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'The Wedge' turns out against proposed development

32 homes proposed for four acres

Stone Hill elevation

The 32 single-family detached homes proposed for four acres in the Wedge area would share driveways in pairs and utilize a common recreation area equivalent in size to two of the proposed homes.
Graphic courtesy of Architects Northwest.

The Wedge by Jeff Switzer
WOODINVILLE--Residents describe "The Wedge" as an island, bound by topography and the freeway and with only two ways out. Last week, the Wedge mobilized and more than 70 of its residents turned out for a city public hearing, arguing that the 32 homes planned for four acres there would exacerbate traffic and drastically alter their quality of life and their land values.
   The two developments, Stone Hill Meadow and Stone Hill Village, are adjoining properties in the 13405 block from 184th to 186th. Both lots have a base density of R-6, and the two developers plan to take advantage of the city's option of increasing the density by offering eight to 10 homes as affordable housing, roughly $120,000 each and $160,000 for the remaining 20-plus homes.
   "The projects provide a range of housing that's not typically available in the City of Woodinville," said Todd Jacobs, city planner and project coordinator. "They provide affordable housing, they include an onsite recreation area, and help provide improved walking conditions on NE 186th Street."
   While the staff report references numerous policies within the comprehensive plan encouraging density and preserving neighborhoods as being accomplished by the proposed garage-in-back designs, residents at the public hearing, including Cathy Betz, cited the same policies with different interpretations.
   "The tiny lots proposed by this development would do just the opposite," Betz said. "A longtime, semi-rural neighborhood would be jeopardized. People live here because they like to have a little space around them. It would be a real shame if every two-acre tract in Woodinville that was near a sewer fell victim to such a wrong application of affordable housing variances. This is not our vision of Woodinville, nor the reason we worked for incorporation."

Projected traffic increase
   The parcel closest to NE 186th Street would have 18 homes; the parcel to the south would have 14. Combined, the two projects are expected to generate a net increase in traffic of 28 afternoon peak trips and 21 morning peak trips and 268 daily trips, failing to reach a threshold which would require off-site improvements to other roads and intersections.
   The numbers were forecasted through 1998 by applying current growth rates, and residents criticized the traffic study because it failed to incorporate numbers generated by the nearby jurisdiction of Bothell, which has a recently completed five-lane road to Home Depot, as well as an apartment complex with more than 300 units in the works.
   City staff could not include the numbers from Bothell because there currently is no interlocal agreement between the cities for reviewing impacts. The same problem arose when the Home Depot store was proposed for its current site just off SR-520, and Woodinville's impacts were reportedly not included for the same reason.
   In spite of the limited information, the traffic study shows that the 268 additional trips generated by the proposed project would still provide a level of service (LOS) "A" (little or no delay) for the intersection at 186th and 132nd, and hold steady at the current LOS "C" for the westbound approach during afternoon peak hours.
   At and before the hearing, residents challenged the validity of the traffic study because it was done during the summer months, a time when the cut-through traffic to Woodinville High School is non-existent. But staff added 20 percent to reflect projected school traffic, so that, under regulatory reform, the study would be done in time for review.
   "Last week, the city conducted traffic counts and compared these counts with those in the study, which showed a very close comparison to the factored volumes," said Kurt Latt, traffic engineer for Woodinville.

Accomplishing dense development
   The architect for the project, Jeffrey deRoulet, provided preliminary sketches of the layout for the development. Pairs of houses would share a driveway off a cul-de-sac and street to access the garages, which are located behind the homes and facing the driveway.
   This layout is designed both to increase density and to "encourage a sense of community and to extend a watchful eye over the block." The shared driveway also reduces the amount of impervious surface on the site overall.
   The sites have no recorded wetlands, streams, or erosion hazards, though there are some steep slopes. Each subdivision will share surface water management, sewer, and water facilities, installing them cooperatively.
   The zoning for the two sites, R-6, allows for up to nine units per acre when meeting incentives. Before incorporation, the lots were zoned similarly at eight units per acre. The density is also accomplished because Woodinville's minimum lot size is 2,500 square feet.
   "We're not rezoning or asking for anything more than what's in the code," said Robert Prehall, owner and would-be developer of Stone Hill Meadow. "Our goal is definitely to accomplish as much as we can."
   During the hearing, several residents asked the two applicants if they would voluntarily fence the entire development to discourage vehicle access from other streets, as well as prohibit the installation of woodburning stoves. The two applicants expressed their willingness to do both.
   Mitigation requirements for the development include: frontage improvements and sidewalks on 186th Street; a 34-foot-wide road with sidewalks as access to the development; a footpath on the corner of 136th Avenue NE and 186th Street, as well as to 132nd Avenue NE; and a recreational area with bench, play structure, play mat, trash can, and a grassy play area with shade trees.
   Based on the applications, the city's regulations, and the testimony at the public hearing, the Hearing Examiner will issue a decision within 10 business days of the hearing, by Oct. 15. If the decision is appealed within 14 days of the decision, it becomes a quasi-judicial issue which the City Council must decide.