Tumwater reviews huge apartment complex proposal along Tyee Road


Tumwater’s new hearing examiner Mark Scheibmeir led a public hearing this week on the proposed development of the Yorkshire Apartments, an apartment complex to be built between Israel Road and Tumwater Boulevard.

The developer, Grandviews Yorkshire, is proposing to build seven 5-story residential structures, one mixed-used 4-story building, and a 5-story self-storage facility. The city is also requiring the construction of an extension of Tyee Drive from Israel Road to Tumwater Boulevard as mitigation to the project’s impact on traffic.

Glenn Wells, a representative for Grandviews Yorkshire, told Scheibmeir that the project is eligible for a 12-year property tax.

Under the city’s municipal code, a multi-family housing development may be eligible for this tax exemption if the developer commits to renting 20% of the units as affordable housing to low- and moderate-income households. The municipal code defines low income households as households earning at or below 80% of the median income, while moderate-income households are those earning at or below 115% of the median income.

The specific purpose of the hearing was to review and gather testimonies about the preliminary binding site plan of the apartment complex.

A binding site plan is an alternative way of dividing land so that multiple lots can collectively fulfill developmental requirements such as road access, parking, and open space.

Tumwater’s municipal code allows developments to be constructed in phases if the building site plan contains ten or more dwelling units. As the site would have 1,153 residential units in total, the developer is permitted to proceed with the project in phases.

There would be four phases in total. The first phase includes the construction of a 5-story building of 240 residential units and a right-in/right-out access from Israel Road.

After the initial phase, any certificate of occupancy for the next phases would only be granted by the city upon the construction of the Tyee Drive extension and a roundabout at the intersection of Tyee Drive and Tumwater Boulevard.

In each phase hereafter, two apartment buildings of five stories would be constructed. The phase two apartments include 333 units, the third phase comprises 320 units, while the last phase includes 218 units.

Aside from apartment buildings, a clubhouse with a  swimming pool would also be built in phase two, while the mixed-used building and mini-storage facility would be part of the third phase. The mixed-use building would have 9,000 square feet of commercial space and 42 apartment units.

A staff report finds that the proposed development is in conformance with binding site plan regulations, as well as with the Tumwater Comprehensive Plan.

Site plan of Yorkshire Apartments includes the construction of seven apartment buildings, one mixed-use building, a storage facility, and an extension of Tyee Drive to Tumwater Boulevard.
Site plan of Yorkshire Apartments includes the construction of seven apartment buildings, one mixed-use building, a storage facility, and an …

Conditional use permit

The property owner is also seeking a conditional use permit as high-rise apartments and mini-storage facilities are only allowed as conditional uses in general commercial zones where the property is located.

The staff report states that city staff believes that the proposed development meets the criteria and requirements for conditional use.

Permit Manager Tami Merriman told Scheibmeir that the city’s municipal code does not specify minimum standards for the high-rise apartments as a conditional use. Merriman did believe though that compliance with the city’s design standards and environmental review process would allow for the approval of a conditional use permit.

“We believe that following our design standards, our environmental determination in our environmental review, along with the mitigation measures…  would allow them approval of the conditional use for the high-rise apartments,” Merriman said.

As for the storage facility, Merriman explained that the municipal code allows conditional use of storage facilities if it has no parking space on yards that are used as buffer from other properties. Merriman said that the storage’s layout complies with this requirement.

Scheibmeir inquired whether the city has additional regulations to minimize the aesthetic impact of the storage facility. Merriman said that since the building would be in a commercial district, it would have to comply with the city’s commercial design guidelines to ensure it would not have any blank walls and that it meets other design standards.

Environmental concerns

The city received several comments about the project. While some comments were in support of the complex as it would provide affordable housing, there were also comments about its impact on trees, traffic, groundwater quality, and gopher habitat. Merriman said that these concerns have been addressed as part of the city’s development standards and critical area code.

For tree retention, the city requires that 20% of trees or at least 12 trees per acre of forest should be retained within proposed developments. Merriman said that the project could only retain 91 out of 316 trees which it is required to keep.

In such cases, the city allows for a mitigation plan that involves the replacement of trees. The city requires three trees to be planted for each tree that cannot be retained, which means that the developer would need to plant 655 trees, according to Merriman.

Regarding concerns about the project’s impact on gopher habitat, Merriman said that a qualified biologist surveyed the site for Mazama pocket gophers and concluded that no mound formations in the site were created by pocket gophers.

