Located just across Shoreline’s border with Snohomish County, Point Wells is a former petroleum and asphalt plant accessible only through Shoreline’s Richmond Beach neighborhood. In 2009, the property owner began the process of changing the parcel’s zoning in order to allow a new development of approximately 3,100 residential units and 100,000 square feet of commercial use.
Although the City of Shoreline, the Town of Woodway, and the citizens group Save Richmond Beach (SRB) have taken legal actions aimed at reducing the scale of the proposed development at Point Wells, the development is poised to move forward.
A development of such size will impact all Shoreline residents, whether directly or indirectly. Most direct impacts will be felt by the neighborhoods located in the northwestern part of the City, particularly Richmond Beach. Traffic will increase significantly in the area, which will have ripple effects for a large part of Shoreline.
The indirect impacts will be felt by all Shoreline residents. If the development is built as planned, it has the potential of increasing the area’s population by more than 6,000 people, all requiring local services. Because of these anticipated impacts, the City is including an annexation provision in any agreement with the property owner and with Snohomish County so the cost of providing these services are shared by the residents of Point Wells.
On January 7, 2013, the Washington State Court of Appeals ruled against Woodway and SRB, resulting in the developer, BSRE Point Wells, LP (BSRE), having a vested permit application under Snohomish County’s Urban Center designation. The Court’s decision clears the way for Snohomish County to process BSRE’s permit allowing the project as proposed to move forward.
While SRB has filed an appeal with the Washington State Supreme Court, the City believes there is too much legal uncertainty not to plan for the proposed BSRE development at Point Wells. The City has a responsibility to take actions that mitigate the anticipated impacts caused by the development and to protect the long-term interests of our community. Therefore, the City is continuing to negotiate agreements with BSRE and Snohomish County.
Proposed agreement with BSRE
On March 4, 2011, BSRE submitted a project application to Snohomish County in accordance with the County’s Urban Center code. The application was accepted by Snohomish County planning officials as being a complete application therefore triggering a “vested” permit for BSRE.
Given that this development is controlled by Snohomish County regulations, the City has focused on influencing the scale of the project and mitigating its impacts by negotiating an agreement with BSRE. The City’s primary interests have included addressing the increase in traffic, safety concerns of pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorists, and the commitment to fund improvements and ongoing maintenance. In August 2011, the City informed the community of its intentions to negotiate an agreement by issuing a Letter of Intent (LOI), which outlined the conditions required of an agreement with BSRE.
The terms of the agreement, which were also outlined in the LOI, include:
- A traffic cap on the maximum number of vehicle trips on Richmond Beach Drive NW leaving from the Point Wells development;
- A requirement that the impacts from Point Wells traffic do not result in intersection delays beyond the City’s standard;
- A Transportation Corridor Study that goes above and beyond the required Snohomish County process by providing Shoreline residents with a voice in how the impacts from the development are managed;
- Guaranteed funding for safety and traffic flow improvements needed as a result of the additional traffic during construction and from the future residents of the Point Wells development; and
- Legal provisions for the City of Shoreline to annex Point Wells in order to provide a long-term funding source for ongoing maintenance and operating costs. The burden of maintaining these services should not be left solely to existing Shoreline taxpayers without adequate measures to compensate for it. With annexation, Point Wells becomes part of the City of Shoreline tax base.
The City believes an agreement will provide residents with a direct role in identifying mitigation and in developing a plan to lessen adverse impacts.
Alternatives to an agreement
Continue to seek legal challenges
While some may believe a legal challenge provides the best mechanism for opposing the development, leaving that decision to the courts provides no control or certainty over the outcome, as demonstrated with the recent Court of Appeals decision in favor of BSRE. After issuing the LOI, the City responded to the community’s urging to delay negotiating an agreement by consulting with the Foster Pepper law firm, a state leader in representing municipalities on environmental and land use law. Foster Pepper concurred that litigation would most likely be unsuccessful, which was confirmed in the recent Court of Appeals decision in favor of BSRE. The City continues to believe the certainty and control of a negotiated agreement directly with BSRE provides the most effective way to protect the community’s long-term interests.
Eliminate road access to Point Wells
A suggestion the City often hears from residents is to close or block access to Point Wells. Pursuing this approach puts the City at risk of a legal challenge. Such a strategy has been used in Washington State before and was ruled unlawful.
Establish a Metropolitan Park District and purchase Point Wells for a park
Another alternative the City reviewed was the concept of establishing a Metropolitan Park District. While the City has the legal means to condemn the property for public use as a park, the City must compensate the private property owner at fair market value. In examining what this might cost taxpayers, the City used an estimated value of $50 million repaid over 20 years. It would also require a public vote with at least 60% approval. If the District included all of Shoreline and the Town of Woodway, it would cost the average homeowner in Shoreline approximately $189 and an average homeowner in Woodway $550 annually. To put this in perspective, for the 2006 Parks Bond, the average Shoreline homeowner is paying $70 per year over a 15 year period. The City believes this alternative would have many hurdles to overcome.
Mitigation determined by Snohomish County
Under Snohomish County’s code, BSRE is required to complete a transportation study to anticipate impacts of the development and to identify mitigation to address those impacts through the SEPA process. This is the default course of action that would prevail in the absence of an agreement with BSRE. Following this process, BSRE would not be required to include public participation opportunities as part of the study. Furthermore, BSRE would not be obligated to negotiate directly with the City of Shoreline for any mitigation. Although the City would have an opportunity to comment on the impacts and provide input on what should be considered for mitigation, Snohomish County ultimately would make the final decision on what conditions may or may not apply to the permit.
Transportation Corridor Study
The proposed development will take an estimated 20 to 25 years to reach full build out. However, it is during the permitting process that impacts and mitigations must be identified.
A transportation corridor study will allow the community, City staff, and BSRE to examine the effects of additional traffic on Richmond Beach Drive, Richmond Beach Road, surrounding side streets and other major intersections continuing on N 185th Street to I-5. This includes looking at the time spent waiting at intersections, ability for residents to safely access their driveways or intersections, and safety concerns for pedestrians and bicyclists.
Through negotiations, BSRE will be required to invest the time and resources to ensure the study meets the community’s expectations for public input. To ensure the process is objective, the City will be hiring a third party facilitator.
The process includes a series of workshops that will give residents an opportunity to explain and show on maps exactly the kinds of capital investments that will make for a safer corridor for pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists. The final recommendations and preferred concept will be presented to Council at a meeting in late April or early May.
For questions or comments about the transportation corridor study, please contact Transportation Planning Manager Kirk McKinley at firstname.lastname@example.org or (206) 801-2481.
For more information about Point Wells, visit the Point Wells project page or contact Planning & Community Development Director Rachael Markle at (206) 801-2531 or email@example.com.