Senior housing, small apartments planned for Town Square parcels; Council OK’s marijuana zoning

By Eric Mathison

Burien lawmakers received their first look on Feb. 3 of conceptual plans for a senior housing site and small apartments with some retail on the undeveloped parcels north of Burien Town Square.

The senior site would contain 111 units on Parcel 4, just north of the Burien Library/City hall building. Developers emphasized the senior site would not be a nursing facility.

The apartment site with 227 units would be on Parcel 5, directly north of the current Town square condominiums.

A representative for the company developing the two parcels in cooperation with Legacy Partners said the two adjoining complexes would “bring seniors and young professionals together.”

The company has experience developing both senior and multi-use projects including the Merrill Gardens senior facility in West Seattle.

The project’s architect said the two facilities would be designed with a mid-20th Century theme that blends in with downtown Burien. “But we are not creating Disneyland,” he added.

The senior housing would also contain an outdoor amphitheater available for public use, developers told council members.

Entrances for both buildings would be on 5th Avenue.

Original plans for the Town Square parcels called for condominiums and mixed retail similar to the current condo site. However, developers and Burien administrators determined the economic market would not support that.

The current condos are reportedly more than 80 percent sold with more than 100 of the 125 units purchased.

In other business, the council approved by a 5-2 vote final zoning regulations for marijuana businesses in Burien.

Councilmembers Steve Armstrong and Debi Wagner voted against the regulations.

Under the approved regulations, state licensed producers (growers) and processors would only be allowed in industrial or airport industrial (Northeast Redevelopment Area) zones.

Retailers would be limited to commercial zones.

However, all pot-related businesses would not be allowed within 1,000 feet of elementary or secondary schools, recreation centers, playgrounds, child care facilities, parks, public transit centers, libraries or game arcades that admit youth under 21.

Community Development director Chip Davis said the state had only allocated one retail outlet for Burien. Davis said the allocation was based on Burien’s population before it annexed the Boulevard Park area that was formerly in unincorporated North Highline. Davis said he expected that once state officials review Burien’s new population figures he expects an additional allocation.

Councilmember Gerald Robison noted that marijuana is currently being bought and sold in Burien without regulation.

“Regulations would control it,” Robison said. “If we don’t (regulate) it, other cities will.”

Councilmember Lauren Berkowitz reported Initiative 502, which legalized marijuana use in the state, passed in every Burien precinct. She added council members were elected to represent the city’s voters.

Wagner said, “I don’t know what the security issues are going to be. I am concerned.”

Interim City Manager Craig Knutson said Burien Police Chief Scott Kimerer “doesn’t anticipate anything we can’t handle.”

Wagner also noted that if Burien bans marijuana facilities, residents could obtain it in White Center.

She also voiced concerns about the state Liquor Control Board, which is designated to oversee the legalization process. She said the board has not effectively acted on curbing liquor thefts from private stores.

Armstrong said he was worried about allowing marijuana-growing operations in the Northeast Redevelopment Area (NERA), which contains residential homes.

Residents along South 140th Street in the NERA neighborhood voiced opposition to the growing facilities during council’s Jan. 27 study session.

Robison countered that NERA is zoned industrial, not residential although there are homes located there.

A man, who said he represented potential Eastern Washington marijuana growers testified during public comments that marijuana production on five acres in Burien would bring 245 full-time positions and 120 seasonal jobs to the city.

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