Council to hear plans for former Evans Seafood property

Published 2:34 pm Wednesday, March 14, 2007

By Staff
Accepts Planning Board’s recommendation to sell for commercial development
By MIKE VOSS, Contributing Editor
Washington’s City Council will entertain development proposals for the former Evans Seafood property.
The measure it passed included a provision that any developer’s proposal to develop the property, which the city owns, must include a park component that includes design and maintenance elements.
The council made that decision during its meeting Monday after voting 3-2 to accept the Planning Board’s recommendation the property be sold for commercial development that would be the “highest and best use” of the property. The board’s recommendation included a provision calling for open space adjacent to the former Evans Seafood property to remain that way.
Council members Mickey Gahagan, Darwin Woolard and Ed Gibson voted for the measure. Council members Archie Jennings and Richard Brooks voted against it. Gahagan, Woolard and Gibson also voted to accept the board’s recommendation for the former Evans Seafood property. Jennings and Brooks voted against accepting the board’s recommendation.
An amendment, offered by Jennings, to the motion to accept the recommendation failed. Jennings’ amendment would have made the board’s recommendation nonbinding on the council. Jennings and Brooks indicated they wanted more time to find answers to several questions about the property, including its exact acreage and configuration.
Gahagan said the council could work to find those answers and listen to development proposals for the property during the same time frame.
Woolard said he has no problem exploring possible development opportunities for the property while the council finds answers to questions about the property. Woolard also said the public should be allowed to provide input on any development proposal for the property that the city may receive.
Mayor Judy Meier Jennette said she and council members “need to get serious about what we want to do there.”
Jennette also said there are developers who want to make a presentation to the city about what they would like to do with the former Evans Seafood property.
Some speakers at the meeting opposed developing the property and adjacent open space. Other speakers called for the city to develop the former Evans Seafood property, noting the city purchased the land in 1999 for economic-development opportunities.
Some speakers questioned whether a small hotel should be built on the former Evans Seafood property, a proposal endorsed by others. Some supporters of developing the former Evans Seafood property said building a hotel there could be a way to attract more people to the city, especially its central business district. Other speakers said commercial development of the property could come in forms other than a hotel.
Some opponents said there’s been no information offered that shows a hotel at the former Evans Seafood property would be financially feasible. Several attempts to bring hotels to the downtown area, either by building a new hotel are renovating an existing building to house a hotel, have not succeeded.
Tom Howard, who opposes developing the former Evans Seafood property for commercial usage, said the council’s handling of the property matter gives the impression of “a done deal” when it comes to the fate of that property. Howard also said some council members have been and are being supported by people who want to see the former Evans Seafood property developed for commercial use.
For more coverage of the council’s meeting, see future editions of the Daily News.