Hearing Examiner #: HE-13-PW-044
City Contact:Brent Baldwin
Hearing Date: 02/12/2014
Description: Public Works Variance request of Stebner Real Estate re 1611 E. Maple Street
Decision Date: 02/26/2014
Decision Summary:Approved with conditions
This matter came before the Bellingham Hearing Examiner for hearing on the 12th day of February 2014 on the application filed on behalf of Stebner Real Estate for a variance from street construction requirements for property located at 1611 E. Maple Street.
Testimony was received from Brent Baldwin, Bellingham Public Works Department; Kurt Nabbefeld and Kathy Bell, Bellingham Planning and Community Development Department; Ali Taysi, Applicant's Representative; Gary Barnett, 3319 Iowa Drive; and Gaythia Weis, 1713 Edwards Court.
In addition to the Bellingham Municipal Code and Comprehensive Plan, the following documents were considered as part of the record: See Exhibit List. A letter was received from Robert Bengen dated February 17, 2014, after the close of the hearing, and is not included in the exhibits.
I. FINDINGS OF FACT
1. Ali Taysi filed an application for a variance from street construction requirements for property located at 1611 E. Maple Street on behalf of Stebner Real Estate.
2. The subject property is approximately 24 acres located between Lincoln and Maple Streets, and I-5 and the Fred Meyer property south of Lakeway Drive. Lincoln Creek runs through the middle of the site. The property is located in Area 14 of the Puget Neighborhood and is designated Commercial, Planned. A Special Condition states that Lincoln Creek should remain as a natural stormwater system area. Other Special Conditions include freeway buffer and clearing.
3. A Consolidated Planned Development and Wetland/Stream Permit, PDC2005-00018 and WET2005-00016, was issued for the property in September 2009. This permit provides for a mixed-use development including multi-family residential units and commercial development.
4. Access to the site is from Lincoln Street and Maple Street.
5. The Applicant requests a variance from the requirements of BMC 13.04.080 which requires commercial and business streets to be constructed with a 44-foot width, including travel lanes, parking on both sides, and eight-foot sidewalks on both sides within a 60-foot right-of-way. Ten-foot sidewalks are required within an 80-foot right-of-way. The Applicant proposes a reduced width of E. Maple Street to include 11-foot travel lanes, an eight-foot parking lane, curbs, gutters and a five-foot wide sidewalk. A variance is requested for Lincoln Street to reduce the sidewalk width on the property side to eight feet.
6. Lincoln Street abutting the property has a right-of-way width of 80 feet. It has an existing sidewalk on the east side of the street abutting a mobile home park. The existing sidewalk is approximately eight feet wide. The existing street has four travel lanes tapering to two lanes. The development will add a five-foot wide bicycle lane and a left turn pocket at the main entrance to the site.
7. Installation of the required improvements to Lincoln Street centered on the centerline of the right-of-way would require encroachment into the mobile home park or reduction of the sidewalk width on the east side of the street. The Applicant proposes to shift the centerline of the improvements to the west to eliminate impacts to the east side of the street, but reducing the width of the west side sidewalk to eight feet.
8. The sidewalk on the west side of Lincoln Street abutting the Fred Meyer property, just to the north of the subject site, is approximately six feet in width.
9. E. Maple Street abutting the property has a 60-foot right-of-way. It terminates at Interstate-5. The improvements to be installed by the Applicant will be located in the partial block between Lincoln Street and the street end. An entrance into the site will be located at the westerly end of the street adjacent to the freeway right-of-way.
10. A car wash facility/espresso stand is located across E. Maple Street from the site. Vehicles currently access that facility from E. Maple Street.
11. The E. Maple Street entrance to the site will be the primary access for a 175-unit apartment complex proposed on the property. The Applicant anticipates that many of the occupants of these apartment units will be students who will use the sidewalks on E. Maple and Lincoln Streets to access the Whatcom Transportation Authority Park-and-Ride lot located to the south on Lincoln Street.
12. Lincoln Creek flows adjacent to the existing improvements on the north side of E. Maple Street between Lincoln Street and the end of the improved portion of E. Maple Street, then flows north through the subject property.
13. Reduction in the width of improvements to E. Maple Street will reduce impacts to Lincoln Creek abutting the street.
14. The Planned Development Permit does not specify construction standards for Lincoln and E. Maple Streets.
15. City staff recommends approval of the variances with final approval of the construction details through a Public Facilities Construction Agreement.
16. Public comment was received from the owner of the car wash across E. Maple Street from the site and from the Puget Neighborhood Association. Concerns were expressed regarding access to the car wash and the mobile home park, and adequacy of sidewalk and bicycle lane improvements.
17. BMC 13.04.110 provides that variances may be granted when practical difficulties arise in the design and construction of streets due to topography, geological limitations, and other problems inherent or peculiar to the area, when in the best interest of the public welfare.
II. CONCLUSIONS OF LAW
1. The location of Lincoln Creek and existing improvements on Lincoln Street present practical difficulties in the design and construction of Lincoln and E. Maple Streets abutting the subject property.
2. Reduction in the width of travel lanes and sidewalks within Lincoln and Maple Streets abutting the property will reduce impacts on Lincoln Creek and other properties and is in the best interests of public welfare.
3. Variances should be granted for reduced street and sidewalk width for Lincoln and E. Maple Streets abutting the subject property.
4. Any Finding of Fact that should be denominated a Conclusion of Law shall be deemed to be a Conclusion of Law. Any Conclusion of Law that should be denominated a Finding of Fact shall be deemed to be a Finding of Fact.
Variances are granted for the subject property to reduce the required street improvements on Lincoln and E. Maple Streets abutting the subject property as follows:
1. The sidewalk width on the west side of Lincoln Street abutting the property may be reduced to eight feet. The sidewalk on the east side of Lincoln Street shall not be reduced from its existing eight feet width.
2. E. Maple Street abutting the property may be constructed with two 11-foot travel lanes, an eight-foot wide parking lane, curbs, gutters and a five-foot wide sidewalk.
3. Lincoln and E. Maple Streets abutting the property shall be constructed generally as represented in the materials and testimony submitted in support of the application, except as modifications shall be required to satisfy other requirements of the Bellingham Municipal Code, Public Works Department standards, and Fire Department standards. Final construction specifications shall be as approved by the Public Works Department in a Public Facilities Construction Agreement. Other improvements may be required, including, but not limited to, a turn-around at the end of Maple Street may be required.
4. The design and construction of E. Maple Street should facilitate access to properties on the south side of the street. If feasible, and subject to approval of the Public Works Department, this may include widening of the street at its intersection with Lincoln Street.
5. The development shall comply with all other applicable provisions of the Bellingham Municipal Code and the Planned Development/Wetland/Stream Permit.
ENTERED this 26th
day of February 2014.
Bellingham Hearing Examiner