Save Madison Valley continues opposition to The Madison in court

Land-use petition challenges hearing examiner decision, seeks new design review process

Save Madison Valley continues opposition to The Madison in court

Save Madison Valley continues opposition to The Madison in court

Save Madison Valley has filed a land-use petition in King County Superior Court, the neighborhood group’s latest attempt to scale back plans for The Madison mixed-use development.

The Seattle Hearing Examiner’s Office in February partially sided with the Department of Construction and Inspections director’s decision to allow construction of the six-story mixed-use development that will have a PCC Market as its ground-floor anchor tenant. It will replace the City People’s Garden Center at 2925 E. Madison St., adding 82 housing units in Madison Valley.

Plans took four meetings to pass the East Design Review Board in 2017, and ended up adding increased setbacks on East Madison Street, facade changes on East Dewey Place and the addition of townhouses on the residential street to the project.

The land-use petition filed against developer Velmeir Properties and the City of Seattle asserts Deputy Hearing Examiner Barbara Ehrlichman erred in her Feb. 26 findings and decision, which followed a seven-day appeal hearing that started in December and concluded in February.

Save Madison Valley is challenging the project’s height, bulk and scale, which the group claims will have adverse impacts on the neighborhood. It also means the loss of the tree canopy on the development property.

“The East Madison Street Proposal will completely and utterly change the character and aesthetics of the neighborhood,” the petition states. “It is an understatement to say that the aesthetic, height/bulk/scale, traffic and other impacts will be significant and adverse to the neighborhood.

“…The Proposal does not respond in a complimentary or supportive way to the built features of the Madison Valley neighborhood. Instead, it looms over the neighborhood like a fortress on a hill.”

The deputy hearing examiner found that Save Madison Valley failed to meet its burden of showing the project did not comply with applicable design review guidelines. She noted multiple modifications were made to the project as requested by the EDRB that addressed height, bulk and scale.

“The Hearing Examiner erred as a matter of law when she concluded that the appellant, Save Madison Valley, bore the burden of proving that the Director’s Decision, the approval of design review, and the determination of non-significance (DNS) were ‘clearly erroneous,’” the petition states. “The scope of review for issues presented in a Hearing Examiner appeal is de novo review, not clearly erroneous review.”

Save Madison Valley argues the design review process violated State Environmental Policy Act requirements because the East Design Review Board’s decision was not informed by SEPA review; it was not completed prior to EDRB approval in September 2017. This also limited alternative design choices during the review process, the petition states.

The group argues the hearing examiner incorrectly interpreted the review board’s direction for a year-round landscape buffer of evergreen trees at the Dewey frontage, and that is not what is in the design.

Ehrlichman did find the DNS was erroneous in its threshold determination related to drainage, and that decision was reversed and remanded to SDCI for further action. The drainage report was determined to be outdated.

The deputy hearing examiner also denied a motion for reconsideration by SDCI regarding mitigating shade on the Mad P-Patch adjacent to the property. The department argued an agreement between SDOT and the Department of Neighborhoods makes it clear P-Patch community gardens “are not permanently dedicated park or open space uses.”

The deputy hearing examiner found that there is no sensitive habitat within the development site, “such as a wetland or stream,” and “the isolated habitat on the site is not part of a habitat corridor, and there are no uncommon or exceptional species using the site.”

SMV argued in its appeal that there are at least 39 trees on the site that are significant by city standards.

“The evidence demonstrated that there would be significant adverse aesthetic impacts due to the loss of the mature tree canopy onsite,” the April 10 petition states. “The Examiner’s basis for denying petitioner’s challenge to the DNS relevant to this particular issue was that the applicant had made reasonable attempts to save the trees, but could not save them because the hillside was constructed of fill and the trees would not survive the development of the property. That is not a credible basis for concluding that the aesthetic impacts of removing the trees will not be significant. Whether or not the trees could be saved is irrelevant to the issue of whether ultimately removing all of the trees will have a significant adverse aesthetic impact to the neighborhood.”

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 Madison will have 140 parking stalls, 70 accessible for residents from East Dewey Place and 70 for retail customers on East Madison, which is also where delivery trucks will back into a loading bay with the assistance of traffic flaggers for the life of the project.

SMV argues the hearing examiner erred in her conclusion the SDCI director had mitigated traffic impacts in its decision.

The group wants all decisions in question regarding the project’s approval to be reversed and for a new, “proper design review” to be completed that is informed by the SEPA review.

Save Madison Valley has for years provided regular updates on its fight against the proposed project at