BOTHELL — Three years ago Jannelle Loewen and her neighbors made a public stand when the University of Washington Bothell sought to build a six-story dormitory on a patch of the campus abutting their back yards.
And the university retreated.
This year, they may not be as successful in stopping construction of a rectangular five-level parking garage on the same west-campus site behind homes on two cul-de-sacs.
The city has begun processing a permit. If all goes as planned, construction could begin this summer on the $30 million structure and be completed in a year.
Loewen is angry, frustrated and working to stir up enough last-minute scrutiny to motivate leaders of the UW and Cascadia College to rethink, if not redo, the proposal.
“It will be a huge blot on the side of the hill,” she said. “They want to do it on raw ground right next to our neighborhood when they could just build up an existing garage.”
But a top UW official said the colleges are proceeding and hope the city will give them the go-ahead in the next few weeks.
“We want to be good neighbors. We want it to be a good public project,” said Kelly Snyder, assistant vice chancellor for government and community relations. “There are approved zoning and city code regulations in place and we are following them to the T.”
There is deeply rooted tension between those residing on 182nd and 183rd courts — the cul-de-sacs — and those making development decisions on the campus shared by the UW and Cascadia College.
When the dormitory idea came up, university leaders got an earful. They withdrew the proposal, regrouped and decided to write a master plan to guide development. It would serve as a road map for how the colleges would meet the demands of growing enrollment, laying out where new academic buildings, dormitories, and parking structures could be constructed in the coming years.
College officials held 17 public meetings, Snyder said. The final product divided the campus into areas. For each area there are potential projects and prescribed development restrictions the City Council approved in late 2017. The UW Board of Regents and Cascadia College Board of Trustees put their stamps of approval on it in early 2018.
The proposed garage is in Development Area C. Today it is a maintenance yard where trucks are parked and materials stored.
As designed, the garage would have 600 stalls over five floors with one of those floors below ground level. It will be 37 feet tall with a 50-foot setback from the nearest residential property, Snyder said. Steps will be taken to reduce the effects of noise and lights and bolster an existing visual buffer, she said.
Loewen has had a front-row seat to the birth and maturation of the Bothell campus, which was founded in 1989.
She said she and her husband designed and built their home on 183rd Court and moved in 30 years ago. They have two children who are both graduates of UW Seattle, and she earned a degree from UW Bothell.
Over the years, she’s sat through plenty of meetings and read plenty of documents as the university and college took root. In writing and in person, she said, officials pledged to keep a solid greenbelt between the homes and future campus buildings.
When the master plan process got underway, she attended those sessions too. She and her neighbors pushed for more trees and less concrete and university officials said they would work to minimize the impacts.
“It felt like they were listening to us,” Loewen said.
Then she saw the layout for the garage. “Nothing we said made any difference,” she said.
Neighbors still have opportunities to voice their concerns.
As part of the city’s permit review process, owners of properties within 500 feet of the site received a notice of the application’s filing and a 21-day period in which to respond with any comments.
City staff will make the final decision. Once they do, property owners will get a copy. It will contain any conditions placed on the project as well as procedures and timing for an appeal, according to Community Development Director Michael Kattermann.
In the meantime, in March, officials of the university and college plan another public meeting to discuss the status of the project, Snyder said.
Jeanne Zornes lives in the neighborhood and got the city’s notice of the permit application. She was one of those working to derail the dorm project in 2016. Now, a city councilwoman, she knows the fate of the project is in the hands of the University of Washington Bothell and Cascadia College.
“They would have to push the pause button,” she said. “If they care about not breaking trust with the community, they might do that. That might be prudent.”