Polygon’s plans questioned by residents, officials
EVERETT - Is this the first warning shot that Polygon Northwest may not be able to produce what city leaders have envisioned for the Riverfront Development site?
The city sees this property as a good place for an urban mix of commerical and denser residential neighborhoods. The 100-acre site sits along the Snohomish River near the Lowell Neighborhood, and Polygon is already asking for changes to the development agreement.
Polygon’s plans for tract housing was under fire last week from residents who say the plans won’t produce the intended upscale, urban neighborhood.
More than a dozen residents from across the city criticized the homebuilder’s published plans for 408 single family homes and townhouses on two pieces of tidy suburban plots.
Polygon is allowed to put up to 400 residential units on a designated commercial area located in the center of the property, city planner Dave Koenig said.
The development agreement Polygon and the city entered into does not set a minimum number of homes Polygon has to build on the site.
Last week’s meeting attracted more than 70 people.
A further series of comments are expected when the planning commission holds a public hearing in January. The meeting starts at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 7 at the Wall Street Building, 3002 Wetmore Ave.
Polygon has yet to indicate any of its plans for the commercial area, a fact that drew criticism at the Dec. 4 Everett City Council meeting.
Critics last week said Polygon’s plans pale in comparison to previous developer OliverMcMillan’s failed proposal for high-rise condominiums, an upscale hotel, retail and up to 1,000 square feet of office space.
People also are raising questions about whether Polygon’s less dense residential plan would produce enough tax revenue to let the city recoup what it has spent on preparing the Riverfront Development site for construction and future use.
OliverMcMillan had proposed 1,000 residential units on the site with building designs evoking an urban feel and offering a wide range of housing. Polygon is known for its cookie-cutter housing developments.
Polygon officials say OliverMcMillan’s plans wouldn’t fly in today’s marketplace. OliverMcMillan also never built anything when it owned the land during the Great Recession.
Polygon must be compelled to follow the vision city leaders have for the site, resident Charlene Rawson said.
“Please honor the original vision,” Rawson said.
Planning commissioner Michele Sosin agreed.
“This was planned to be a dense, vital urban neighborhood not well represented in Everett,” Sosin said. “It was to create what we don’t have,” and Polygon’s plan doesn’t meet that, she said.
“All of the changes you’ve asked for negate those goals,” Sosin said.
Retiring commissioner Don Chase said Polygon’s plan creates a dilemma for long-range density, but single family homes are a “home run” for the current market.
Polygon promised the City Council aggressive plans to start selling homes starting in the $250,000 range by this fall.
The site, which is around 100 acres in north Lowell, is former city land.
The city has invested $80 million in infrastructure to prepare the site for future use. The city plans to invest $20 million more to complete the work, public works director Dave Davis told a local business journal in October.
City Councilwoman Brenda Stonecipher, who is speaking out about her skepticism Polygon can fulfill the city’s vision for the site, sent out an e-mail to constituents encouraging them to speak up at the planning commission meeting.
“I am concerned that the changes they want to make significantly diminish the economic impact of the project, and that (Polygon) are approaching the process of changing the plan in a piecemeal approach, which leaves the city and the community without an understanding of their complete plan for the site,” Stonecipher wrote in her e-mail.
Stonecipher criticized the lack of a commercial plan at the Dec. 4 council meeting.
In her e-mail, Stonecipher wrote she’s worried that Polygon’s less upscale and less dense proposal “could conceivably cost more to provide city services than the city will receive in tax revenue, which means, of course, that taxpayers will be subsidizing this development.”
Resident Megan Dunn, chair of the Lowell Neighborhood, called on city officials to require a tax revenue analysis on Polygon’s plans.
Polygon land acquisition manager Nick Abdelnour re-emphasized that the homes need to be in place to attract commercial tenants. Polygon said it is actively bringing commercial clients to the site and could solidify bringing companies currently not located in Everett, Abdelnour said.
Polygon is mandated to develop the commercial side of the project by 2016.
The riverfront plan is before the planning commission because Polygon wants changes to the development agreement it has with the city that were crafted during negotiations with OliverMcMillan.
One major element Polygon wants to change is the park requirement. The agreement calls for a large park. Polygon wants to build a bunch of smaller pocket parks instead.
As for building fewer homes, that is what Polygon believes the market can handle, Abdelnour said.
“So it’s numbers and dollars-driven?” Sosin asked.
“Yes,” Abdelnour said.
Newly appointed Councilman Rich Anderson attended the commission meeting, but shied away from commenting to the Tribune. Anderson said he wanted to wait until the plans come before the City Council.
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