The City Council voted Monday night 6-1 to classify an area adjacent to I-5 and 220th Street SW as general commercial instead of residential. The area contains one large site that had been a public school between 1959 and 1975 and nineteen single-family parcels.
The time set aside for public comment before the Council’s vote lasted for about an hour and nearly all of the 27 testimonies given were in opposition of the proposed zoning change. Tensions were high as most of the testimonies were from homeowners and residents in the neighborhood who feared the zoning change would have a number of negative impacts to their neighborhood and property taxes. Over a dozen letters and emails were also filed with the City in opposition of the zoning change.
Many people spoke about the fact that they moved in to the Melody Hill neighborhood because it was safe place to raise their families. Several long-time homeowners said that the increased development along the 220th corridor in recent years has significantly increased the traffic in the neighborhood and assumed that a zoning change from residential to commercial would further increase traffic.
Councilmember Kyoko Matsumoto noted that any future development would have to meet the community’s new design standards. “This could include requiring commercial access only from 64th,” she said.
Not everyone present was opposed to all development in the neighborhood. Several residents said that they wouldn’t mind development but they don’t want to see more of the typical strip malls that are present along the 220th corridor. “Destroying our peaceful community with another unnecessary strip mall would not only decrease our property values, but diminish our quality of life,” wrote an owner of a neighboring property.
Property taxes were another concern that was brought up several times during the public testimony. An owner of one of the 19 single family properties wrote in saying that the Snohomish County Assessor’s Commercial Department said if the value of a property increases, the property taxes will increase. Community Development Director Shane Hope confirmed that the rezone in and of itself would not increase the taxes on the properties to be rezoned or neighboring properties. Wade Heyer, a real estate agent who has sold many of the Town Center properties to be developed, also added that property taxes have not increased for Town Center properties that were rezoned commercial.
There also seemed to be several rumors or mis-information as one neighbor testifying thought she heard that a developer wanted to build a hotel on the site and another thought that eminent domain may be used to force the property owners to sell for transit uses. Councilmember Doug McCardle emphasized that the rezone doesn’t force anyone to sell their property. “A rezone allows for future or potential change if a property owner so desires,” said Councilmember Doug McCardle. “However, the existing uses can stay the same as now if that’s what the property owner wants.”
The Council voted 6-1 to change the classification of the area from residential to commercial. Councilmember John Zambrano was the only member who voted against the rezone.
If you live near the area, were you for or against the rezone? Let us know in the comments.