In recent years land in Seattle has become synonymous with development. Apartments, grocery stores, corporate headquarters: they're all being built. But one group in Madison Valley wants to have a say one of these developments.
'Save Madison Valley' was formed when neighbors learned a developer wanted to turn the site of the City People's Garden Store into what the developer says is a 4-story apartment, retail, and parking garage complex. 'Save Madison Valley' feels the development is out of scale with the rest of the neighborhood.
Note: There is a debate between the developer and the 'Save Madison Valley' group. While 'Save Madison Valley' claims the building is six stories, the developer four stories. The difference is in the way each calculates the height.
As the developer, Velmeir, has presented the project, it complies with zoning laws, and the developer argues it is a "thoughtfully designed, well-proportioned project for the heart of Madison Valley's business district" but 'Save Madison Valley' disagrees.
For six months a core group of ten people has devoted their free time to this issue. They've spent $10,000 and hired six consultants.
Here are their major concerns: the elimination of trees, the height of the building and the increased traffic that would come with a grocery store and parking garage.
The developer argues the traffic impact would be minimal and the "project has a footprint that is nearly 20% smaller than what is permissible on that site."
Earlier this year 'Save Madison Valley' brought their concerns to the Seattle Design Review Board. The board responded positively and asked the developer to adjust.
But still, 'Save Madison Valley' feels their effort may fail, because as residents, they hold little power to dictate development in their neighborhood.
"Unfortunately the developer has a lot of power because of the money and the resources, and the city does not have money and resources," said Tony Hacker, a member of the 'Save Madison Valley' group.
Hacker feels that it is not the city's fault. He says the blame is the lack of resources Seattle has to vet each proposed development.
"It seems as if the City is overwhelmed and has turned over their responsibilities to the developer community," said Hacker.
The developer claims they're made an effort to be transparent and elicit community input, met with 'Save Madison Valley' no less than three times, met with the Madison Valley Community Council and Madison Valley Merchants Association and hosted a community meeting in the neighborhood to show early designs and answer questions.
Velmeir also tells KING5 since the last design meeting in July; the architect has set back the building an additional five to 10 feet to reflect input from the Design Review Board and neighbors.
So what's the city's perspective?
"Developers are required to follow our zoning, land-use, and building codes. These are the rules for where a building can be built, how tall it can be, how it can be used, and how it must be built. If a project meets all of our criteria, we will approve the building and land use permits, " said Wendy Shark, Senior Public Relations Specialist for the City of Seattle, in an email to KING5. "If a project is large enough in scope, then it will require a Master Use Permit (MUP) which includes environmental review (SEPA) and Design Review – which requires a public comment period and several public meetings."
'Save Madison Valley' is holding a fundraiser to financially support their Saturday, October 1st from 3:00-6:30 pm at the corner of E. Thomas St. and 31st Ave. E. in the horse’s corral.
For more on the issue from 'Save Madison Valley' got to http://www.savemadisonvalley.org/.