MLT Council approves zoning change to increase height limits in Lake Ballinger neighborhood

By Doug Petrowski

By a vote of 4-3, the Mountlake Terrace City Council approved a zoning text amendment that opens the door for any potential future development reaching a height of four stories, or 50 feet, on the east side of the 23000 block of Lakeview Drive extending north to 228th Street SW.

The area affected by the change includes a number of current condo and apartment complexes in the Lake Ballinger neighborhood.

Current zoning codes restrict most buildings in the area to three stories and 35 feet, although there are some current structures that stand approved at four stories and 45 feet in height. The approved amendment clarifies city zoning codes, setting the four-story, 50-foot height limit for that particular RML (low density multi-household).

There are no current development applications for adding on to any of the current structures, or to start new construction, in the affected area.

City reports urged the change, saying more housing is needed as population in the region grows, and any increase in density in this area would promote efficient use of local public facilities such as the Mountlake Terrace Transit Center, the Sound Transit Freeway Station and the future Sound Transit Light Rail Station, all at 236th Street Southwest and I-5. They also stated that the impact of homeowners’ views would be nil or minimal because of the slope of the hillside and the position of the single family zoned residences at the top of the hill overlooking the affected area.

Councilmember Bryan Wahl supported the text amendment, saying the change keeps safeguards in place for scrutiny of any potential development, while staying true to the city’s overall comprehensive plan and vision for the community.

Mayor Pro Tem Laura Sonmore voted against the amendment. “We’re all concerned about this area,” she said. “I see it as the jewel of Mountlake Terrace. It’s a pristine area; I always hate to make changes down there.”

A number of homeowners who live in residences east of the Ballinger area addressed the council with concerns regarding how the change will affect property views, traffic, wildlife and land erosion. Some wanted no change to the current city zoning laws, while others urged the compromise ultimately approved by the council to restrict the change to the northern half of the Lakeview Drive properties.

Joanne Wood, a 46-year resident of the Ballinger Lakes area, expressed concerns for any potential changes to the area. “To see more cars and more people come into that area, it’s heartbreaking to us,” Wood said. “We want to keep it for the kids, for us, for our enjoyment. Don’t overbuild down there and don’t block our views.”

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