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Planning commission approves Evergreen Way plan
EVERETT - The Planning Commission has sent a long-range plan to revitalize the Evergreen Way corridor to the City Council for approval.
The commission held its last public hearing last week. The plan focuses on community-oriented development near the bus stops for Community Transit’s Swift line.
At last week’s hearing, commissioners rejected a request to mandate 10 percent of new housing development be affordable housing, an appeal made in December by the Housing Consortium of Everett and Snohomish County.
Commissioners said a mandate would stifle redevelopment. The corridor guidelines already offer developers a bonus tax incentive to build affordable housing. The incentives focus on dense, multifamily developments along the north-south corridor.
A mandate would tie developers’ hands, commissioner Scott Murphy said.
“I want to see the redevelopment start really soon,” commissioner Clair Olivers said. Property owners might sit on their properties to get the best value instead of selling to affordable housing developers, Olivers said.
Commission chair Michelle Sosin shared those same concerns. She’s confident the tax incentives offered will encourage affordable housing.
The nonprofit consortium represents 23 organizations. Consortium executive director June Robinson said requiring affordable housing along Evergreen Way is the only way new construction will successfully dovetail with centering development near the bus stops.
People earning less than $50,000 a year “is exactly the kind of people we want along that corridor” and would use Swift, Robinson told the commissioners.
Post-meeting, Robinson said she was OK with the commission’s decision.
The incentives are “quite attractive” for developers, but national statistics suggest developers do not often take up affordable housing incentives unless mandated, Robinson said.
Everett’s current population sits just above 100,000 people and is set to double over the next 30 years. The city wants to have 3,500 new dwelling units built along Evergreen Way.
Robinson did not want to comment on how Everett is doing in providing affordable housing without further research. Some areas, such as Casino Road, have good affordable housing, she said.
One of the corridor’s few affordable housing sites is Housing Hope’s apartments south of 52nd Street. Housing Hope builds affordable housing units.
The city wants Evergreen Way to shed its ubiquitous strip malls to become a series of neighborhood hubs over the next few decades centered around the Swift line. Planners say the bus stops are the starting places for mixed-use shops and walkable communities to flourish.
The plan encourages dense developments mixing retail businesses with multistory residential units, wide sidewalks and trees or bushes separating pedestrians from the street.
Residential buildings would be allowed to be much taller than currently allowed along the corridor. The proposed regulations allow buildings up to 80 feet tall — about eight stories — with enough space set back in the building design to break up a blocky appearance.
Between the hubs, Evergreen Way would largely stay the same.
The proposed rules would only come into play when a developer renovates the majority of a building.
Later this year, the City Council will review and vote on the new rules.
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