AN INFILL PROJECT FOR THE WATERFRONT – Chip and Janie Hall will build five Airbnb apartments along with first floor commercial on this lot once they get everything approved and permitted. It will have street and water access both. “One if by land, and two if by sea,” Paul Revere might have said.      – Photo by Ken Stern
AN INFILL PROJECT FOR THE WATERFRONT – Chip and Janie Hall will build five Airbnb apartments along with first floor commercial on this lot once they get everything approved and permitted. It will have street and water access both. “One if by land, and two if by sea,” Paul Revere might have said. – Photo by Ken Stern

New Town Hearing Examiner David Lowell has begun his tenure reviewing a proposed waterfront project that enjoys a strong current of local support. 

Town Planner Michael Davolio and planning commissioners have endorsed applications by Chip and Janie Hall for shoreline development and conditional use permits to construct a mixed-use building on First Street just north of the Channel Lodge. 

The Halls plan to build a 5,322 square-foot water-dependent structure on a private parking lot that provides moorage. 

“The project,” Davolio said in a detailed staff report provided to commissioners at their Zoom meeting last Tuesday, “proposes development of short-term rental use and laundry and restrooms for the marina, commercial use on the ground floor facing the channel, with residential garages and storage facing First Street.” 

During brief remarks, Chip Hall referred to the short-term residential portion of the project as “five Airbnb units on the waterfront.” 

Plans call for 3,290 square feet of commercial use and 2,033 square feet of residential use on the ground floor. Three separate residential apartments are proposed on the second floor. 

The commission was unanimous in its support of Davolio’s recommendation that they endorse and forward the project to Lowell. 

“I think this looks like a great project,” commission chair Bruce Bradburn said. “It’s an improvement over a gravel parking lot.” 

Commissioner Rick Dole agreed, saying, “I’ve looked it over in detail and it will be a big improvement.” 

Lowell heard the proposal Thursday and will likely issue a ruling by the end of this week, said Mayor Ramon Hayes. 

In a separate proposal, Davolio said the Halls are seeking an administrative variance related to parking requirements for the project’s residential uses.

That application will be acted upon after Lowell renders his decision on the shoreline and conditional use permits. 

Project applicants can be charged a monetary assessment in lieu of required parking spaces they are unable to provide. 

“There will be money involved,” Davolio noted, quipping, “Sorry, Chip.” 

The Hall project, said Davolio, would be located just outside La Conner’s Historic Preservation District. 

The commission was to have heard a presentation from La Conner High student Rachel Cram addressing the feasibility of using QR codes on local historic buildings to provide the backstory of each structure to citizens and tourists. Cram was unable to attend, however, due to playing in a Lady Braves basketball game that evening. She has been rescheduled to appear before the commission on June 15. Davolio said Cram’s proposal requires no official Town approval. “Our research of the Town’s Historical District and sign regulations suggests such signage would be defined as a commemorative plaque sign. Such signs require no approval from the Town as long as they are smaller than three square feet in size.” 

Davolio suggested Cram make a presentation to the commission about her project and she will be assisted by Hayes. “Her great-grandparents lived a lot of that history,” Hayes told the Weekly News, “so it will be great to have information that’s different from what we’re used to having.” 

Davolio said a joint meeting of the Town Planning and Parks commissions in July is being planned to discuss the parks and recreation element of the Town Comprehensive Plan. “To me,” said Davolio, “this can’t go forward without the review and input of both commissions.”