Council passes amendments to Town Center guidelines allowing flex-space townhouses in some areas

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This map was presented to council on Monday night. Red lines show areas permitted for live/work townhouses under the amended ordinance, along the core roads of Town Center. Yellow lines show areas permitted for flex-space townhouses, mostly in fringe areas or interior areas of lots.

After half a dozen contractors spoke in favor of an ordinance amending the Town Center Development Standards, the amendments were passed with a 6-1 vote during Monday night’s city council meeting. Councilmember Laura Sonmore was the dissenting vote.

The amendments allow contractors to build flex-use buildings on the interior half of lots in the Town Center area and areas considered “fringe” areas of Town Center. This change was proposed because parcels in Mountlake Terrace tend to be deeper than they are wide, except for a few corner lots. If the city requires first-floor commercial entrances to face the street on these lots, the back half of the lots are mostly unusable.

Community and Economic Development Director Steve Osguthorpe said commercial space will still be built on the ground floor of buildings facing the main arterial roads, but adding some flexibility and allowing flex-space townhouses to be built in the interior sides of lots or in fringe areas helps developers maximize the use of their lots.

Flex-space buildings do not require separate entrances for residents and possible commercial or office space, where as live-work townhouses would require a separate home entrance. Flex-space buildings would also not require entrances to face the street.

The “core” of Town Center would still be focused on commercial development.

Amendments to the ordinance also allows for angle-in parking in commercial-focused areas in Town Center. Those parking spaces will make roads look wider and provide needed parking spaces for commercial buildings. The spaces will encroach onto private property but developments will receive credit toward their on-site parking requirements.

The full memo detailing the changes can be found here.

Developers working in Mountlake Terrace overwhelmingly supported the amendments.

“We are very in favor of this,” Dwayne Landsverk, an Edmonds-based developer, said. “I’d love to have less back-in angle parking, but I can appreciate where the city staff is coming from regarding the long-term needs of the city.”

“I am for this ordinance,” Chris Lee, owner of Grand-Pere Bakery on 56th Avenue West, said. “I think there is a lot to the benefit of the work Steve and the Planning Department did in that there needs to be some kind of flexibility. I would love to see Mountlake Terrace grow and I think in order to do that, we need to have more compilation and get the city to look a little nicer.”

Several other business owners and developers spoke during Monday night’s public hearing. Some said Mountlake Terrace is a great place to work and this ordinance will help them continue working in the area. Others said mixed-use buildings represent opportunities for home ownership, which would help Mountlake Terrace grow.

Councilmember Seaun Richards said he appreciated having a positive public hearing. Sonmore said she disagrees because it would have been good to hear from the other side.

Ultimately, the ordinance passed with a 6-1 vote. Sonmore dissented because she would rather see the City Council revisit the Town Center vision and re-create it rather than push forward these changes and postpone the creation of a new vision.

Osguthorpe argued it is better to keep things moving for now.

“It may not be the full vision yet, but it is moving things forward until we can revisit it and revise the vision,” Osguthorpe said.

Also during Monday night’s meeting:

  • Council heard a report from the Snohomish County Tourism Bureau. Their full presentation can be viewed here.
  • Sonmore asked for council to review council rules to ensure the public that no “secret meetings” are happening between council members. “We need to rebuild our credibility,” she said.
  • Councilmembers reminded residents that this Saturday, a cleanup is scheduled at Ballinger Park. Click here for details.

–By Natalie Covate

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