Cityasked for concessions

Published on Thu, Dec 16, 2004 by eg Olson

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City asked for concessions

By Meg Olson

Developer Ken Hertz is asking Blaine city council to scrap the developer’s conditions attached to the east Blaine annexation so a major residential development can go ahead. “It’s problematic for us,” Hertz told council at their December 13 meeting. “Another thing that will make it feasible or not are impact fees.”

Without concessions from the city Hertz said he would scrap the Blossom Management Corporation project to turn 450 acres of woods, scrub and wetlands into a planned community with up to 700 homes ranging from what architect David Christensen called “estate homes” to “cottages.”

“This kind of stuff just becomes way too expensive,” Hertz said after the meeting, pointing to conditions that require developers in east Blaine to improve rural roads to city standards, research and acquire right of ways for city utilities and extend sewer laterals to neighboring properties. “It’s an unreasonable request. The end result is you can’t accomplish it. It looked to me like when the annexation was being proposed the people wanting it were so anxious they agreed to anything.”

Blossom is negotiating to acquire the property from Vicwood Chong, who had proposed developing the property in the 1990s at the time of the annexation. Hertz said they had asked for a two-month extension on the January 4 deadline to decide whether to go ahead with the sale.

City manager Gary Tomsic said city staff and legal counsel were not prepared to make any recommendations without further research. He suggested council hold a hearing to determine if any of the property owners outside of the proposed development areas had agreed to the annexation based on the conditions set forth in the agreement. “These conditions Mr. Hertz finds onerous are nevertheless a part of the agreement,” he pointed out. “If there was an expectation on the part of the other property owners that will be taken away by removing them, what are the implications?” Council agreed to set the hearing January 24, and staff agreed that they would meet with Hertz and his associates and try to reach a compromise. “We need to sit down and craft an alternative,” he said.

Tomsic also said he was glad to see Hertz involved in trying to develop the east Blaine area, where no development has occurred since the city’s contested 1995 annexation of the 1,182 acre area, which was intended to meet the city’s future housing needs for the next two decades. “This has been kind of a problem area for us,” he acknowledged. “We’re happy Ken Hertz’s company is looking at this. He’s concerned about a lot of the kinds of things we are.”

Hertz said they had held neighborhood meetings and a charrette with people who may have a stake in the project. “We have not had any negative comments,” he said. “I don’t expect that to last forever but it feels good now.”

Blossom’s plans include wetlands and natural features, including a large central pond with clusters of 7,500 to 12,000 square foot lots surrounding it. A community center, small offices and limited services are planned at the entry. “It can be a stand alone village that can be a part of your community but have its own environment,” Hertz said. They are also considering an on-site treatment system and recycled gray water uses to reduce impacts on the city’s water and sewer systems, a stormwater treatment system.\

Christensen said they were looking at options such as smaller units closer to the pond and other options to create affordable housing, clustering similar homes and accessing garages through alleys to eliminate cluttered streets as ways to create diverse and compatible neighborhoods. They were also exploring recreational alternatives, from soccer fields to future links with a city trail system. “This is all just a preliminary eyewash,” he said.

Hertz said prices had not been established. “It’s going to depend what off-site costs are and what the final market tells us,” he said. He speculated at today’s prices lots would run from $70 to $100,000, accommodating $200,000 to $400,000 homes.

If a deal can be worked out with the city Hertz said he feels the project will be a positive one for east Blaine, the community as a whole and part of the solution to a predicted surge in the northwest housing market. “The northwest is going to be highly impacted and we need to prepare for it,” he said.