(Newest site plan for proposed development at 5911 42nd SW; click image for full-size PDF version)
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
The big evergreen trees are staying.
That’s one of the messages the West Seattle Church of the Nazarene wants to share with the community about its six-townhouse development proposal, first reported here back on Monday – a plan that would require a “contract rezone” and therefore City Council approval.
We sat down with Pastor Shaun Mattson and associate pastor Terry Mattson Thursday afternoon to talk about it; they shared the updated “site plan” you see atop this story.
The somewhat-sprawling site to the south of the 42nd/Juneau church and its parsonage is zoned as three potential single-family-home lots but is known as “the park,” and used like one – even outdoor movies in summertime. While some of the plan includes keeping it in a park-like condition, the church leaders say that “doing nothing was not an option” – their church’s future depends on it.
While the plan is in the early stages of the relatively long public process, the idea is not a new one.
Regional leadership of their denomination gave approval about a week and a half ago, said Shaun Mattson, after a long round of talks and of negotiating with the developer, nearby resident Joe Paar. Then the congregation – which currently numbers about 50 regulars – voted this past Sunday, and “overwhelmingly passed” the development proposal.
“We’re not talking about sale of the land,” Shaun said. “It’s an LLC with the developer – we retain 50 percent of the management rights.” They’re expecting it to be a “short-term” LLC, and say that setting it up means they will get money from the sale of what’s built on the site, rather than from just handing over the site to a buyer. And that enables them to retain some control of the project.
Now, as for some specifics: The only tree that’s coming down, the church says, is the “apple tree at the back of the parsonage” – and it will be replaced. They say an arborist was brought in to evaluate the other trees, large evergreens, and declared them safe to keep in the project, so it’s been reworked to show them staying, as you can see in the newest site plan, above.
They believe the plan is the best thing they can do for the neighborhood as well as for the future of their relatively small church. “I’ve been pastor since March 1st,” said Shaun Mattson. “We’ve been talking about all sorts of renewal … Our building is the ugliest building on the block. For a small congregation of 50 or so to remove a building, and take care of the ‘park,’ we don’t have the money. Our options were to sell everything and relocate, or sell the park itself.” Terry Mattson chimed in that they’ve had offers over the years to buy just the “park” site: “We always refused because part of the mission of the church was to retain green space.”
(As noted in our Monday story, the site also once was eyed for possible city purchase as green space; Seattle Parks pursued the Short Stop/cleaners site next to the existing Morgan Junction Park instead.)
The partnership and development, Terry said, will give them “the ability to create a green space and really create a park – one that wraps around the church.” The church itself needs a variety of improvements including plumbing, electrical, and heating/cooling.
With just a “site plan” so far, the townhouses’ exteriors remain a question mark for the community, but the church leaders say they have faith in the architect, David Neiman, describing him as “skilled at creating layers of privacy … One of the goals is to protect the feel of the neighborhood … not (build) uber-uber modern-looking things that don’t seem to fit.”
Why not build single-family homes, which wouldn’t require rezoning? we asked. This plan, they say, “allows (more) green space, and retaining trees, and wrapping around the back of the church. It also fits into what is across the alley” – multi-family housing and businesses fronting the next street to the west, California SW. And, Shaun acknowledged, two houses would not “have given us everything we needed” in terms of potential revenue.
Why not relocate? “We believe we have a mission in this community,” Shaun Mattson says. “The idea of relocating takes us away from who we think we’re supposed to be.” Adds Terry, “Our perception is that at the end of the day, with a restored parsonage and building and park, we will have enhanced aesthetically and financially our neighbors’ value, and hopefully will be a living presence of Christ at some level.” The congregation is “historically very involved” in the community, Shaun notes, and they hope revitalization will enable it to be even more so. In recent years, the church has hosted meetings from crime prevention to emergency preparedness, and on the latter topic, they’re hoping that seismic upgrades could even make them a place for neighbors to go if needed in time of disaster.
But if you are skeptical – or just want more information – you don’t have to wait for them to make the rounds of neighborhood groups such as Morgan Community Association and Fairmount Springs, as they say they will be doing. “We would be happy to sit down for coffee with people,” Shaun says. To take them up on that offer, you can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org and/or reach them at the church by phone, 206-932-4581. “We need and want our neighbors’ input,” he reiterates.
A timetable is hard to evoke at this stage, but construction isn’t likely before 2015, given the layers of approval required, from design to zoning.
ADDED MONDAY: Architect David Neiman has written more about the background of the plan on his website.