Residents oppose rooming houses
Zoning rules being created to allow new housing option
SNOHOMISH - Residents showed up to last week’s City Council meeting by the dozens to speak or merely be present to demonstrate opposition to a draft ordinance that would possibly allow “rooming houses” to be built in a single family neighborhood near Snohomish High School.
The nearly 60 residents at the March 5 meeting spilled out into the hallway and a number of them had to sit on the floor in front of the council dais. Council members listened to 17 residents speak and no one spoke in support of rooming houses.
The planning commission, which is working on writing two draft ordinances that create zoning rules for rooming houses, will be holding a public hearing on the ordinances at its Wednesday, April 3 meeting.
The issue has yet to formally come before the City Council. That will happen once the planning commission finishes its review of the ordinances.
Rooming houses are being defined as very small single occupancy apartment units with each unit containing a bathroom and kitchenette. The apartment building’s residents would share a common full kitchen and dining area.
Known as “apodments” in Seattle, these tiny living spaces offer cheap rent. One apodment in Seattle offers units ranging from 110 to 160 square feet in a converted townhouse.
Snohomish’s draft ordinances require units to be at least 200 square feet.
Many of the speakers said these dormitory-style apartments aren’t appropriate in Snohomish.
“The people who tend to rent these places are heavily dependent on government,” Jason Brandvold said. “When you create more and more housing for them, it creates big city problems. Please resist this at all costs.”
Brandvold lives in Snohomish but works as a firefighter in Everett. While on the job, he said firefighters frequently respond to this type of living arrangement because of drug activity, and “the clientele is rough.”
Several residents asked the council to place a moratorium on allowing such living structures and others asked for the project to be “killed outright” and not brought up again.
Rooming houses currently aren’t allowed under city code. The ordinances the planning commission are working on would codify the living arrangement into law.
Council members were vocal in their disagreement with the idea of stopping the process or adopting a moratorium.
“I’m not in favor of placing a moratorium that keeps the planning commission from doing their job,” Councilman Greg Guedel said. “In terms of taking action from the council level, we don’t even have anything to look at. If they recommend we move forward, we can have another hearing and move forward.”
Seattle developer Chris Koh of Coho Real Estate Group is interested in converting a dilapidated former senior assisted living facility at 402 Ave. E into a rooming house. Koh previously said tenants would be screened and asked to sign leases ranging from nine to 12 months, but residents worry that the screening process may not be sufficient and that tenants would be renting for shorter monthly or weekly terms.
“Is anyone even thinking about what it’s going to do to the values of the neighborhoods?” resident Terrie Schmidt said. “What’s going to happen to this town? It’s very sad to think about. My husband and I are vehemently opposed.”
Schmidt works in real estate and specializes in historic homes.
The audience broke into applause following each comment until Mayor Karen Guzak asked the audience to refrain from clapping.
Koh has been talking with the city for a year about the Avenue E property.
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