The controversy surrounding the Assisted Living Building on the Emerald Heights campus is about more than trees. It centers on commitments Emerald Heights’ management made to the citizens of Redmond in their 2010 Rezone Application when they sought changes that would allow an increase in building density of 30 percent.
As a member of the Redmond City Council, I voted to approve the Emerald Heights Rezone Application in 2011. It is a decision I have come to regret.
Emerald Heights applied to rezone their campus from R4 to R6 in 2010. While this doesn’t seem like much, keep in mind the City of Redmond Zoning Code provides developers of senior housing a triple density bonus. In effect, Emerald Heights would get R18 density in a primarily R4 neighborhood. What does this mean? With approval they could build up to 680 housing units where the existing underlying zoning would only permit 152 units. Today, they intend to build a structure best suited for our dense urban centers in an existing green belt they promised to preserve.
The residents of my neighborhood, Abbey Road, did not speak against the 2010 Rezone Application because it preserved the status quo between us and Emerald Heights; future expansion would take place behind the existing green belts that obscured the dense development on the campus from our residential neighborhood.
Surprisingly, 100 of Emerald Heights’ own residents petitioned the city to deny the rezone on grounds that it would have, “significant adverse impacts to the environment,” lead to “overtaxed sewer lines” and congestion from “the impact of over 150 more cars in the neighborhood.” Ultimately, at a public hearing on the matter, the attorney representing Emerald Heights dismissed the resident’s claims because, “they are not considered leased tenants, nor do they own any piece of the property. So, we appreciate their concerns, but they are not owners.”
What were some of the commitments made in the Rezone Application signed as “true and correct” by the management of Emerald Heights still in charge today? They promised “The green belts around the site will be retained,” and “The proposed development will make optimal use of the developed areas while retaining the existing green belts and natural areas around the site,” and “View for the neighboring developments will not be altered.”
The executive director of Emerald Heights, Grant Lincare, in a Jan. 5, 2018 letter to the Redmond Reporter states, “There were no requirements in Emerald Heights original approval, or in any subsequent zoning or development plan approvals, that buildings be placed in specific locations on the property.” That may be true, but it is Emerald Heights’ own words that stipulate where the buildings will NOT be placed – the existing green belts. They have other ways to meet the needs of their residents for assisted living and private skilled nursing on their campus. This includes redeveloping space currently taken up by the single-story cottages they slated for demolition and replacement in their rezone application.
If I knew in 2011 that Emerald Heights would try to renege on its commitments, I would have voted to deny the application. Emerald Heights states on their website that its first core value is Integrity – “We honor all commitments and contracts.” Now would be a good time for them to live up to their words.
Former Redmond City Council member, 2010-2017