Though a Morgan Junction church’s request for an upzone to enable denser housing on open space next door has been in the city system for four years, it still should be subject to not-yet-finalized Mandatory Housing Affordability. So said the City Council’s Planning, Land Use, and Zoning Committee tonight. Three committee members voted unanimously to approve the West Seattle Church of the Nazarene‘s proposed upzone – but without waiving MHA, which only the council has the power to do. With MHA, the church will either have to pay the city an estimated $200,000 – almost a third of the revenue it expected to get from the project and hoped to spend on renovating their deteriorating church building – or set aside two of the townhouses for “affordable housing.” Project supporters could not make their case to the council at tonight’s committee meeting because the rezone is a “quasi-judicial” action; project architect David Neiman laid out the issues on his website last week:
The general idea behind MHA is that a re-zone is supposed to confer value to the property owner, and in exchange the city asks the owner to contribute that value back to the city. In the case of WSCN’s project, the proposed project includes a Property Use and Development agreement (PUDA) that will dedicate much of the land to a public open space, constraining the use of the site to such an extent that it will actually have less development potential after the re-zone than it does today. …
… What will the City Council do when faced with a project that voluntarily provides community benefits that prevent it from using the development potential conferred by a re-zone? Does the property owner have to pay anyway even though they receive no value in return? Is MHA really about a fair exchange of value creation and value capture, or is it just a fine levied on all new development?
Neiman’s post also shows site plans comparing the townhouse proposa to six units that could be built on the church’s site right now without a rezone – three houses and three “accessory dwelling units” that would take up most of what the church had proposed leaving as open space. Tonight’s vote by Councilmembers Lisa Herbold, Rob Johnson, and Mike O’Brien was not the final action – that’s up to the full Council, which will get the matter on December 11th.
DECEMBER 1ST CORRECTION: According to the agenda for next Monday’s council meeting, to which the final vote has been moved, those voting earlier this week were Johnson, O’Brien, Harris-Talley, and Juarez for, no one against, Herbold abstaining.