Setback on setbacks: Back to drawing board for Briarcliff developer

The controversial, 39-home Cluster Housing project proposed for the site of the former Briarcliff Elementary School in Magnolia needs some adjustment, according to an October ruling by a city hearing examiner.

"It's back to the drawing board in a way, but a minor way," said Greg Cotter from the Magnolia Action Group (MAG), which is made up of neighborhood residents who oppose the project. The ruling does not change the number of homes planned for the luxury-housing development, he conceded.

What has changed are the required setbacks off West Dravus Street as well as the lot coverage for the entire project, said Alan Justad, a spokesman for the Department of Planning and Development (DPD), which OKd the project earlier this year. Standards for setbacks off West Dravus are 20 feet, he said. "Those must be met," Justad added. "That wasn't in the original plans."

The area of Magnolia around the school site is zoned single-family for 5,000-square-foot lots (SF 5000), and development standards call for a maximum lot coverage of 35 percent, or 1,750 square feet.

But a Cluster Housing development still allows 1,750 square feet of lot coverage even if the lots are 4,000 square feet or less, as some of the project's lots are, Justad said.

However, the hearing examiner ruled that the 35 percent lot coverage has to apply to the total site size of 200,000 square feet, Justad added. "They're going to have to shrink some of those houses... or all of them, depending on how they do it," he said of Lexington Fine Homes, the Bellevue-based developer of the project.

"It's not that big a deal," said John Cochenour, Lexington president. "When we originally submitted this, we had approximately the maximum of 72,000 square feet," he said of lot coverage using the 1,750-square-foot standard.

What the hearing examiner ruling calls for is only 70,000 square feet of total lot coverage for the site, Cochenour said. "What that meant is we have to adjust property lines."

The hearing examiner still has to approve of an Administrative Conditional Use for the project once the DPD OKs the revised plans, Justad said. Cochenour said he expects that will probably happen at a hearing in January.

That still isn't the end of the process. The Seattle City Council also has to approve of a subdivision for the project, Justad said.

Cochenour said he is confident that will happen, too, and he downplays objections from MAG about the project. "I still think this will be a marvelous addition to the neighborhood when it's done."

Still, Justad noted, approval of the project can be appealed to the Superior Court.

Reporter Russ Zabel can be reached at 461-1309 or by email at[[In-content Ad]]