The Mercer Island City Council will consider Monday a proposal by firm Legacy Partners to allow that would allow for a taller building in exchange for affordable housing and public amenities, including publicly available spaces and walk-off parking.
Discussion of the proposal has been ongoing for several months.
Legacy Partners, also known as Legacy Mercer Island, is proposing a five-story building that would combine 209 apartments and ground floor retail at the current site of True Value Hardware, The Islander, R.W. Thorpe, Hands of the Hills and Pilates on Mercer.
The proposed agreement allows the fifth floor with the conditions that the developers offer a "significant public amenity" and that 13 of the units are considered affordable housing.
Current codes allow for four stories at the location. To build a fifth story, city codes would call for 13 of the 209 apartments to be considered affordable housing -- housing affordable to people who make 60 percent of King County median income for 40 years. An apartment available to people who make 60 percent of median income in King County would allow a two-person family that makes $42,240 to rent a one-bedroom apartment for $1,056, according to city documents.
However, Legacy Partners requests raising that level of income to 70 percent of King County median income. The development agreement also would provide that provision of these units will render the building eligible for real property tax exemption.
Legacy Partners also propose moving the building's retail frontage to face 76th Avenue SE, instead of SE 27th Street.
The proposed agreement calls for publicly available terraces and courtyards at the Legacy Partners project and the availability of 58 parking spaces.
Several in the city have submitted concerns over the project, citing the height of the building, increased traffic on 76th Avenue Southeast, and the loss of True Value Hardware.
According to city documents, resident Anne Corley wrote:
"A five story building on top of that high hill will be an eyesore for this island! It will be visible from the bridge, and willdominate the skyline from allover the island. So much for our "friendly little island" atmosphere. It is just about gone now, with three five story buildings in half a block, and if Council allows another one in the same block, our small town feel will be gone."
Fred LaCroix President, Mercer Firs Homes Association, wrote in another email:
"Essentially, the developer is asking for a waiver to the established rules to make an excess profit - subsidized by the other taxpayers on the island.
"The number oflow income housing is too low. Keep it at 21, not 13 units.
"The amenities proposed by the developer, the plaza, etc., are of no value to the vast majority of the Island's citizens. While they may benefit the residents of that property, they do nothing for us.
"There was discussion of "walk-off" parking when the more important issue is having enough parking in the first place."
Other items on Monday's agenda include
AB 4799 Town Center Code Amendments – Modifying "60/40” Rule for Ground Floor Uses; Modifying Requirement for No Net Loss of Ground Floor Retail Space; and Adding Requirement for “Walk-Off” Parking (2nd Reading)
If you go
The Mercer Island City Council meeting starts tonight at 7 p.m. The meeting is at City Hall Council Chambers, 9611 SE 36th Street, Mercer Island, WA 98040.
City of Mercer Island: City Council Agenda, March 18, 2013