A development agreement promising some more affordable housing units in Lynnwood’s City Center district was approved at last week’s Lynnwood City Council business meeting.
The council unanimously voted Feb. 10 to adopt an ordinance approving an agreement with the Bellevue-based firm American Property Development to develop Kinect@Lynnwood — a multifamily residential project proposed for 4100 Alderwood Boulevard (former location of Speed Trap Espresso and Hertz Car Rental).
Plans for the 1.6-acre site include a 239-unit residential building that would use transportation impact fee exemptions (TrIF) and multi-unit housing property tax exemptions (MFTE) to offer low- and moderate-income housing. However, only 20% (or 48) of the units — which will range from studios to two bedrooms — will be offered at a reduced price, while the rest will be listed at market value.
The development will include seven floors — five stories of wood-frame construction and two lower floors of concrete podium. On-site parking will include 288 parking stalls, or 1.2 stalls per residential unit. Other plans for the building include a gym, lounge, library, courtyard with green spaces and an outdoor recreational area.
Though he voted in favor of the ordinance, Councilmember George Hurst pointed out that the developer was getting “a pretty good deal for not a lot of affordable housing” being offered in exchange.
“I appreciate that we are going to have a first step toward affordable housing,” he said. “It’s a moderate step, but at least it’s a step.”
The City Center district falls in Lynnwood’s opportunity zone, which offers business investors tax breaks on developments. Other opportunity zone developments — like Destinations Lynnwood (formerly SHAG) and the City Center apartments — offer affordable housing.
The agreement was approved almost two weeks after the Snohomish County Housing Affordability Regional Taskforce (HART) released its housing report. The report establishes a five-year action plan, including early-action items, that identifies priorities for county and city governments to meet the affordable housing needs of all Snohomish County residents.
With the tax exemptions the developers will receive from the opportunity zone and the majority of the units being priced at market rate, Hurst said the developers are at an advantage.
Kinect@Lynnwood was designed alongside Northline Village — an 18-acre site that will include multi-family housing, retail, professional office and entertainment spaces, located near 44th Avenue West, 200th Street Southwest and 196th Street Southwest. The two projects were initially intended to have been proposed together, but scheduling conflicts resulted in Kinect@Lynnwood being postponed.
Prior to the vote, Hurst made a motion — which did not pass — to delay the vote two weeks until the council’s next business meeting. During the council’s Feb. 8 summit meeting, Hurst introduced the idea of extending the time between public hearings and voting — which typically occurs on the same night — to give community members a chance to learn more about council decisions.
Speaking to his motion, Hurst said that the development agreement would be an opportunity for the council to enact a new policy of allowing for more time between public hearings and action.
“I believe that we need to give an opportunity for other folks to express opinions on this,” he said.
Voting against the motion, Council President Christine Frizzell said holding another public hearing could set a precedent that would devalue the public hearing process.
“What’s to stop us from two weeks later having another public hearing?” she asked. “I think one public hearing is sufficient.”
Councilmember Ruth Ross agreed that the council should not delay voting to hold another public hearing and said the council gives sufficient notice prior to public hearings for community members to attend. Ross also pointed out that the developer has already been delayed after the project was intended to be presented alongside Northline Village.
“I don’t think we should postpone this, I think we should act on it,” Ross said. “We’ve told the applicant that’s what we’re going to do and if we want to change our plan, I think we should give people the opportunity to comment on that.”
To incentivize building in City Center, city staff initially authorized in 2010 that the first three developments in the district would be offered TrIF exemptions up to $600,000 for each project, or $1.8 million total. However, staff later realized that the city overprojected the first two project’s exemptions and a remaining balance allowed for a fourth and final project to receive the TrIF exemption.
During the public hearing, former Lynnwood City Councilmember Ted Hikel asked why the council was authoring $1.8 million in exemptions when he said it was his understanding that the council initially authorized $200,000 to be spent on three projects for a $600,000 total. Additionally, Hikel said $1.8 million could go toward city projects like repairing roads.
“Those roads are still going to have to be fixed,” he said. “So, where’s that money going to come from?”
In response, City Center Manager Karl Almgren said that city staff has always interpreted the city’s municipal code to understand that the $600,000 in exemptions was authorized for three individual projects.
However, Hikel took the stand again and insisted that the city code intended to allow for three projects at $200,000 each for a total of $600,000 and accused the council of incorrectly remembering the agreement.
“This is what you call loss of institutional memory,” he said.
Economic Director David Kleitsch explained that under the city code, exemptions “shall be limited to $600,000 of TrIF assessments for any one of the three eligible development activities. If the TrIF assessment exceeds $600,000 for any one of the three eligible development activities, the applicant shall be responsible for the amount of TrIF assessment above $600,000.”
“From that section, we have three developments that can come in at $600,000 each, which is $1.8 million,” he said.
Construction for the project is scheduled to begin in May.
In other business, the council appointed former Lynnwood City Councilmember Ben Goodwin to the city’s ethics board. Goodwin’s term will expire Jan. 21, 2021.
Also during the meeting, the council proclaimed February Black History Month in Lynnwood.
Speaking to the proclamation, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Commission Vice Chair Jared Bigelow said black history and American history are one in the same. During his brief speech, Bigelow recounted the history of how many of the buildings in Washington, DC were built by slaves.
“The wealth of the United States was built with black bodies,” he said. “Pretty much everything you see (in Washington, DC) was built and quarried by black hands.”
–Story and photos by Cody Sexton