MLT Planning Commission OKs new plan for taller buildings in Freeway/Tourist District

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The Mountlake Terrace Planning Commission approved recommendations Monday that would make it easier for developers to build taller buildings in the Freeway/ Tourist District along the east edge of I-5 from 236th Street Southwest south to the King-Snohomish County border.

The recommendation is scheduled to be studied by the Mountlake Terrace City Council on Apr. 3; the council is then expected to vote on the proposal following a public hearing at its regularly scheduled meeting on April 7.

Under current city codes any new buildings constructed in section C of the Freeway/Tourist District could be built as high as 20 stories; in section D buildings could reach 12 stories. “The caveat was that you had to do something special to get up to that height,” explained Shane Hope, the city’s Economic and Development Director.

Current stipulations for building the taller buildings are for developers to work within a set of complicated Transfer Development Rights (TDR) restrictions. “It’s pretty hard to get anyone to use TDR’s,” noted Hope. “It isn’t a real viable option at this time.”

In the three years since current codes were approved, no one has stepped forward with plans utilizing TDR credits for potential development in the Freeway/Tourist District.

The Planning Commission voted 5-0 Monday night to recommend codes in the district be changed to allow for taller development if any of four specific conditions were met by development plans. To be permitted, eight-story buildings plans would have to include one of the four conditions; for 12-story buildings two of the conditions would have to be met.

The conditions are:
• Construction that demonstrates a minimum LEED Gold standard (or its equivalent)
• Utilizing extra low-impact stormwater management techniques
• In developments of 100 or more housing units, at least 30 percent are dedicated for 12 years or more to households that earn less than the area median income
• Including a public plaza that includes artwork and landscaping, and is accessible from a public street

The Planning Commission is also recommending that the MLT City Council approve a new minimum building height for new construction of three stories in sections C and D. Current codes for that area do not set a minimum height for new development.

— By Doug Petrowski

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