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Kirkland residents appeal large downtown project, ask city for moratorium | Update
Kirkland residents have appealed a January Design Review Board approval for the Lake Street Place development in downtown.
The Design Review Board has been working with property owner Stuart McLeod and architect Rick Chesmore with Chesmore/Buck Architecture for more than a year on the development’s design and scale. And on Jan. 14, the Board approved the project with specific conditions, despite protest among several downtown residents.
Residents of the Portsmith Condominiums - Sandi Hart, her husband Stan Christie, and Brian and Lisa Rohrback - issued a letter of appeal on Feb. 10 suggesting a moratorium on construction so that a “thorough review of the zoning regulations can be conducted.” One of their biggest concerns is the large scale of the project and how it will affect the quality of life for those who live directly behind the proposed structure.
“There is absolutely no precedent for constructing such a massive structure so close to residential units,” the Portsmith resident’s appeal said. “Nowhere in Kirkland, or in any other city in Washington for that matter, is there a case for such an egregiously tiny distance between two buildings where local residents are impacted.”
Merrill Garden residents Ellen Glauert and Barbara Flagg also appealed the Design Review Board decision on Feb. 11 with concerns of traffic and safety impacts, noting that “no resident (of Merrill Gardens) received notification” of any plan for the Lake Street Place building.
"We respect the process, we don't agree with the appeals," said McLeod. "We feel they do not have merit, but the process will carry on and we'll await for the outcome from the hearing examiner."
McLeod said he believes the appeals do not have merit because he and the architect have met all of the zoning code requirements, gone through a "thorough and lengthy" process and the Design Review Board has come up with appropriate mitigation to reduce project size, provide top story setbacks and implement some landscaping to address other concerns.
The 189,500-square-foot proposed project will add restaurant space to Hector’s and the Kirkland Waterfront Market buildings on the ground floor with extra retail space under four levels of 252 stalls of enclosed parking. A sixth level of office space will cap the parking garage and three levels of office space will sit atop the current Hector’s and Kirkland Waterfront Market buildings.
The structure will reach 55 feet at its highest point and on some parts of the development, rooftop decks and terraces will be used to grow herbs and produce for the restaurants.
The Design Review Board’s conditions (among other required conditions such as a complete State Environmental Policy Act application and parking and public space calculations) are focused around softening the appearance of the large-scale project by ensuring the developer use appropriate plants and landscaping techniques at the north, east and south facades.
But the Portsmith resident’s letter of appeal counters that this approach only causes more problems.
“Landscaping, assuming the plants will live in such a restricted light environment, will in part mitigate the huge wall, but they will further restrict the width of the access-way to far less than the suggested 10 to 12 feet width.”
Although the project follows zoning code, the Rohrbacks, Hart and Christie point out that the project goes against several statements within the Comprehensive Plan and likens this development to the Potala Village development, a controversial proposed development, which is now under litigation.
“In Potala Village, the city agreed with residents who complained that the proposed building was out of character. It was simply too high a density of a building on Lake Street. Similarly, the McLeod development is trying to crowd way too much into a small space, vastly expanding the office space in the area and cramming it into a single location,” according to the appeal.
While the Portsmith residents have numerous reasons this development should not be built as approved by the Design Review Board, safety and traffic impacts are issues Merrill Garden residents agree will have profound effects.
“We feel like we are being placed in harm’s way with the traffic and congestion brought to our front door,” said Glauert and Flagg in their appeal. “A huge increase in traffic is inevitable if this project is allowed to proceed.”
The parking garage’s entrance and exit will be next to Merrill Gardens on Main Street.
The women say because the retirement community is often in poor health, the need for walkers is greater, which means many residents are slow. Because of this, they say, there is a high potential that serious accidents may occur from the parking garage’s “tripling” traffic amount.
They further state, Merrill Garden’s management was not properly informed of the building because records indicate a notice was sent to Dallas, Texas, not the corporate offices in Seattle.
Jon Regala, the city’s senior planner, wouldn’t comment on the nature of the letters of appeal but said the applicant has applied for “phase one” of the project, which divides construction into two phases. Phase one entails construction of two stories consisting of 14,500 square feet above the Milagro Cantina restaurant, while the parking garage and office space will likely be constructed during phase two.
“We have to treat it as a separate application,” said Regala. “We can still move forward with the appeals, but at the same time, the applicant can go forward also.”
Regala said if the hearing examiner rules the Design Review Board made an error in their decision, the hearing examiner could deny the project or impose new conditions, in which the developer’s new application for phasing the building would still have to abide. Although, Regala points out that it’s the Design Review Board’s authority to make sure the project is consistent with guidelines.