Snohomish County is continuing its virtual public engagement for its “Light Rail Communities” project, which will be used to decide on placemaking and zoning around two (or potentially three) light rail stations between Lynnwood and Everett. Previous rounds had solicited feedback on station locations and multimodal access to those locations. This fifth round, open until September 25, is an online “housing workshop” dedicated solely to residential housing types around the station subareas.
While the cities of Lynnwood and Everett have adopted bold plans for upzoning around their planned light rail stations, going as far as to allow for high-rise construction, the unincorporated land between them is somewhat of a blank slate. It has long been home to low-slung apartment complexes built to take advantage of laxer county regulations, but they have since given way to larger, multi-story complexes along Interstate 5 and Ash Way in recent years. While these developments are denser, they remain very car-oriented, with large garages at street level and parking lots separating buildings with little in the way of gathering spaces.
The “Urban Core Subarea Plan” will cover three planning areas: Ash Way Station, possibly located on the east side of Interstate 5 at 164th Street SW per the recommendation from an earlier survey; Mariner Station on the south side of 128th Street SW; and SR 99 & Airport Way Station, which remains a provisional option in Sound Transit’s long-range plan. The workshop survey presents the following options for housing types (but notes that it is “not intended to be exhaustive of all types that might be considered”):
- 20+ Stories (150+ dwelling units per acre)
- 10–20 Stories (100+ DU/acre)
- 3–6 Stories (25–50 DU/acre)
- 3-Story Walkups (18–25 DU/acre)
- Townhouses (12–18 DU/acre)
- Duplexes (6–8 DU/acre)
- Single Family Homes (4–6 DU/acre)
The survey asks users to contribute to an interactive public map that allows for ideas to be submitted anonymously or with a public ESRI account. All entries are then collected and displayed on a separate map for comment and scrutiny, which has already been marked with dozens of pins as of writing. Those who are not inclined to use the interactive map can also print out a copy of the map to annotate and send back via email.
Among the ideas already on the map are vast swaths of 20+ story zones, a gondola to Mill Creek, and requests for “New England style” development around Martha Lake. While some of these ideas won’t get much traction, the housing workshop is an opportunity for more voices to easily contribute to the zoning discussion without having to dive too deep into the wider debate.
Community input from the mapping exercise and survey (at bit.ly/LRCHousingWorkshop) will be collected until September 25 and summarized in October for further consideration by the county government. The next phase of public engagement for the Light Rail Communities program is a virtual workshop in October followed by a workshop on development regulations tentatively scheduled for January 2021. The full plan is anticipated to be adopted in 2024, with plenty of time before light rail arrives in the “Urban Core”, still scheduled for 2036.