Proposed development by Lake Stevens North Cove Park put on hold

LAKE STEVENS — A developer has decided to delay a proposed apartment and retail project next to North Cove Park while the city drafts a new plan for downtown.

The decision came after people in Lake Stevens shared concerns on social media and at a tense City Council meeting Sept. 8.

City staff and leaders are starting work on a land use plan for the center of the city. The process includes workshops and public hearings before a final plan is adopted, likely next summer. Nothing is expected to be built on the property by the park until the plan is complete, according to the developer.

The Williams family of Williams Investments owns 1.3 acres along the lake next to North Cove Park. They’ve been looking to build a mixed-use residential and retail building there, said consultant Reid Shockey of Shockey Planning Group. Designers sketched plans for a six-story building with about 100 apartments, bottom-floor retail space and a restaurant. The plans include a road extension and new dock.

Neighbors are worried the building wouldn’t suit the area and would ruin the park. They were frustrated to learn about it through friends, fliers or Facebook instead of from the city.

“There’s been no information at all,” said Tracey Trout, who lives next to the Williams property. “It seems like it’s behind closed doors. We live right here. You’d think that would affect us.”

The project is in the pre-application step, city administrator Jan Berg said. That means nothing has been reviewed or approved. The developer met with city and sewer district staff to talk about improvements for roads and sewer.

“It’s the same with any developer,” Berg said. “If they’re going to propose a project, they need to know what infrastructure they might have to pay for. They were early in the process. The city didn’t even have an application to put through a public process yet.”

City staff have communicated well with Williams Investments, Shockey said. The disconnect seems to be between the city and residents who felt blindsided by the project proposal.

“A whole bunch of people came in saying, ‘Don’t you dare, we don’t want it,’” Shockey said. “Our message to the city is, look, whatever you want downtown to look like, we’ll develop the property in a way that fits with that.”

For now, they’ve tucked away the apartment plans and will “dust them off” if that’s the direction the subarea plan takes, he said.

One of the most contentious pieces of the plan was the Williams’ interest in buying city property near North Cove Park for a second phase. The parcel is not part of the park and there’s no guarantee the city would sell it, Shockey said. Even if they did, Berg said there still will be a park and lake access at North Cove. The subarea plan will help decide what that could look like years from now.

Neighbors say they plan to participate in the planning and hold the city to their decisions.

“We’re not dumb. We know something is going to be built there,” Trout said. “We just don’t want special allowances to build something that doesn’t fit on the lake.”

Ivy Jo Houghten can see the park from her window and can’t imagine a six-story building. There’s a reason for building setbacks and height restrictions, she said.

“It’s a really sensitive spot for the lake,” she said.

Though Williams Investments has promised to wait, she’s not convinced things have been put on hold.

“I’m still worried,” she said. “I think he said that to appease the room.”

In an open letter, Mayor Vern Little urged people to help with downtown planning. Public workshops start in January. The park board, planning commission and City Council plan to host presentations in the spring, followed by more workshops in June. The council’s final hearing and vote on the plan is set for July or August. A full timeline is on the city’s website, www.ci.lake-stevens.wa.us. Dates should be decided soon. Anyone can join an email list for notifications about the planning process and upcoming meetings. To be put on the list, email lsplanning@lakestevenswa.gov.

Kari Bray: 425-339-3439; kbray@heraldnet.com

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