MILL CREEK — A development that could bring more than 350 new apartment units to the northeast corner of town secured a key approval from the City Council on Tuesday over objections from some neighbors.
It wasn’t unanimous. A development agreement for The Farm at Mill Creek garnered four votes of support from the council. Two members opposed it and one abstained. The nays came from councilmembers Vince Cavaleri and Stephanie Vignal, the abstention from Mayor Pam Pruitt.
Councilman Brian Holtzclaw addressed a major concern from constituents: that the project would bear no resemblance to Mill Creek’s tony Town Center.
“What people wanted was the higher-end retail … We’ve all wanted that for 20 years,” said Holtzclaw, who works as a real estate attorney. “It hasn’t come. It ain’t gonna come. We can’t compete with Lynnwood. We can’t compete with Everett. The type of stores that people would ideally like to come aren’t going to come there.”
Another worry, traffic, would improve along congested 132nd Street SE with required changes from the project, Holtzclaw contended. The site lies between 35th Avenue SE and Seattle Hill Road.
Councilman John Steckler defended the developer’s aim of supplying what’s known in the building industry as workforce housing. All of the apartment units would be targeted toward people earning about 60 percent of Snohomish County’s average median income: up to $44,940 for an individual, $51,360 for a family of two, or $57,780 for a family of three, according to state figures.
“We need to serve everybody in our community: the low income, the high income, and I like to call it the forgotten income, which is the middle-income group,” Steckler said. “I like taking care of that middle-income group, which is important. I know that isn’t popular.”
Pruitt said she abstained over what she viewed as “an attempt to intimidate and bully me into voting a certain way.” She didn’t specify further.
In addition to multi-family housing, The Farm at Mill Creek would build out commercial and office space. The area is known as the East Gateway Urban Village zone. The city finalized the development guidelines for the 52-acre area in 2008. Since then, office buildings, homes and apartment complexes have taken shape.
Vintage Housing was seeking permission to create The Farm on about 17 acres, about a third of the East Gateway zone. The Newport Beach, California, company specializes in affordable housing in the western United States.
If the city hearing examiner approves The Farm, the project will move forward with design, permitting and other steps in the land-use process. The agreement includes a lease with the city for 500 square feet of office space at no cost. That could potentially be used as a satellite police station. The city also will have use of a gathering area and plaza for public events, according to a news release.
Adjacent land will be restored and preserved as a wetland with trails and other amenities.
More info: www.cityof millcreek.com/thefarm.