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Rooming house public hearing April 3
SNOHOMISH — A new type of housing development that is unpopular among some residents is going before the planning commission this week, and the meeting is expected to attract a lot of people.
Rooming houses, known as “apodments” or “micro-housing” in Seattle, are high-density dwelling units that may offer cheaper rent for the significantly smaller space.
The planning commission is reviewing two draft ordinances concerning rooming houses. One would allow pilot projects such as a possible project at 402 Ave. E near Snohomish High School with the City Council’s approval, and the other would allow rooming houses in areas zoned for multifamily residential.
The planning commission is holding a public hearing on the ordinances Wednesday, April 3 at 7 p.m. at 1601 Ave. D.
The Avenue E property is located in a single family neighborhood where neighbors say this type of development doesn’t belong.
Under Snohomish’s proposed ordinances, rooming house units would have to be at least 200 square feet. Each unit would have its own bathroom and kitchenette, and residents would share a common kitchen and dining area. This type of living arrangement would be new to Snohomish and isn’t currently allowed in the city zoning code.
Last month residents showed up by the dozens to a City Council meeting to speak out against rooming houses and since then opposition has continued to build.
“It should be packed with folks who are against the concept,” Mayor Karen Guzak said. “And right now, it is just that, a concept.”
Seattle developer Coho Real Estate wants to convert the dilapidated former senior assisted living facility at 402 Ave. E. into a rooming house.
Opponents say rooming houses belong in big cities and would threaten the quaint historic neighborhood where 402 Ave. E is located. Opponents fear that the type of people who would likely live in rooming houses may be unsavory.
“The people who tend to rent these places are heavily dependent on government,” Everett firefighter and Snohomish resident Jason Brandvold told the council previously. “When you create more and more housing for them, it creates big city problems.”
Snohomish architect, contributor to the rooming house proposal and planning commissioner, Joshua Scott, disagrees.
“I don’t agree that the rooming use as being proposed with the ordinance as provided is necessarily a threat to our small-town feel or our historic character,” Scott said. “I think there is a need for affordable housing and where that ends up materializing has yet to be figured out.”
Scott has received criticism from community members because of his involvement with the Avenue E project and his position on the planning commission. During the rooming house discussion, however, Scott has excused himself from the discussion and any votes.
“I’ve been pretty careful about keeping everything separate,” Scott said.
Since he has removed himself from the process, he is free to give his opinion. He says the community is all “up in arms” about something that may not be all that bad.
“From outside looking in, I felt like a lot of the comments were premature (at the March meeting),” Scott said. “A lot of them are based on fear and unknowns and information that wouldn’t capture the full picture.”
Scott was hired by Chris Koh of Coho Real Estate about a year ago to begin exploring the concept of rooming houses.
Coho owns several apodments in Seattle. Opponents have created a website with a link to Yelp.com Internet reviews on Coho’s properties. Out of 12 reviews on Yelp, 11 received one out of five stars.
In response to the Internet reviews, Koh said last week that he’d rather rely on the opinions of individual residents of Coho’s properties.
“I’ve heard that reviews done on the Internet can be slanted towards negativity,” Koh said.
Koh said he acknowledges the significant opposition to his development proposal, but he still thinks the “group dwelling units” would be well-suited for Snohomish.
“It’s unfortunate that perhaps some people have already made up their minds without listening or coming to public hearings and understanding the ordinance and understanding what we are,” Koh said.
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