Point Wells Project heading for a showdown

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Point Wells
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By Tom McCormick

Barring unforeseen circumstances, the fate of the Point Wells project will soon be determined by Snohomish County’s hearing examiner.

Seven years ago, BSRE submitted applications to Snohomish County to develop Point Wells as an Urban Center, proposing 3,081 residential units in buildings as tall as 180 feet, and more than 125,000 square feet of office, retail, and commercial space. The project would add thousands of average daily trips to City roads, causing significant traffic congestion.

Facing a June 30, 2018, application expiration date, BSRE recently asked Snohomish County's department of Planning and Development Services (PDS) for more time. On January 24, PDS said no, telling BSRE that the project's application expiration date remains June 30.

Parts of BSRE's submitted application materials fail to comply with the County's Development Code, according to a 389-page Review Completion Letter that PDS sent BSRE last year (October 6, 2017). Because of the compliance failures, it seems that PDS is in the process of invoking a rarely used option — County Code 30.61.220 (Denial without EIS) — to send the Point Wells project to the County’s hearing examiner with a recommendation to deny the project without the preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). As stated in a January 19 letter from PDS to BSRE’s attorney:

"Since BSRE submitted its application materials seven years ago, PDS has worked cooperatively and in good faith with BSRE in the application submittal and review process, and will continue to do so. However, BSRE has failed to address multiple County Code compliance issues with its application materials despite PDS repeatedly identifying Code compliance concerns and requesting BSRE submit materials resolving these issues. BSRE has allowed years to pass without addressing Code compliance issues with its application, which is well documented in PDS’s Review Completion Letters dated April 12, 2013, and October 6, 2017. PDS has repeatedly and consistently communicated in writing to BSRE regarding the upcoming application expiration deadline and potential outcomes if BSRE did not provide adequate application submittals to address Code compliance issues and the information needed to continue environmental review."

A hearing date has not been announced yet, but it seems likely that it would be in May, giving the hearing examiner time to issue a written decision before the June 30 application expiration date. (It is possible that BSRE could go to court to challenge PDS’s January 24 refusal to extend the project's June 30 application expiration date. If that happens, the hearing could be postponed until BSRE's challenge is resolved.)

While we wait for a hearing date to be announced, three other things are in progress.

First, to comply with County Code, PDS needs to present the project to the County’s volunteer Design Review Board in a public proceeding. Expect the Design Review Board meeting to be in March or April, a month or two before the project goes to the hearing examiner. The Design Review Board is an advisory body to PDS and applicants applying for approval of an Urban Center development. Duties include: reviewing proposed site plans and project design features to ensure fair and consistent application of the County Code’s design standards; providing written recommendations to PDS and the applicant on potential modifications regarding the project, such as scale, density, design, building mass and proposed uses of the project; and synthesizing community input on design concerns. The Design Review Board proceeding will be an awkward hoop to jump through, considering that PDS will apparently be recommending denial of the project.

Second, PDS is preparing its staff report to the hearing examiner, and compiling the many exhibits that will accompany it. As discussed above, PDS will apparently be recommending denial of the project without the preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement because parts of BSRE's application materials allegedly fail to comply with the County’s Development Code. Expect PDS to deliver its staff report to the hearing examiner at least a few weeks before the hearing begins — far enough in advance of the hearing so that the hearing examiner has adequate time to read and digest everything.

Third, BSRE and its consultants are presumably working on revisions to BSRE's application materials. BSRE told PDS that by April 30 it would submit supplemental application materials responsive to the County’s October 6, 2017, lengthy Review Completion Letter. It seems likely that at about the same time that BSRE sends its supplemental application materials to PDS, PDS will be sending its staff report to the hearing examiner. As PDS told BSRE in its January 19 letter: "While [the supplemental application] materials ... may not be included in the PDS recommendation [to the hearing examiner] due to the timing of BSRE’s proposed resubmittal, it does not preclude BSRE from submitting application materials that may be considered by the hearing examiner in making a determination whether the applications satisfy the County Code requirements to a degree necessary to continue environmental review.”

If a hearing takes place in May as expected, and the hearing examiner agrees with some or all of PDS’s expected recommendation to deny approval of the project on account of alleged failures to comply with the County’s Development Code, then the hearing examiner could deny the project outright (BSRE could appeal the denial). Alternatively, the hearing examiner could deny the project on a tentative basis, giving BSRE one more chance to revise its application materials to bring them into compliance with County Code. The hearing examiner would probably set a deadline, and if BSRE doesn’t meet it, or if BSRE’s revisions are insufficient to comply with County Code, then the hearing examiner could deny the project outright (BSRE could appeal the denial).

If the hearing examiner determines that BSRE’s revised application materials sufficiently correct all deficiencies and comply with County Code, then the hearing examiner could direct PDS to resume its review and processing of BSRE’s applications, and direct that preparation of a draft EIS for the project be resumed.

What might BSRE do if the hearing examiner denies BSRE's applications to develop Point Wells as an Urban Center, and the denial is upheld on appeal? Stay tuned for a future article addressing this question.

Tom McCormick is working with of a coalition of Shoreline residents and organizations opposing the proposed Point Wells development.


Anonymous,  February 1, 2018 at 3:12 PM  

Another excellent article! Love this Shoreline Area News!!

Anonymous,  February 1, 2018 at 9:55 PM  

No. BSRE needs to go away. Forever.

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