Developer gets his way with plan for Bartelson Home

The Bothell City Council agreed April 15 to ease building and zoning regulations for developer Steve Cox, who plans to restore the historic Bartelson Home and construct new houses around it.

Bothell Council allows averaging for new project


The Bothell City Council agreed April 15 to ease building and zoning regulations for developer Steve Cox, who plans to restore the historic Bartelson Home and construct new houses around it.

Cox needed wetland-buffer averaging to make the project possible.

The city allows such provisions as an incentive for restoring historic properties.

Bothell’s Landmarks Preservation Board nominated the Bartelson Home for that designation on Dec. 4 of 2006.

Some of the committee’s members have since rescinded their support, saying the house may not meet standards for the listing now that Cox has moved it.

“It may or may not still be eligible for designation,” said board member Sue Kienast. “The council should not be making this decision based on our 2006 approval, which may no longer be valid.”

Kienast implied during the April 15 council meeting that the Landmarks Preservation Board was not aware Cox had moved the Bartelson Home when it was nominated for the registry.

But records show that the developer made his actions clear during that time, stating to the committee that, “He had the 800-square-foot house moved … in order to save the house from demolition and he intends to restore it.”

The Bartelson Home design — which includes a gable frame, shiplap siding and double-hung windows — is characteristic of Western Farmhouse architectural styles that were common during the time of its construction in 1884.

Cox took possession of the house when he purchased the Waterbrook property, located north of Country Village along the Bothell-Everett Highway.

The city required him to preserve the Bartelson Home in order to move forward with plans for developing a subdivision at the site.

Cox eventually moved the house to a six-acre parcel located immediately west of Westbrook, indicating that he intended to renovate the home and develop a banquet center around it.

The plan folded because of concerns about the impacts that such a facility would have on surrounding neighborhoods.

Cox has since approached the city about building six new houses around the Bartelson Home — at its new site — in order to recoup the costs of preserving the landmark, which he estimates at around $1.2 million.

“For me, this is a labor of love,” he said. “There aren’t any structures in Bothell that are older than this.

“It deserves someone to step up and find a solution to the restoration puzzle.”

Council has agreed to allow buffer averaging to make Cox’s project possible, which means some protected areas will be smaller than regulations require, while others will exceed them.

The development would disturb approximately 41,000 square feet of wetlands and buffers while restoring or enhancing around 79,000 square feet, which is more than city regulations require.

Kienast raised concerns that the city’s contract with Cox did nothing to prevent him from demolishing the Bartelson Home.

City Council has since called for new language in the development agreement that would prevent this from happening.

Cox has indicated that he will not demolish the home.

“It’s my intention to preserve the house, not destroy it,” he told The Reporter.

Cox also said he will use low-impact development techniques at the site wherever possible.

“We’re going to press the envelope and get as creative as we can,” he said. “I’ve asked my engineers for the most aggressive impervious surface design possible.

“I’d like to see myself in here with all impervious surface and infiltration for downspouts and gutters.”

Another point of contention for those who opposed Cox’s plan is that he never obtained a permit to move the Bartelson Home from its original site.

This allowed him to avoid bonding the relocation costs, as well as a requirement to put the house on a foundation.

“It’s not like I did this under the cloak of darkness,” Cox said. “We worked on it for two to three months before we moved it.”

City planners knew of Cox’s plans, but failed to request a permit.

“They weren’t aware that a building permit or a moving permit was required,” said Bothell Building Official Mike DeLack. “At this point, the city’s saying ‘Let’s move forward with siting, and the developer will have to apply for the requisite permits prior to doing the work.”

Cox claims he is ultimately responsible for the error.

“If there’s anyone who should take a hit on that, it’s me,” he said.

“I screwed up. It’s a $28 permit.”