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Shorewood developers seek amendments to subdivision

The Planning Commission has postponed its decision to approve the subdivision of the Shorewood Heights Apartments property after developers asked for several amendments to the conditions suggested by city planners.

Last Wednesday night, developers requested changes to the recommended conditions from city staff, and the planners asked the commissioners for time to review them before giving the go-ahead on the project. The Planning Commission’s blessing on the project will not issue the final approval of the subdivision. The Commission will vote on a formal recommendation for the City Council, which must authorize the final approval. The Council must approve subdivisions of lots over five acres, and the Planning Commission denied a variance to skip the required Council approval last summer. Shorewood Heights is on a 44-acre lot and currently has 646 units.

The owners of Shorewood Heights, Security Properties, Inc., plan to construct 124 new condos and townhomes, and want to subdivide the property into four separate lots. The proposal would leave the existing apartments on two large lots and create two other smaller lots for the new buildings. The Design Commission has already approved the new buildings.

Don Hill, of Triad Development, reminded the commissioners that the proposed development is possible and allowed under city code without the subdivision, but the owners wanted it for business reasons.

“This is about flexibility,” he said. “It’s easier to insure, to finance and to manage different unit types by distinguishing the apartments from condominiums. And it helps us with the marketing of the property.”

The significant amendments to the subdivision proposal sought by developers would modify some of the requirements within the conditions that surround the removal and replacement of trees, the timing of fire safety inspections prior to building and the availability of parking during and after construction.

“The applicant is amenable to the overall project conditions; however, the current text mixes the timing of condition requirements in a confusing and sometimes not possible way,” said Hill. “This is important for proper project sequencing.”

According to Mercer Island senior planner George Steirer, the city received the proposed amendments early Wednesday morning and did not have time to review them before the meeting. He asked the Planning Commission to give staff the time to do so before considering their implementation.

“I would not want to mess with the section referring to the fire marshal,” said commissioner Adam Cooper. “I’d give time to review this. It comes down to the applicant saving two weeks or having it changed.”

The developers’ amendments seek to delete conditions requiring the city fire marshal to determine an approved fire alarm and sprinkler system as well as hose connections within all new buildings. The applicant explained that those pertain to building construction and not the subdivision, so they asked that they be a part of the construction permit, not the subdivision.

The developers also asked to change a requirement that would need Commission approval of any modifications in the tree replacement ratios designated in the conditions. The applicant would rather have the city arborist determine any changes made in the ratio of tree replacement. Currently, the condition states that trees removed in critical areas — those with a steep slope — must be replaced at a 4-to-1 ratio. Trees removed in other areas must be replaced with a 2-to-1 ratio.

During the public hearing, two people shared their concerns about the project, which included the traffic effect on the complex entrances by adding over 100 new units and where construction workers would park their cars and leave their equipment.

Shorewood Heights resident Dorli Mason asked that the city and ownership consider a condition requiring numbered parking spots to ensure that residents maintain access to parking after construction begins and ends.

“I advise management and ownership to perhaps assign parking, once the building commences, to each apartment, entitled to one space per apartment to at least guarantee that one spot be available,” said Mason.

Another modification proposed by the applicant asks that the utilities and long plat improvements by completed prior to issuance of building permits by city engineer. Instead, the applicant wants to have them submitted upon completion of the work.

The Commission plans to review the subdivision proposal again at its next regularly scheduled meeting at 7:30 p.m. on Aug. 6.

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