Avenue E property owner back before city for new permit
SNOHOMISH - The city and a protective group of citizens are butting heads again over a land use issue at the familiar site of 402 Ave. E.
Property owner Christopher Koh has re-applied for a conditional use permit, which would allow for the development of a 25-bed senior assisted living facility. A previous property owner had been issued a conditional use permit in 2008, but it was determined by senior planner Owen Dennison to have expired when Koh tried to revive the permit last year.
Koh challenged the city’s decision last year and failed to make his case. He is now back to apply for a new conditional use permit.
The house at 402 Ave. E used to be a senior assisted living facility. In 1992 the house was used as a day care center. The house is now vacant and in disrepair.
The historic downtown preservation group, Your Snohomish, is accusing the city of “dragging their feet” in making changes in the code in order to let Koh build the assisted the facility isn’t compatible with the surrounding single-family historic residential neighborhood. The property is located a block south of Snohomish High School.
The Avenue E property was at the center of controversy last year when Koh, a Seattle-based real estate developer, wanted to convert the dilapidated structure into an apodment, an ultra-high density type of housing.
Under intense opposition from the public, the City Council stopped all action on Koh’s apodment plan in April. After that, Your Snohomish group leader Mitch Cornelison asked the City Council several times to adopt a moratorium on conditional use permits.
The council declined to do so, opting instead to work on a code amendment that would limit the number of conditional use permits allowed in single-family zones, Dennison said.
The Avenue E application wouldn’t be impacted by any future code changes.
Resident Colleen Dunlap said she is concerned that an assisted living facility will present the same problems as an apodment. She also worries the property would eventually transition into an apodment, referred to as a rooming house by the city last year.
Apodments are tiny apartment units that contain only a bathroom and small living space. The building’s tenants share a full kitchen and laundry area. They are billed as an affordable housing option. They are more popular in Seattle, although the proliferation of them in some residential neighborhoods is drawing objections from residents.
“(The building) is prime to become apodments,” Dunlap said. “There is no guarantee that when the developer sells the property that it will remain an assisted living facility. It could revert to any kind of apodment.”
She said the city is trying to disguise the true intent for the property by billing it as a senior home.
“The premise is that this is an assisted living facility, and that puts a public spin on it that says, ‘Oh you’re selling to old people,’” Dunlap said. “But this much overcrowding is not appropriate for a single-family zone.”
Dunlap’s claims are unfounded, Dennison said.
The city code simply does not allow for apodments, Dennison said, so the concern is baseless: “One is allowed by the city and the other one isn’t. That’s the big distinction.”
“The evident concern of the community is that the current code may allow group quarters uses that are out of scale with the surrounding single family neighboring community,” Dennison said. “But I don’t think so, because that’s a specific use in the code that council directed to be entirely different.”
Additionally, there’s a different resident base that the two different types of facilities would draw from, Dennison said.
“One is highly structured and overseen by professionals (senior assisted living facility) and the other is completely independent and only overseen by building management,” Dennison said.
Koh submitted an application for a conditional use permit on Dec. 6.
The city’s public notice on the property site caught the attention of Your Snohomish’s Cornelison, who asked group members to speak at the Jan. 7 City Council meeting.
About nine people spoke about the property.
About 40 people were in the audience.
The issue was not on the agenda that night.
The hearing examiner is tentatively scheduled to hold a public hearing on the conditional use permit on Thursday, Feb. 6.
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