MLT Council adopts 2021-22 biennial budget, approves Cedar Park Townhomes project

The Mountlake Terrace City Council during its Dec. 7 business meeting unanimously approved adoption of the city’s 2021-22 biennial budget, and also gave the green light to the Cedar Park Townhomes subdivision.

The city’s budget will average approximately $67 million over each of the next two years.

City Manager Scott Hugill summarized that the budget sets out the council’s priorities “and it also recognizes the economic uncertainty that has come along with the pandemic to keep us in check.” With revenue projections falling below what the State of Washington had anticipated for its own budget, Hugill said that legislators may consider reducing state shared revenues to cities “to make up the state’s shortfall or other needs.” Due to this possibility, the city’s proposed budget “maintains your core services, but it doesn’t go beyond that at this time,” the city manager said.

As an example, Hugill said that facility improvements and custodial services at the MLT Recreation Pavilion are being “set aside” until the facility is able to fully reopen under Phase 3 of the state’s Safe Start Washington plan and guidelines.

Hugill said he felt that the budget plan “still gives us plenty of breathing room as we wait for the Legislature to finish its session and see what comes next.”

Priorities for the 2021-22 budget include completion of the Recreation, Parks and Open Space (RPOS) Plan and gathering public input on that plan, working on the Veterans Memorial Park Master Plan, designing Main Street Phase II along 56th Avenue West from 236th to 230th Streets Southwest, replacing aging water, sewer and stormwater infrastructure, and refinancing the city’s existing debt while interest rates are at historic lows. Online permitting processes and pet licensing are also included in the budget as a means to make city services more convenient for the community and its residents.

Councilmember Bryan Wahl said he appreciated the budget is streamlined “as much as possible to ensure that we are staying within our means and don’t overextend ourselves” given economic uncertainty due to the pandemic. However, Wahl added that the city needs to be ready to invest in additional resources over the next two years in areas such as economic development, marketing and staffing when financial conditions improve. “I’m looking forward to getting through these uncertain times and being able to get our feet under ourselves and be able to make some good solid investments in our community,” he said.

A proposal to subdivide the two-acre property of the former Cedar Park Christian School, located at 23606 54th Ave. W. , into 52 single-household lots was approved. The Cedar Park Townhomes project calls for the construction of 12, three-story buildings. It would replace the four buildings currently onsite and requires the project to submit a contingency plan that will address the removal of any abandoned underground storage tanks and any contaminated soil possibly discovered during construction.

City of MLT Associate Planner Kevin Johnson, upper right, speaks to the Cedar Park project during Monday’s council meeting via Zoom.

The development will provide a minimum of 95 on-site parking spaces, which is more than city code requires. Residents will have parking space in an enclosed garage as part of their unit and additional spaces are open-air spaces and tandem garage options. Access to the property will be provided from two driveways on 54th Avenue West and there will be two more access points within a newly constructed cul-de-sac on 55th Avenue West.

Sidewalks currently exist along the frontage of 54th Avenue West but they will have to be rebuilt to meet city requirements. Additional sidewalks will be created along the 55th Avenue West frontage as a part of the new cul-de-sac construction. Maintenance of the property and its common areas will be governed by a homeowners association.

The Mountlake Terrace Planning Commission recommended approval of the development in July. Associate Planner Kevin Johnson told the council that the proposal met all conditions for council approval of the plan.

Steve Stone, general manager of the project’s developer — AFCO & Sons — said working with the city on the plan has been a smooth process so far. “(It’s) one of the more streamlined projects I’ve worked on with the city.” He touted eventual pedestrian connectivity to the light rail station and also the amount of open space areas left within the development. “I think the way that we were able to work with the city to design this project, I hope the city likes it. It’s not maxed out from property line to property line, we could’ve made it more dense, but I think it works with the way that we designed it,” he said.

AFCO & Sons is the developer behind the Arbor Village and Atlas236 projects at the southeast and northeast corners of 236th Street Southwest and 56th Avenue West.

Mayor Pro Tem Doug McCardle reiterated his request, from last week’s work/study session, for the city to keep an eye on any local traffic impacts. He said he likes the project, but worries that patterns and usage around the property, from new residences, will be different than those previously experienced by the neighborhood during a typical schedule of operations at the former school.

A scheduled public hearing on Sound Transit’s request for the city to vacate a portion of its right-of-way along 222nd Street Southwest was given a continuation until the Dec. 21 council meeting. The city requires that public hearing notices be mailed to all property owners within 300 feet of the vacation area and also the perimeter of any contiguous property owned by the applicant. Sound Transit did not complete the mailing in time for Monday’s hearing date, so city staff recommended a continuation to provide adequate time for the notification process to be completed.

The council also received an annual report presentation from the Economic Alliance of Snohomish County. Regarding activities specific to Mountlake Terrace this year, Matt Smith, director of industry and resource development, said that $2.4 million in federal contracts had been awarded to five local companies. Also, the alliance’s Small Business Development Center has been very busy since the COVID pandemic hit, working to assist 10 startup and five established businesses throughout the city. Additionally, 11 small business emergency grants of $5,500 each have been awarded to firms, he said.

Chart courtesy Economic Alliance of Snohomish County.

Speaking to the pandemic’s impact on the county’s industries, Smith said that while the aerospace industry as a whole had been hit hard — which greatly affects local jobs — there have been some other bright spots. He cited suppliers that are not uniquely focused on commercial air travel, such as defense and space industry businesses. He also said the biotech industry is doing well, and that includes developing vaccines and medical devices for diagnostic and therapeutic uses.

He felt that a continued focus on business development and economic recruiting measures to both support current businesses and attract new ones are important tactics for positioning Snohomish County’s future.

Finally, during the meeting’s conclusion Councilmember Steve Woodard expressed that he would like the council to follow up early next year on Councilmember Laura Sonmore’s previous idea for creating a city youth commission.

— By Nathan Blackwell

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