Save Madison Valley argues the city did not follow its own code, rules and regulations when assessing the environmental and neighborhood impacts of the new development.
Save Madison Valley argues the city did not follow its own code, rules and regulations when assessing the environmental and neighborhood impacts of the new development.
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Neighborhood group Save Madison Valley has submitted its 105-page appeal to the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspection director’s approval of plans for the 82-unit mixed-use The Madison development.

The SDCI director’s decision was published on July 23. SVM had until Aug. 6 to file its appeal, which challenges a final recommendation of the design review board, the director’s decision on a land use application by architecture firm Studio Meng Strazzara and SDCI’s land use code interpretation.

The Madison would replace City People’s Garden Center, 2925 E. Madison St., with a six-story mixed-use development that includes a PCC Market. A tree canopy sloping down from East Madison to Dewey Place East would also be removed; six townhomes are planned to front Dewey.

Save Madison Valley has been critical of developer Velmeir Companies’ plans for the site since the early design guidance phase. Not only are its members opposed to losing a canopy of old trees, they also argue the size of the project doesn’t fit among Madison Valley’s single-family residences.

“Velmeir used the presence of the slope to its advantage to get extra height and then, ironically, proposed to remove the slope completely,” reads a portion SMV’s appeal introduction. “Velmeir argued for and received a complete waiver of all steep slope and liquefaction protections in the code. Velmeir also argued for and received a green light to remove every single tree on site, including exceptional trees. Velmeir didn’t even try to minimize the impacts of its development and SDCI didn’t even ask them to.”

SMV argued the there are at least 39 trees on the site that are significant by city definition. Removing the canopy will have “severe stormwater, aesthetic, environmental, and other impacts on members of SMV,” and the size of the new development will also “tower over SMV members’ homes,” according to the appeal.

Engineers have estimated the residences and PCC Market will generate 1,230 daily vehicle trips, with 244 new p.m. peak hour trips and 51 a.m. peak hour trips.

“The East Madison Street Proposal will also introduce significant public safety issues, especially new traffic and congestion onto the streets in the area that are used by members of SMV,” the appeal states, “including the quiet, narrow residential street, Dewey Place East.”

Save Madison Valley argues the SDCI director’s decision to issue a determination of non-significance was in error, and city regulations do not adequately address or mitigate the impacts of the proposal.

The appeal states the director did not properly analyze adverse impacts related to slopes, surface water, groundwater, sewer, wastewater, flooding, trees, land use, wildlife, transportation, parking, noise, infrastructure, aesthetics and construction.

Because the design review board lacked information that would have been provided through an accurate and complete environmental review, SMV argues, it made improper and uninformed decisions. The board also did not “allow for meaningful public participation,” according to the appeal.

The appeal also argues that the developer and architecture firm did not adequately address design changes requested by the design board.

The East Design Review Board cleared the design by Studio Meng Strazzara last September, following its fourth presentation of the project.

Save Madison Valley wants the Hearing Examiner to reverse the determination of non-significance and require SDCI to conduct further analysis and mitigation. It also wants the review board or director to reconsider The Madison project after proper environmental review is conducted, and also for SDCI to “conduct a new review based on a proper construction and application of provisions” in city code.

Geza de Gall, Velmeir vice president of real estate for the Pacific Northwest, told the Madison Park Times, after the director’s decision was issued, that he’s hopeful the appeals process will be concluded in the developer’s favor by spring 2019.

SMV spokesperson Melissa Stoker told MPT that the neighborhood group will pursue further appeals in the courts if it is unable to successfully argue its case before the Hearing Examiner.

“We’re going to go as far as we can,” she said. “In part, we’re doing that because we do have a lot of support in the community.”

Members of SMV include engineers, attorneys, arborists and a traffic consultant, Stoker said, and they believe their challenge that the city erred in interpreting its own regulations will prevail.

“The city just has to stand beside its own rules and codes and regulations,” she said.

Stoker said she took issue with de Gall telling MPT that the potential to opt into the city’s HALA upzone to add affordable housing in return for an additional floor height would provide an interesting challenge to SMV.

He said Save Madison Valley’s “talking points are being diminished with every step of the process,” and it would be interesting to see the neighborhood group essentially oppose affordable housing.

A letter to the editor submitted by Stoker is available in the side bar of this article.

Save Madison Valley Appeal by branax2000 on Scribd