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City regulations block proposed hotel in tourist district

  • Written by Briana Gerdeman

After 15 years of attempts to open a hotel at Apple Farm Village in Woodinville’s tourist district, a pair of prospective developers are frustrated by a zoning requirement that requires half of the property to be left undeveloped.

“If the city really wants more lodging in the tourist district, then they will encourage, rather than discourage, that from happening,” Apple Farm Village owner Barbara Kelson said. “The city has far more to gain than we do ... from having lodging in the tourist district, and they should be helping us, they should be assisting us, they should be doing everything they can to help us get this going instead of continually putting roadblocks in front of us.”

The current zoning code for the Tourist District Overlay mandates that no more than 50 percent of a hotel site can be impervious surfaces (such as buildings and pavement.) Other restrictions on hotels include having no more than 24 rooms per acre, being no taller than 35 feet and three stories and fitting the style of a “country inn, bed and breakfast, Victorian, woodland lodge” or other approved style.

The Tourist District Overlay encompasses the Tourist Business zone — which includes the Hollywood Schoolhouse, Purple Cafe and Wine Bar, Apple Farm Village and many wine tasting rooms — as well as parts of the Industrial zone along Woodinville-Redmond Road, which includes Chateau Ste. Michelle, Redhook Brewery, Woodinville Whiskey and more. The code regulations listed above don’t apply to hotels in other parts of the city.

Even Dave Kuhl, the city’s development services director, isn’t sure about the original purpose of keeping at least 50 percent of hotel properties pervious. He said it may have been intended “to limit the size and scope of hotels in the area,” encouraging large sites with small, high-end hotels.

The city acknowledges the need for more lodging, and sought advice from hotel developers Benchmark Hospitality and Columbia Hospitality. Kuhl said those developers said Woodinville has demand for 120 more hotel rooms, 1,000 more parking spaces and additional event space in the tourist district.

At last week’s meeting, the City Council discussed ways to relax the regulations, but hasn’t decided on a solution yet. All three options the city discussed would increase the maximum impervious area for hotels in the Tourist Business zone and keep the height limit on hotels.

Option 1 would increase the maximum impervious area allowed for hotels in the Tourist Business zone to 85 percent and remove the limits on rooms per acre and number of stories.

Option 2 would increase the maximum impervious area allowed to 85 percent, while keeping the limits on rooms per acre and number of stories.

Option 3 would increase the maximum impervious area allowed to 85 percent, require a development agreement between the city and the developers and remove the limits on rooms per acre and number of stories.

A development agreement “adds certainty for developers,” Kuhl said. “As they’re investing a lot of money and they want to make sure they have a solid agreement with the city for a long period of time, lots of developers like this concept. It allows better timing for funding and design of installation of public improvements….These development agreements are recorded, and so they follow the title report and usually they’re good for 10 years. There’s going to be a turnover in staff and officials, as you know, in this period of time.”

An existing section of code also allows hotels up to 49 feet tall with a development agreement, Kuhl said.
The planning commission recommends not requiring a development agreement (option 1), while the city staff recommends requiring a development agreement (option 3), Kuhl said.

The city could also create other thresholds to determine whether or not a hotel needs a development agreement, Kuhl said. Possible criteria include requiring a development agreement if the hotel includes a conference center or if the hotel has 20 rooms or more, which would make the development process less burdensome for smaller developers.

“We tried for about 15 years to get the city to do a developer agreement with us, and they said, ‘No, you’re too small. You have to be at least 5 acres,’” Kelson pointed out. “So we’ve waited and waited and waited 15 years, and nothing has happened in the tourist district...besides Willows Lodge. We want to do something, and we don’t want to wait any longer.”

Another development agreement would cost Apple Farm Village at least $10,000, Kelson said.

The hotel she wants to build is a small, 9-room “boutique” inn with hotel rooms above retail space and tasting rooms on the main floor, Kelson said.

She and civil engineer Tim Schriever said Woodinville zoning requirements in the Tourist Overlay District make it hard to fulfill the city’s stated goal of increasing lodging in the tourist district. Neighboring cities such as Bothell and Kirkland have fewer restrictions and more hotels, and people who come to visit Woodinville are staying there instead, they said.
“The building design code is so strict in this town,” Schriever said, adding, “I think just slapping a development agreement on everybody creates way more complexity than anybody needs.”

The public hearing about lodging facilities in the tourist district will continue at the July 1 meeting, which will also let the city address the council’s concern that the proposed revisions were not worded clearly.

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