City to vote on theater site proposal

Panel recommends City Council approve changes to old development agreement for outdoor theater property

A Spokane-based developer’s plan to redevelop the former Valley 6 Outdoor Theater site in northeast Auburn cleared a significant hurdle last week.

After a public hearing, the City’s Planning Commission unanimously recommended that the Auburn City Council approve Inland Construction LLC’s application to change the development agreement the city had entered into with the Robertson Property Group (RPG) in 2011.

“I am really pleased with what has been done. (City staff) have done a great job working with you, and you with them,” Commission Chair Judy Roland told John Fisher of Inland Construction after the vote.

The full council could vote on the application as early as its first meeting in August. And given its demonstrated and enthusiastic support in the past for Inland’s proposal, “yes” would appear to be a safe bet.

“We expect to have shovels in the ground by the end of the year, and we expect a 21-23 month construction schedule,” Scott Morris, one of Inland’s principals, recently told the Auburn Reporter.

When the RPG, which had lost interest in its project, put the site up for sale recently, Inland stepped forward as a potential buyer. But as Inland’s two principals. Fisher and Morris told the city in April, they could not develop the full property if the city were to hold them to what was agreed on in the ambitious 2011 DA, and without certain changes to it, they would have to drop their purchase bid.

On that occasion, Morris and Fisher told the city that, given the altered economic environment for retail storefronts since 2011, and changes the Federal Emergency Management Agency expects to make in 2020 to its maps in the vicinity to increase the extent and depth of floodplains, full development under the existing DA was no longer practical.

The project site, which is bounded by Auburn Way North, 45th Street Northeast, and the proposed extension of I Street Northeast, is 70 acres in area and consists of the former theater site and adjacent parcels RPG has acquired since 2011. All the drive-in theater structures are gone.

So, here are some of the changes Inland wants Auburn to allow to the 2011 DA:

• Allow horizontal-integrated mixed use in addition to vertical integrated mixed use, and recognize the preparation of additional environmental review documents;

• Change the zoning of the C‐4, mixed-use commercial zone to also allow horizontal, distributed mixed-use in addition to vertical, distributed mixed use;

• Allow an “outdoor recreation use for profit” as a permitted use, subject to city approval of an administrative use permit;

• Allow mixed-use commercial to be changed to allow horizontal mixed use in addition to vertical;

• Allow the city’s community development director to amend the design standards document rather than have a subommittee of the Auburn city council do it; and

• Change references to recognize any future amendments to the design standards.

Inland hopes to build as its first phase a multi‐family complex with 500 dwelling units. While this number is consistent with the maximum number of multi‐family units considered and approved in the previously approved sub area plan of the City’s Comprehensive Plan, the Environmental Impact Statements and the DA, RPG had proposed mainly vertical construction, and Inland wants to build horizontal.

At a special council meeting on June 24, council members adopted a resolution approving an amended and re‐stated development agreement between the city and Inland, and Inland has since moved forward to acquire the properties.

The Washington State Finance Commission has awarded the project housing finance credit that requires construction to start by the close of 2019. Also, in 2020, with FEMA’s anticipated expansions of its map boundaries for flood plains in the project area, Morris said on that occasion, it is essential that Inland show progress.

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