Heron House Holdings LLC’s request for a rezone of its property at Fifth Street and K Avenue so it can build condominiums or townhouses on the site has run into opposition from several neighbors.
Residents who live near the site, a former fish processing plant on Guemes Channel between Anchor Cove Marina and Trident Seafoods, say the site is not large enough to accommodate such development and would increase parking in the neighborhood. The property includes 15,600 square feet of tidelands, which some neighbors fear would be disrupted habitat for heron, osprey, otters and seals.
Ten letters were submitted to the city Planning Department in opposition. There were no letters in support, although three letters called for resolving conflicts between city zoning regulations and the Shoreline Master Program; the latter is a set of rules governing development in shoreline areas.
The site is currently zoned light manufacturing, which allows condos and townhouses. But the property is near the shoreline and carries an Urban Maritime designation under the city’s Shoreline Master Program, which does not allow condos and townhouses, only water-dependent commercial uses.
On behalf of Heron House Holdings, Nels Strandberg of Strandberg Construction asked the city to make a change in the Shoreline Master Program to allow mixed-use residential development as a conditional use in the Urban Maritime designation, and that the water-dependent use requirement be waived if the planning director determines such use “is unfeasible due to site constraints.”
The site is “squeezed geographically,” Strandberg said in an earlier interview. “We’re on the waterfront, but practical, light manufacturing use of the waterfront is next to impossible.”
“The current proposal is not in keeping with ‘Old Town Purpose and/or Character’ and I don’t believe they have the acreage for the population density they are requesting,” Beth Bell, a resident of the 1500 block of Seventh Street, wrote in a letter to the city. “I also believe the proximity to Trident Foods would be a deterrent for many potential residents because of the nature of their business, hours, noise, trucking all day and night, etc.”
Judy Bushnell, a resident of the 1400 block of Fifth Street, wrote that she believes the setback from the street is inadequate and that the width of the building would obstruct neighborhood views.
“A multi-unit residential building with visitors would uncomfortably overload our streets,” Bushnell wrote. “Related to this is that Fifth and K streets is a three- to -four way intersection with a single stop sign. I have witnessed many near accidents and minimal attention to the one existing stop sign. Adding additional traffic to the access to the Anchor Cove Marina is not desirable to the neighborhood.”
While the property is privately owned and, off and on since the 1890s, had been the site of codfish drying and seafood processing operations, some residents see the site as an opportunity to provide public access to the waterfront.
The site “is one of the last tracts on the water that could (used) be for public open space in a populated area,” Chris Sherman of the 1400 block of Fifth Street wrote. “The property’s rezoning should be geared toward goals of the city to have public access.”
Allison Sherman added, “Anacortes has a long history of protecting the waterfront for light industry. The character of the community is strongly committed to jobs and public access to the waterfront.”
Dick de La Chapelle of the 1400 block of Sixth Street wrote that condominiums at the site would be inconsistent with the character of “Old Town” as described in the town’s Comprehensive Plan and that condo construction would “permanently prevent” water-access dependent uses from ever being developed there.
Dennis Clark, assistant division manager of the state Department of Natural Resources, didn’t offer an opinion on Heron House Holdings’ proposal, but did request that the Shoreline Master Program “be supportive of low-impact aquaculture uses.”
Heron House Holdings LLC is owned by Jerrel Barto, a developer and oil producer in Southern California who has a home and other real estate holdings in Anacortes. He also owns Rosario Resort on Orcas Island.
Strandberg Construction is awaiting permits from federal and state agencies that will clear the way for a city demolition permit so the crumbling 1890s fish processing plant can be brought down.