community garden

Stadler Interests is asking for a land acquisition to build 57 units in three buildings providing rental opportunities to low-income residents on what is now the Ellensburg Community Garden space at 100 S. Pine St.

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Unlike the recently completed Spurling Court affordable housing project where housing is spread out with 29 units on the east side of Rainier Avenue and another 20 on the west side, the only place developers can build utilizing city-owned land on the corner of First and Pine is up.

Stalder Interests managing partner Matthew Stalder is asking for a land acquisition to build 57 units in three buildings providing rental opportunities to low-income residents on what is now the Ellensburg Community Garden space at 100 S. Pine St.

The proposal calls for eight more apartments than Spurling Court on a smaller tract of land in the downtown district. The question of how many stories would each building be, along with parking issues, density and green issues surfaced Monday night when the proposal went before the city council for council review.

As a result, the city council tabled its decision and called for a special session at 6 p.m. on June 28 for further discussion.

“We’ll discuss various issues and if the council wants to put different conditions on (the proposal), then the conversation is ‘Can (Stalder) still pull this off and put it together in a way that works for you and work for people in the community?’ ” mayor Bruce Tabb said.

“This is a project where they are developing into the downtown core in existing neighborhoods instead of pushing outward. What we’re attempting to do is support residents in the downtown where it’s within walking distance from stores, transit and the different things.”

Stalder Interests’ proposal is to utilize parcels 6al7033 and 937033 at the First and Pine property currently owned by the city.

“As a multi-family developer, it would be a larger scale apartment complex that could tentatively hold 57 units. I have done the surface level numbers to include the prevailing wage in the costs and the lowered rent rates and the project looks like it would financially work,” Stalder said in his application.

“For the leverage part of the financing, a section 221 (d%4) loan would be used and with the resulting higher than average loan to cost amount allowed, the cash amount now free in the AH fund would be enough bridge capital to cover the remaining costs.”

The discussion during the council’s review generated more questions than answers, creating a need for further discussion.

“My concern is that I think the density is an issue. I think the lack of green space is an issue. The parking is far too late,” councilman David Miller said. “The ultimate building heights, I would think that three floors with 18 units per building is a safe assumption.

“I was on the council when we approved the Community Garden (in 2013) it was believed that it was property that would later be used for some other purpose. It was considered to be temporary, but I don’t think it was a mistake. It proved to be an unexpected asset to the community. I have a hard time supporting (this proposal) as it’s presented today.”

It estimated the project will take two years, according to the application. Stalder Interests demonstrated the ability to meet the requirements of the affordable housing property contribution and intends to help the city address the identified housing needs in the community.

“I’m not comfortable with the three-story buildings in that particular part of town,” councilwoman and former Affordable Housing Commission chair Nancy Goodloe said. “I’m not comfortable that all the units are for singles and there is nothing for family being offered.”

Councilwoman Nancy Lillquist said, “I am committed to developing affordable housing at this location,” she said. “I think the city should look for alternative locations for the community garden. If what is being proposed is a four-story building, I’m more comfortable with three (stories).

“Three-story buildings seem to fit in neighborhoods if they are designed right. I think we need more conversation before we make any commitment.”

Eligible uses of the property include affordable housing development proposals that serve residents earning 80% or less of the Area Median Income. The Stalder Interests application indicated the ability to provide 57 units to persons who make less than 60% AMI.

“It sounds like we’re moving away from an award winner,” councilwoman Stacey Engel said. “I appreciate the different points of view other council members have. I appreciate the developer coming forward with this project, because there’s so many moving pieces.

“That’s what the Affordable Housing Commission has been asking, and (Stalder) did exactly what we asked of him. I want to support the process of projects like this. But I don’t support this particular lot being surplus for affordable housing. I don’t think it’s the best use of city assets.”

Councilwoman Tristen Lamb said, “It took awhile for me to understand, but we do not get to pick and choose our proposals for affordable housing,” she said. “How many months, years have we had the surplus land available. I agree with Stacey that (Stalder) did what we asked for and when it comes before us, we don’t like it.

“There have been some really good statements from the council and public and I think we need to reevaluate that. This is a very complicated project and I’m not quite ready to say this project is good to go as it is before us tonight. But we’re making it more complicated.”

Pursuant to RCW 39.33.15 and Ellensburg City Code Chapter 2.06, the city of Ellensburg has identified two city-owned sites (total of three parcels) available for affordable housing development proposals that serve residents earning 80% or less of the Area Median Income.

The discussion will continue in a special session on June 28.

Rodney Harwood: award-winning journalist and columnist. Lover of golf and the written word. I can be reached at rharwood@kvnews.com

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