Mountlake Terrace City Council members listen as Christy Osborn, Director of Community and Economic Development (bottom row – right), discusses the proposed change to the zoning code text.
Mountlake Terrace City Council heard a request for a change to the city center zoning code during its work / study session on April 29, which would allow a children’s clinic to move to a corner store in the new Atlas 236 building. A public hearing on the matter is scheduled for later this month.
The council also discussed the city’s art rejection policy and reviewed the latest quarterly report from Mountlake Terrace police.
The Town Center proposal has been filed by Yuko Abe, president of AFCO & Sons Properties, who owns the Atlas 236 building. The application calls for a change to the code text for the city center destination districts, which would remove the restriction on locating medical / healthcare uses on the ground floor of designated facades and corners. The proposed change would extend the permitted location of those services to the first 30 feet directly at the corner of the designated intersections in the TC-1, TC-2 and TC-3 zones.
There are some limited boundaries for selected uses, and the destination constraint currently applies to six corner locations with storefront intersections. A total of 18 corners are subject to the restriction, as those intersections have two or four corners covered by the designation. The plan is very specific about what uses are not allowed at specific designated corners, while allowing those uses along other parts of the ground floor in buildings.
Shop front located on the corner in the city center.
The current downtown block facade is approximately 22,000 linear feet, and the medical / healthcare restriction within the first 30 feet affects a total of 1,080 linear feet of downtown block facade.
The application seeks the change for a specific location: to enable the Richmond Pediatrics clinic and its seven doctors to move from Shoreline to the Atlas 236 building at the designated corner store of 56th Avenue West and 236th Street Southwest. However, any text changes proposed in the city should be evaluated for their implications for the entire destination destination in order not to be considered arbitrary and erratic.
City officials and the Mountlake Terrace Planning Commission have recommended rejecting the proposed text change because it is inconsistent with the Town Center Subarea Plan and does not promote public health and well-being. Christy Osborn, director of the community and economic development, said that the plan is to have those selected corner retail properties function as high-turnover activated pedestrian spaces, such as shops, restaurants and personal services such as parlors.
The reasoning is that those corners were identified as possibly the most vibrant and active shopping and dining in the city. And the restriction of the corner storefront was to ensure that city center corners remained active evenings and weekends. Limited uses such as medical / healthcare, daycare centers and financial institutions in these locations can typically be open for fewer hours of operation and trigger less pedestrian traffic during those periods, Osborn said. “Medical or dental use would be allowed, just not at that particular angle,” she added.
The staff believed that the proposed change to allow medical / healthcare applications on those identified corner storefronts would run counter to the original intent of the plan to create such activated ground floor pedestrian spaces at major intersections.
Some on the city council said they felt that turning down a company that wanted to move to the city could be bad policy. Another factor to consider, according to some, is that having a children’s clinic there would still bring a desired type of traffic to the area, including families who are likely to engage in other types of commercial activity around medical appointments as well.
Mayor Kyoko Matsumoto Wright said one consideration is that the commercial real estate market is currently sluggish due to COVID-19 effects. “I’m looking at all these corners and if they all had a restaurant I’d be happy,” she said. “But I’m looking at the fact that it will probably take 30 years to fill all those corners with a restaurant, so what’s going in there until we’ve all done that.”
Other city councilors said that the City Centre’s planning process was deliberate and strategic, while also including public input and therefore should not be changed at this time. Some noted that the plan only recently came into effect, that much of the area’s commercial properties are still under development, and more time should be given to keep it in place.
“In the government’s plan and the way we operate, this is like a brand new plan,” said Mayor Pro Tem Doug McCardle. “It’s still in its infancy and it hasn’t even had a chance to see what we could really end up with and to turn it around and change it at this early stage, I don’t think it would be wise.”
Several people affiliated with the children’s clinic or the Atlas 236 building have made public comments in support of the proposed text change, including the applicant. “I hope the city realizes that a doctor’s office is receiving a strong interest in our city center,” Abe said. “In this challenging retail market it is a very rare opportunity and it does not happen often. If this amendment is not passed, you can expect other cities to be happy to welcome this tenant. “
Abe added that she thought the clinic would provide the city with stable tax revenues and serve more people in an average week than restaurants or salons. She speculated that patients may also use other businesses or facilities while in the area, adding, “I also want to let you know that I haven’t received any requests for this space so far.”
The proposal will be heard at the regular business meeting of the city council on May 17.
Councilors continued discussions on establishing a proposed art rejection policy, which would authorize the Mountlake Terrace Arts Advisory Commission to recommend any artwork to city council for divestiture. The commission has been acquiring works of art for public display since 1976 and that has led to a backlog of stored art, some of which is either in disrepair or no longer usable in the original location where it was installed.
Even with the policy, the city council would still have to approve such recommended measures. Both the advisory committee and city staff have recommended that the council adopt such a procedure, adding that it will be important to move forward due to the current age and condition of some of the artworks in the city.
Previously, the proposal set a threshold of $ 10,000, requiring any art with an original purchase price of that amount or more to be independently appraised before it could be disposed of. But several municipal councilors felt that the original purchase price threshold for initiating a valuation should be lowered and asked the art committee for more input. The revised policy, if approved, would now require that any artwork purchased for $ 1,500 or more be reviewed as part of the divestiture process.
The proposed motion has not yet been scheduled for a vote and the councilors were almost unanimous in indicating by a thumbs-up consensus that they supported the policy review. Recreation and Parks Director Jeff Betz said their direction helped and expected the resolution to be presented for approval at a meeting in the near future.
In other cases, senior officers of Mountlake Terrace police gave a review of the report for the first quarter of 2021. It included an update on the investigation into a series of crows shootings, with police noting that they expect charges to be brought soon are filed against a suspect they have identified.
The new partnership program in partnership with the Lynnwood Police Department, Verdant and Compass Health to have an embedded social worker with officers has met a temporary setback as the social worker had to leave suddenly for personal reasons. The process to identify and hire a replacement is currently underway. “We are very determined,” said Chief Pete Caw of the effort. “I am very optimistic that we will move forward very quickly, all the basic things are in place, we just have to find the right person.”
Police have continued training in crisis intervention and de-escalation techniques, with an emphasis on dealing with people with mental illness as well as using less lethal options.
Commander Mike Haynes said the total number of calls to service was up about 30% from last year. “This is to be expected as the community has adapted to living with COVID-19 precautions and as we continue to return to normal more and more people are venturing out and that often results in more activity for us,” noted he on. Haynes later added, “Overall, our response time is very good, I’m quite happy with it.”
All employees of the department have now undergone extensive mandatory training on bias-based police work. In the first quarter of 2021, five complaints were received from the community. One of the complaints received concerned the allegation of bias-based policing and is currently under investigation. “We take every complaint seriously and they are thoroughly investigated by supervisory staff,” said Haynes.
Commander Pat Lowe informed the board that in the first three months of the year, the investigative unit had handled 23 of the 31 cases. Code enforcement had closed seven cases at the time and is actively working on nearly double the number.
It also highlighted community outreach programs, including the return of the Mountlake Terrace School Liaison Program, which started anew with children returning to learning in the classroom. The Cops and Clergy program plans to resume when the construction extension to the police station is complete and will use the facility’s new training room. Also, the department’s community outreach program received a donation of more than $ 2,000 from the Cedar Plaza Ace Hardware.
The City Council will hold its next regular business meeting on May 3, starting at 7:00 PM. It includes a Sound Transit update and a separate update on COVID-19. View the agenda here.
– By Nathan Blackwell