Point Wells update

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Drawing from BSRE Project Narrative 

By Tom McCormick

A seven-day hearing was held at Snohomish County from May 16-24.

The County asked the Hearing Examiner to deny BSRE’s application to develop Point Wells as an Urban Center. BSRE proposes to build over 3,000 residential units and 125,000 square feet of office and retail. Both the County and BSRE presented witness testimony, and introduced many exhibits available here.

Like a trial, witnesses were cross-examined by the opposite side. Friday (June 1) was the deadline for the County and BSRE and others to submit their Post-Hearing briefs and other materials to the Hearing Examiner.

The Hearing Examiner will consider whether to deny BSRE’s 7-year-old application because of alleged substantial conflicts with the County’s Code, and/or whether to grant BSRE extra time to fix the problems with its application (its application is due to expire on June 30).

The County alleges five areas of substantial conflict with County code: 
  1. conflict with the Code's 90-foot maximum building height (nearly half of the proposed buildings are taller than 90 feet); 
  2. conflict with an even lower height limit in the Code for five buildings near adjacent residential properties; 
  3. Code conflicts and compliance failures for the second access road including landslide hazard concerns; 
  4. Code conflicts and compliance failures regarding the shoreline master management program; and 
  5. Code conflicts and compliance failures regarding critical areas regulations including landslide and other geological hazards.

Perhaps the biggest single issue is whether the maximum building height is 90 feet or 180 feet. County Code says the maximum building height is 90 feet, but there’s an exception that allows a building height increase up to an additional 90 feet when the project is “located near a high capacity transit route or station.”

Project opponents discovered the "high capacity transit" phrase in 2015, and brought it to the County’s attention. The County promptly told BSRE what opponents were saying, but BSRE stood firm, not altering its original 2011 application in which nearly half of the buildings were taller than 90 feet. When BSRE submitted revised application materials in 2017 and in 2018, nearly half of buildings were still taller than 90 feet.

BSRE contends that it is allowed to build towers as tall as 180 feet because Point Wells is bifurcated by the Sound Transit commuter rail line; thus, it says, Point Wells is located "near a high capacity transit route or station," thereby satisfying the Code requirement for an additional 90 feet.

Opponents disagree. And so too does the County, the City of Shoreline and the Town of Woodway. The opposition argues that mere proximity to a rail line without a stop is meaningless — access is required where people can board the train. Opponents argue that BSRE fails to qualify for an additional 90 feet because there isn’t a station at Point Wells now, nor is one planned with any degree of certainty (requires Sound Transit and BNSF approvals, which might be impossible to get).

This is a critical issue for BSRE. Twenty-one of its proposed buildings are taller than 90 feet, some as tall as 180 feet. If the Hearing Examiner agrees that the height limit is 90 feet, he could deny BSRE’s application due to this single, substantial Code conflict. Alternatively, if the Hearing Examiner decides to give BSRE extra time to fix the problems with its application, he could, as a condition to granting the extra time, require BSRE to reduce the height of its buildings to 90 feet. If that happens, BSRE could lose up to 1,200 of its 3,000 planned residential units.

The Hearing Examiner is expected to issue his written decision by the end of June. Stay tuned.

If you want to read more about the 90-foot issue, three documents authored by opponents can be accessed at this link.

Here you can access the Post-Hearing filings by the County, BSRE, and the City of Shoreline. Their filings discuss the 90-foot issue, plus many other issues.


Anonymous,  June 2, 2018 at 10:05 PM  

What the hell, do they think they are building a city or what? Buildings this tall are ridiculous. I will pray this entire mess is denied by the jusge!!

Anonymous,  June 3, 2018 at 7:54 AM  

If you think Richmond Beach Road and the drive to I-5 is bad now... just imagine...

David Lange,  June 3, 2018 at 9:53 AM  

Just to be clear the rail line through Point Wells is Sounder North, not light rail. Sounder fails to provide regular frequent service of modern transit systems. Sound Transit has to pay usage fees for every Sounder run and increasing stations is hardly in the cards.

The rail line along the water front suffers from frequent slides which imposes safety stoppages for passenger trains (AmTrak and Sounder). The track needs to be raised through the slide area, so slides go under, or roofed, so slides go over. The real solution is a new Bertha sized tunnel following the I5 corridor from South Center to Lynnwood and moving heavy rail and light rail to it.

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