Forum discussing townhome construction in Town Center on Dec. 14


How should townhomes be built in areas nearest the downtown? That’s the main question to be discussed at a forum sponsored by the City of Mountlake Terrace on Dec. 14, 6-7 p.m. at City Hall Council Chambers, 6100 219th St. SW. on the second floor of the Redstone Building.

The City’s standards allow townhomes and commercial parking lots to be built in the “transitional use” areas near the Town Center. (See illustration for the Transitional Uses Area.)

“We’ve heard concerns that the current code for the transition area is not doing what was intended,” said Mayor Jerry Smith. “We need to take a look and get a clear sense of what actually is or is not working and how it can be improved.”

The City’s Planning Commission has begun discussing code options, such as allowing the transitional area and the RS 4800 Zone to have the same maximum three-story height as other parts of the City. Currently, the height limit in the transition area next to downtown is two stories—a story less than residential areas further away from downtown.

“A variety of ideas about building design, landscaping, walkability, and open space may be considered, said City Manager Scott Hugill. “We hope that people who want to build in this area and people who live or spend time nearby will come together and share their thoughts about what’s important for townhomes to be successful.”

The City is looking to update its code for the transitional uses area by early 2018. The Dec. 14 forum is one opportunity for public input. A schedule for other public meetings and opportunities will be announced soon.

The forum will include a City slide show about the area and how the code applies. Attendees will be invited to share their thoughts or write down their comments.

For more information, call the Community and Economic Development Department at 425-744-6207.


  1. Increasing building height from 2 stories to 3 stories won’t be nearly enough. Look at the west side of 56th Ave W between 240th and 244th. It’s already a 3-story area. See any 3-story mixed use developments on that stretch? No? Then why would the City have a reason to expect increased development if the west side transition zone on 56th between 236th and 240th is increased from 2 stories to 3 stories?

    There are several problems, some the City’s fault, some not.

    If one looks (I have, when they were being written) at the development standards and design standards for Town Center and calculates what meeting all of those standards for a small single-lot parcel would cost, it’s ridiculously cost-prohibitive. This can be reduced if lots are combined, but then a developer has to convince people owning adjacent parcels to sell, and a lot of that low-hanging fruit has already been picked.

    Changes in development standards intended to ease development on single lots and otherwise narrow lots with substantial street frontage are necessary before the City will see them developed.

    Other challenges are convincing a property owner who may not need the cash to sell a property for development. If an non-occupying owner purchased for, say, $90k twenty-five years ago, paid off the mortgage, and is getting $1500/mo in rent, what is that owner’s current incentive to sell? The question becomes even more difficult to answer if one factors in a lower federal income tax rate, because the taxation of that property’s annual rental income will decrease, while property value continues to increase. The closer we get to the MLT transit center becoming reality, the more valuable those properties become.

    The best reason I can think of for a property owner to want to sell to a developer is a very attractive selling price, one high enough that it can’t be ignored. In order for a developer to pay that price, the development costs have to decrease from where they are at present. So it’s back to the City to do something about that.

    The City was willing to wink at SHAG and permit a 55-plus development with far, far fewer parking spaces than was practically necessary. The City is willing to see 18 garbage containers lined up on the street in a development it recently approved near 55th/240th, so that the developer is not troubled by a need to provide a proper garbage enclosure on the site. Given these demonstrated examples of willingness to bend to the wishes of developers, the City can certainly figure out a way to reduce costs for smaller-lot projects, if it truly wishes to see them move forward.

    Back to you, Mayor Smith and City Council members who unanimously approved a 40′ row of individual garbage containers once each week. Funny, I don’t recall that being one of the development standards the City published.


Please enter your comment!