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Hot topics on planning commission’s Wednesday agenda
SNOHOMISH - The planning commission will be discussing three highly watched development items at its Wednesday, Aug. 7 meeting.
The commission meets at 7 p.m. at the Snohomish School District Resource Services Center at 1601 Ave. D. No action will be taken as the commission is just being asked to decide whether the items are worth further study.
One item involves amending city code to increase the residential density in the historic business district, another involves limiting the number of residents allowed in “group quarters” within single family designations and the third item addresses signs for private uses in residential areas.
All were citizen-initiated, meaning the City Council asked the planning commission to review these items at the request of a developer, property owner or citizen.
Residential density downtown
Real estate developer Bob Hart wants to build an apartment building on a vacant lot at 502 First Street, east of downtown at Willow Avenue. He wants to build several small-unit apartments. He wants the residential density increased to allow 40 dwelling units per acre versus the current 18 units per acre.
He requested the code amendment at a May City Council meeting.
Hart built the Patrick Plaza and Riverstreet Plaza, both downtown condo buildings.
The planning commission could recommend the city extend the Pilchuck District boundary, which doesn’t have a dwelling unit limit and is near Hart’s property.
The request has been met with opposition from a nearby condominium owners association. The Channel Crest COA submitted a letter to Hart with the signatures of 11 condo owners asking him to rescind his request for a change in density.
Other city staff members and residents are concerned that encouraging higher density in the historic district could result in the redevelopment of historic buildings and the destruction of the area’s historical character.
“It’s a complex enough subject that it merits further discussion,” planning director Owen Dennison said.
Group quarters uses in single family designation
The planning commission is being asked to consider options for placing limitations on the number of residents allowed to live in the following facilities: congregate care homes, senior assisted living homes, community residential facilities (like a rehabilitation facility) and nursing and personal care facilities.
All of these types of living environments are allowed in single family neighborhoods with a conditional use permit, meaning the permit goes through extra scrutiny before being approved.
The proponent of this agenda item is a resident who is concerned about development in residential areas. He is concerned that without putting limitations on the number of residents that can live in these living environments, it could make them incompatible within a single family neighborhood.
This item could potentially affect the property at 402 Ave. E where a developer tried to get approval to convert a dilapidated former nursing home into a rooming house, better known as an apodment. An apodment is an apartment building with a bunch of tiny apartments that share common kitchen space. The developer wanted a 25-unit rooming house.
The property is located in a single family neighborhood near Snohomish High School. The community was overwhelming against the rooming house proposal, and the City Council shot it down earlier this year.
The developer of the property is currently fighting the city’s decision to deny a permit extension for a conditional use permit for a 25-bed senior assisted living facility. The city denied the permit extension because the permit had actually expired in 2010 because “no significant progress had been made” on the property since the original permit was granted.
Signs in residential areas
At a March City Council meeting, parish administrator for St. Michael Catholic Church and School Michelle Green asked council members to consider allowing similar sign allowances given to public schools to private schools in residential zones.
City code regulates signage in residential areas differently from signage in commercial areas. Within residential neighborhoods, public land uses such as public schools are allowed to have electronic signs and larger signs. Private schools and churches are allowed to have smaller signs but are not allowed to have electronic signs.
Green said the private Catholic school functioned “just like a public school with curriculum nights, testing, parent-teacher conferences, book fairs, and various club activities.”
The city said the church would like to place a sign on Park Avenue similar to the reader boards at Cascade View and Emerson Elementary. The church is located at 1521 Pine Ave.
Some churches said they would be interested in having electronic signs if allowed to.
The difference in sign size allowance is as follows: private schools can have 12-square-foot wide signs whereas public school signs can have 24-square-foot wide signs. Sign height allowances are relatively similar: private school signs can be five feet high whereas public school signs can be six feet high.


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