Snohomish to plot
SNOHOMISH — Action has started toward a year of visionary activity toward a Midtown Planning District, for an area along Avenue D from Sixth Street north to Highway 9 to accommodate new development.
The process to kick off planning activity was spurred by an upcoming sale. The 9-acre lot that once was home to the county’s public works yard is being analyzed, and the county is “getting ready to sell,” said Glen Pickus, city planning director.
The status of that 9-acre area is “the catalyst for this project,” Pickus said. “When we heard the county was selling, we knew we had to be proactive … It’s got high visibility and frontage on Avenue D. It’s ripe for development.”
The city will consider authorizing creation of a Task Force to make recommendations to the planning commission.
The intent of the project overall is to revitalize the midtown area of Snohomish, with hopes of bringing in more tax revenue for the city. Pickus said the community as a whole will want to develop this area into something special: “something that looks like Snohomish.”
Zoning revisions may be needed as a result of the process, and the anticipated zoning is mixed use. City administrator Steve Schuller warned that the city does not want to zone in a way that the market won’t respond to.
The area’s zoning currently allows three-story buildings, with a cap at 35 feet in height, Pickus said. Any code revisions evolving from Task Force recommendations “might impact what can be done at the County site,” city documents said. Design elements considered may include roof pitches and windows, Pickus said.
“It really doesn’t matter what I think it should look like,” Pickus said, but is more important to get a reflection of community preferences. I envision it to be something unique to the city but complementary to other parts of the city as well,” he said, noting the historic district as an example.
What type and size of businesses and residential properties will be in it, and what visual details they will have, will populate the recommendation formed by the Task Force.
The city is tentatively planning to confirm members of the task force in a March 17 meeting, and if all goes as planned, the group will conduct its first meeting on March 31.
The entire process will not be complete until the end of this year, with the intent of giving the public time to learn more about the development and give input.
The Task Force will operate as an advising body, submitting recommendations to the planning commission. The council will receive a recommendation from the commission, and a decision on the final details is not expected until December. A meeting dedicated to public comment on design elements is likely to be scheduled in July, once the Task Force has a chance to present its recommendations.
“We want to be very transparent about this process,” Pickus said.
Members of the Task Force should work well with others and have knowledge in at least one of the following areas: land use and development, building design, business operations, the real estate market, or banking and financing. Initially, the requirements included that the person be over 18, but that was amended. If someone under 18 applies, they can be considered for the Task Force.
City Council President Jason Sanders, Youth Council liaison, said that he would have requested that if the limit was 18 and up. The intent is to “represent all points of view,” Sanders said.
Councilman Tom Merrill expressed his hope for finding a Task Force member with a visionary mindset on businesses that may eventually open in that area. The development is a tax revenue generator, and Merrill mentioned that most planning processes circle around specific types of businesses. He said other ideas may exist that other cities do not have. That person, if located, could bring in destination business, not duplicated in nearby towns.
“Can we get somebody on there who is a strategic futurist?” Merrill asked.
Merrill was asking for a Task Force member that would create what marketing professionals call a “disruption,” or a new set of ideas that breaks through the din of a saturated marketplace. He is hoping for “a future thinker, someone who sees odd possibilities that push us to consider out of the box ideas that we may want to adopt, or that might lead to other ideas. Someone who helps ensure we introduce and consider ideas beyond that we might otherwise have thought of without a provocative and disruptive thinker in the mix.”
He draws his Visionary Task Force member idea from a mindset called Preferred Future. It is a concept used for long-term planning which is detailed at futurist.com.
Both Merrill and Redmon also spoke of including green aspects to the Midtown project.
“I would especially like to see someone with knowledge in affordable housing,” said Councilwoman Linda Redmon. “I would really like to strive to see that filled.”
Pickus said the use of a Task Force is not a given for projects such as this one, but instead was a new idea he borrowed from the cities of Olympia and Mountlake Terrace. The latter had a task force for its Town Center.
“Hopefully, everyone buys into the task force,” he said, adding that he is hoping to get a lot of response for applications to increase the likelihood of finding the best candidates. They will be selected by Mayor Kartak, with confirmation by the council.
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