recently sought an extension of up to two years. To make a recommendation to the hearing examiner, county planners had wanted all relevant information in hand by Jan. 8.
“We acknowledge that seven years represents an unusually long life for a typical land-use application,” Huff wrote in his letter to Mock. “But this is not a typical project. There has never before been a proposal of this magnitude in Snohomish County.”
The attorney called it “patently unfair and unrealistic” to expect BSRE to respond by early January to all the issues county planners outlined in the fall. Huff also points out that land-use and Superior Court appeals related to the project stretched more than three years into the application process.
If the Point Wells proposal ever gets built, it would remake a marine fuels depot on Puget Sound into a residential and retail showpiece with an unobstructed view of the Olympic Mountains. A thicket of more than 20 high-rise towers would reach up to 17 stories, housing homes, offices and shops. The industrial pier and shoreline at Point Wells, now closed to the public, would open for the wider community to use.
The 61-acre site lies in unincorporated Snohomish County. Zoned as an urban center, it’s partially surrounded by Woodway, the county’s most affluent community. Woodway and the city of Shoreline have been angling for annexation.
The permitting process for Point Wells has been challenged by limited access — a single two-lane road through Shoreline and a sliver of Woodway, with few prospects for widening. A bluff to the east also poses landslide concerns, and the soils underneath could be a problem in an earthquake.
If BSRE gets its approval, years of environmental cleanup would precede any groundbreaking. Construction would take place in phases, over 10 to 20 years.
The land’s zoning would allow buildings of up to 90 feet. Under specific circumstances, the maximum height can double. Among them, the developer must prove that there’s a high-capacity transit route or station nearby. The county wants more information from BSRE to answer that question.
To address a separate issue, BSRE has proposed a second access road off of 116th Avenue W. in Woodway.