Public hearing on HASCO redevelopment garners more support

At its business meeting Nov. 13, the Lynnwood City Council’s discussion for the evening focused on a rezoning request from the Housing Authority of Snohomish County (HASCO).

The request from HASCO pertains to its plans to redevelop two current apartment complexes with a combined 57 units— Timberglen and Pinewood Apartments — into a single complex with up to 110 units. In order to redevelop this area at 5710 and 5714 200th St. S.W., the area’s zoning destination must be changed from a medium-density multi-family zone to a high-density multi-family zone. 

Since initial discussions with the council in June, HASCO relocated 24 residents to new housing arrangements, easing concerns that this redevelopment would displace residents like a similar 2021 project to redevelop the Whispering Pines apartment complex. Representatives of HASCO attended to answer questions and update councilmembers on their efforts to support and relocate current residents.

Councilmember Patrick Decker said he was “still working on it” after thanking HASCO representatives for their response.

During council discussion on the rezone, Councilmembers Patrick Decker and Jim Smith questioned HASCO representatives on some of their concerns: impacts to nearby single-family homes, traffic impacts and the possibility that approving the rezone would create a precedent for rezoning requests from other agencies and displacement.

Decker claimed that the hyper-densification of Lynnwood was something that “Olympia” and other councilmembers wanted, but he did not. Decker asked if the rent on these properties would increase. HASCO representatives replied that it would, but added that the rent would still classify the units as low-income housing, which HASCO receives tax benefits to offset.

In previous discussions, some public commenters expressed reservations around the rezoning request, but community members have become more receptive and supportive as conversations continue.  

During Monday’s public hearing on the subject, four public commenters spoke in favor of approving the rezone while one spoke against. 

One resident of the complexes to be redeveloped changed his mind on the project.

One of the four supporting the proposal was a current resident who initially spoke against the rezone in June, but changed his opinion after seeing HASCO’s relocation efforts and financial assistance with moving costs. Instead, he requested more time for residents to move.

When asked by Councilmember George Hurst how much time felt he needed, the resident replied that he would like to wait until the end of summer 2024, a date that appears to align with HASCO’s stated development timeline.

Some others speaking in support included Mountlake Terrace Mayor Kyoko Matsumoto-Wright and Housing Consortium of Everett and Snohomish County Executive Director Mark Smith. Matsumoto-Wright said she was jealous that this low-income housing opportunity was coming to Lynnwood and called HASCO “one of the best housing authorities in the country.”

Mark Smith remarked that this was an exciting opportunity to provide low-income housing to Lynnwood residents and said that negativity toward the project was discouraging.

He also stated that as a neighbor to another HASCO development, Novo on 52nd, he had not seen an increase in traffic. Further, he said that claims of increased crime due to multi-family developments were false and were veiled attempts to keep “those” people out.

Former Lynnwood City Councilmember Ted Heikel spoke against the rezone, stating that choosing to rezone this area was an example of spot zoning that would increase sewer service costs and thus, utility taxes. 

City Planner Catherine Kato and Community Planning Manager Karl Almgren.

In response to public and councilmember comments, Lynnwood Community Planning Manager Karl Almgren addressed a few talking points. Since the HASCO request was part of the city’s Comprehensive Plan, this was a very specific situation that was not likely to set any zoning precedents.

Almgren also stated that it was possible to evaluate new places in the city where more multifamily residences could be placed as opposed to addressing small portions of land individually.

Further, height concerns were not necessarily a major concern for high-density multi-family zones because construction costs and other costs related to tall buildings already limited the height of developments.

Ted Heikel spoke three times during the Monday meeting.

While a public hearing on the property tax levy for 2024 was listed on the agenda, proper notice was not given in time to news publications and the public, so the public hearing will instead be held at a special meeting at the beginning of the council’s next Monday work session – at 6 p.m. Nov. 20.

However, members of the public were given the opportunity to speak if they had anything to say on the subject. The only public commenter on the levy was Heikel, who urged councilmembers not to raise property taxes. He cited examples of the city council raising other fees, such as the $25 traffic safety fee.

“Few people can afford the price of a home and those who are lucky enough to have the luxury of ownership are faced with increased food, gas [and] everyday necessities … If you really want to make housing less affordable, go ahead and raise the property taxes another 23%,” Heikel said.

The final public hearing of the evening pertained to the implementation of off-campus emergency departments and had no public commenters. Off-campus emergency departments are standalone treatment centers that Almgren previously described as “a step up from urgent care.” While the businesses are not attached to a hospital or other medical facility, they are equipped to handle issues such as broken bones, head injuries, rashes and other serious matters. 

The council last heard about these facilities in October. City planners brought the idea to the council with the intent of being proactive about zoning these facilities, which appear to be growing more popular as emergency rooms become more crowded. In response to questions posed at the October meeting, representatives of MultiCare Health System prepared a slide responding to certain questions.

A question-and-answer slide prepared by MultiCare.

When asked by Hurst if they had a location in mind, representatives responded that they did: a site previously occupied by Staples at 3011 196th Street Southwest. 

MultiCare representatives said that although the firm contracts with a third-party ambulance service, the company does make an effort to work with local emergency medical response providers. 

The Lynnwood City Council.

In other business, the council:

• Voted to approve a motion by Smith to revise meeting minutes.

• Unanimously confirmed Freddy Vega for a position on the Lynnwood Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Commission.

• Held two executive sessions not available to the public regarding potential litigation and city staff labor contracts.

Authorized Mayor Christine Frizzell to enter into a settlement agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that requires the city to shut down its sewage sludge incinerator by the end of May 2024 and imposes a penalty of $550,259.

— By Jasmine Contreras-Lewis

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