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Relaxed rules for Pilchuck District may help spur changes

SNOHOMISH — The City Council unanimously eliminated restrictions on the types of businesses allowed in the Pilchuck District last week to stimulate growth in the stagnant zoning area.
The council also advised city staff to undertake a financial analysis of a proposed 8- to 12-year property tax exemption for new multi-family developments and improvements to existing developments.
Planning director Glen Pickus led the presentation. Pickus said in a followup interview that several businesses had missed opportunities due to strict regulations.
One light manufacturing facility that had outgrown its Snohomish plant saw potential in the Pilchuck District, but its search stalled due to restrictions against any industrial uses.
A townhome owner and residents lost out when a retailer moved away, and the property owner was unable to find a suitable replacement tenant. The landlord had to turn down day care and office applicants as those uses were not permitted.
In a third case, Pickus said an existing auto parts reclamation business wanted to move out but could not sell because potential buyers had to operate the same type of business to use the space.
The relaxed new rules council approved will allow, for example, an office space to replace a retail establishment.
Several new business types will be allowed in the section zoned for townhouses; professional, medical, social, administrative, business, and personal services. Those include everything from real estate and insurance agents to dentists and optometrists.
Day cares will now also be allowed throughout the district. Light manufacturing will be allowed in the center area of the district.
The council unanimously approved further analysis, but not outright adoption, of the potential property tax exemption.
Pickus said the exemption would probably cost the city nothing as without it, there would be no projects. Large and small cities including Everett, Yakima, Mountlake Terrace and Bellingham already have such exemptions.
The eight-year exemption would go to normal developments, and an extra four years would be granted to developers who designated a certain percentage of units for affordable housing.
The council could opt to extend the exemption to other targeted areas in the city as well.
The Pilchuck District was established in 2011. It stretches west to east from Union Avenue to the Pilchuck River and south to north from Rainier Street to just past Sixth Street. Second Street and Maple Avenue is a key intersection in the district. The district was created to foster an urban village in part through strategic development zoning.

The boundaries of the Pilchuck District circa 2013 are below:

 

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