The study, which was conducted from June to July 2022, acknowledged that according to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, pocket gophers do occur on nearby northwest properties. The study, however, found no mounds in the portion of the development site adjacent to those properties. A dense forest also borders those properties.

Scheibmeir highlighted concerns about potential high groundwater flooding in the area. He acknowledged that the project would have to comply with the city’s drainage manual, but requested if staff could explain it better for the general public.

Development Review Engineer Jared Cruz said that on top of the drainage manual, the city has an ordinance regarding high groundwater which established additional review requirements for certain areas of the city.

“While this area is maybe not directly located in an area where we have witnessed or where the county has witnessed groundwater flooding, it is in that high groundwater control area that's established by the ordinance,  so it is applicable to those additional screening requirements,” Cruz said.


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  • CrazyGranny

    And every single one of those apartments will be so expensive that only the rich will be able to afford to live there!!! I say deny the permit unless at least one of the buildings will be true low-income apartments!!!!!

    Friday, January 5 Report this

  • Southsoundguy

    These are industrial dormitories. This what the government expects Tumwater to become, a dumping ground for 18-35 who will be packed into overpriced dormitories to as stockers at a massive warehouse. This reveals the preference the government has for the future of this community. That property could easily be used to build clusters of 2-6 unit dwellings while maintaining plenty of natural woods and green space. But they’d rather have someone who doesn’t care at all about this community and it’s aesthetic slam 1100 crap units and paved over lots in there. How does this support family formation? How does this ACTUALLY bring down housing costs? This proposed development will become a ghetto within 10 years. No to the development, I don’t care if the offer “low income” tax scam units.

    Saturday, January 6 Report this

  • BobJacobs

    The owners' commitment to include affordable units lasts only as long as the tax exemption -- 12 years. Articles about the Multi-Family Tax Exemption (MFTE) almost never include this fact, instead leading readers to think these income restrictions are permanent.

    Also almost never mentioned is that taxpayers will see increases in their tax bills to pay the property taxes from which the MFTE exempts the owners.

    And finally, such articles almost never give the actual income levels of people eligible for the affordable units. Just "percent of area median income" This doesn't tell us who we're increasing our taxes to help out.

    Why are our media helping our public officials to obfuscate the actual impacts of their actions?

    Bob Jacobs

    Saturday, January 6 Report this

  • JW

    More market rate housing is a boon to the area.

    Saturday, January 6 Report this

  • jimlazar

    All they have to do to satisfy the "20%" that must be "affordable" units is to make 20% of them studio apartments. Studio apartments, maybe 300 - 400 square feet, are half or a third the size of most apartments, and rent for half as much. They don't have to discount the rent, just build small units.

    And once they do that, all the units are tax-exempt for 12 years. For that period, other taxpayers in Tumwater will make up the difference in what the City loses, and other taxpayers in the Tumwater School District will make up the difference in what the school district loses.

    These apartments, if built, will increase the number of dwelling units in Tumwater by about 8%. If they are valued at half the average value of a Tumwater dwelling unit, then the average household will pay a 4% increase in their property taxes (Tim Eyman's Initiative 747 1% limit does not affect individual properties and does not affect increased taxes due to the value of new construction, including new MFTE properties).

    Sunday, January 7 Report this

  • Southsoundguy

    Industrial dormitory ghettos that are overpriced and do nothing to support household/family development are not a boon to the area.

    Monday, January 8 Report this

  • DesertMedic

    Making Tumwater like Lacey. Bringing in more apts with horrible rates, and even making some low income. Great. We moved here to escape the garbage North.

    Monday, January 8 Report this

  • Southsoundguy

    DesertMedic, we can't escape it. Municipal governments are built to transform the land into a wasteland through zoning. The City of Tumwater will inevitably turn this area into Federal Way, it doesn't know any other way to conduct itself.

    Tuesday, January 9 Report this

  • Deanima

    SSG opposes zoning, but has very specific ideas of what should be allowed for this property (because he should be in charge - he is the "zoner."). Also seems to know that the market would support the "2-6 uclustered dwelling units," (because he is actually not a boorish blowhard, he is a knowledgeable developer!).

    SSG, are you aware that Tumwater is not the developer here? Tumwater is not making the developer do this project. Do you realize that this is a commercial zone that allows all sorts of uses, such as retail, offices, parks and open space, motels, repair shops, and on and on. The developer chose not to do any of those things. Given your anti-zoning, anti-government, "free market" (when it agrees with you) approach, you should be delighted that the developer has chosen this "industrial ghetto." Or would you rather the "government" step in to stop it. Make up your mind.

    Tuesday, January 9 Report this