City Council to hold public hearing on proposed zoning changes, hear 2015-16 budget presentation

City-of-MLT-logoMonday night’s Mountlake Terrace City Council meeting likely is going to be a long one.

The council is scheduled to hold a public hearing on two proposed ordinances to amend the 2014 Comprehensive Plan and Town Center Subarea Plan Building Prototypes Map and concurrently to amend the zoning map for consistency.

The proposed amendment area is located at the intersection of 56th Ave. W. and 236th St. SW., affecting portions of the northeast, northwest and southwest quadrants, abutting the properties immediately adjacent to the intersection.

The existing designation of the properties on the four corners of the intersection already allows mixed-use buildings up to five stories in height, similar to the recently completed building, Arbor Village, on the southeast corner of 56th Ave. W. and 236th St. SW. The proposal would change the existing land use designations from a mix of four different designations to a single designation.

The designations for 17 properties would change from allowing three and four story mixed-use and/or two-three story live/work or townhome development to allow only mixed-use buildings between three and five stories in height on all four corners of the intersection for the full depth of the block. This represents a one or two-story height increase for the affected properties. The change would make each of the quadrants on the intersection similar in total land area as the Arbor Village project.

City staff recommends adoption of the ordinances in part because “it is now vitally important for the City to incentivize the development potential on the other three quadrants of the intersection.”

In addition, City staff said that “the three other corners currently contain a mixture of unequal building heights, types, and intensities that constrain equitable development opportunities.”

The Planning Commission voted 3-2 in favor of adoption of the ordinances.

Some Councilmembers expressed concern about the possibilities of having tall buildings on all four corners of the intersection.

“To me, it would look dark,” Mayor Pro-tem Laura Sonmore said.

Councilmember Seaun Richards said he understood that developers want as much leeway as they can when developing projects.

“I’m just wondering if there is a way to suggest that we make the buildings different,” Richards said.

Community and Economic Development Director Steve Osguthorpe replied that the buildings likely would be different if different developers are involved.

Councilmember Kyoto Matsumoto-Wright said it was important for the councilmembers to tell the developers what they would like to see on those corners.

“We want to see it being built right, not like some of the cities that wondered what happened because they didn’t plan,” Matsumoto-Wright said. “We are doing the right thing by talking about it now.”

Councilmember Rick Ryan liked the idea of increasing the lot size. “That makes sense,” he said. “Height, I’m not sure about.”

The issue of potential parking issues associated with buildings was raised by Ryan and Sonmore.

City staff indicated it thinks that the potential for lot consolidation would yield a lot size more feasible for redevelopment, more realistic for understructure parking, and require fewer driveways and therefore allow more street parking.

Councilmember Bryan Wahl supported the proposal.

“We need to plan and create a community for the future, for future generations,” he said. “We need to build our cities around people, not cars.”

He said that keeping the existing land use designations would result in less available parking and lesser development. By expanding land use designation that allows the potential for consolidation of lots, there would be the prospect of larger lots, which would allow more parking, Wahl said.

Wahl also wanted to take another look at design standards.

“Do we need to change our design standards somehow to be able to ensure that developers are going to create what we want to see?” he asked.

Sonmore didn’t appear to have made up her mind on the issue

“I have a lot of concerns having four buildings on that downtown corner,” she said. “I’m just still not sure about all four corners.”

The Council is scheduled to consider adoption of the ordinances after the public hearing on Monday, though the issue could be extended to another meeting.

Monday’s meeting also is the kickoff for presentations on the 2015-16 budget.

City Manager Arlene Fisher is scheduled to present her budget message and review the budget schedule.

A review of the Preliminary Report on 2015-16 Revenue Estimates and Six-Year Financial Forecast is planned as well as a review of the city’s Financial Policies.

  1. The council, at least some of them, appear to finally be grasping the gravity of the downtown plan on the surrounding neighborhoods. Despite what one council member says about planning around “people, not cars”, the reality remains that commuters aka people still favor by wide margins driving (and necessarily parking) cars. Planning otherwise may sound good, but it is nothing but pretending and playing games with taxpayer’s money

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