Permit hearings loom for changes to Villages of Ocean Shores

A permit hearing has been tentatively scheduled March 28 on initial planning changes proposed by the new owners of the 43 acres known as The Villages of Ocean Shores.

The city’s Planning Commission last week heard a report that the new owners want to add more retail — as much as 30,000 square feet — than originally called for, as well as scrap previous plans for a restrictive 55-year-old and older community on the southern end of the Ocean Shores peninsula.

The retail planning change will likely be the subject of the March 28 session before a hearing examiner, now set for 1:30 p.m. at the Lions Club. The city then will have to set an additional hearing date, likely in late April, for proposed changes that would reclassify the project as a planned unit development.

Documents already sent to the city show the new developers plan eventually to attract businesses such as coffee shops, small library/book exchange space, a grocery/deli, restaurants, small office essential supplier, or boating supplies.

“I think these are just ideas they have thrown out,” said Alicia Bridges, city planner. “They have a plan to build some buildings, and they are going to be retail buildings. Whoever wants to rent space can rent space and it’s not just going to be only for the planned development. Anyone wanting to open a business can rent from that space.”

Bridges noted the former plans called for the retail to be confined to those who were using the property and not to the general public, which will be changed.

Stavros Anastasiou, one of the principle members of the Bellevue-based corporation that outbid three other groups for the property with a $1.6 million deal, has said he sees The Villages property as a centerpiece for new development in the area. It was sold Dec. 31 to his new company known as Ocean Shores Villages LLC. The registered agent is listed as Jeffery Foushee of Bellevue. Others listed in the company’s governing structure are Loch Anderson of Bellevue and Anastasiou Development LLC of Clyde Hill. The property had been tied up in financial and legal trouble after plans to build a much larger gated condo project fizzled.

In June, a Montana judge issued an injunction stopping First Interstate Bank’s scheduled foreclosure sale of the property after the Montana bank claimed the previous ownership failed to make payments on loans.

The Villages in its original state had been promoted by real estate developer Paul S. Pariser as a seaside gated community with plans for 15 buildings with 36 condo units in each building. Condos were listed in excess of $200,000, and amenities were to have included a clubhouse with indoor/outdoor pool, walking paths and retail services.

One condo building has been completed behind the gates at 135 Marine View Drive SW, but only four condo units were sold after the lender provided about $8.9 million for buildings and infrastructure improvements.

The Grays Harbor County Assessor’s office listed the entire 43.14 acres as appraised for more than $3.3 million.

Initial conceptual designs call for an expedited construction schedule.

“They want to get it started right now and they want it to be close to completion, the retail part of it, this year,” Bridges said.

Part of the new plans also designate an area for small cottages as well as condo units.

Planning Commission member Jerry Mergler said the major issues were parking, minimum square footage requirements, street layouts, walking paths and open space.

“They have to meet all requirements as far as code,” Bridges said.

After the March 28 hearing on the retail changes, the city Planning Commission then will have to conduct a subsequent hearing on the proposed changes to add the cottages, updates to an open space plan, and setbacks from the wetlands. The commission also will look at infrastructure in the development to accommodate all the uses and users.

“We’re really just looking what they have planned fits into code,” Bridges said.

The planned unit development designation allows the developers to build on units of 1,800-square feet provided they have a certain amount of open space per unit. That allows more density but attempts to balance it with surrounding open space.

“That can be a fenced yard, it can be a private deck or it can be park space,” Bridges explained.

Planning Commission member Holly Plackett questioned if the developers planned any sort of community meeting to introduce the new plans.

“Wouldn’t the business in Ocean Shores like to know there is another 30,000 square feet of retail being planned in this city?” She added, “We’re days away from the public hearing and this is the first we’re hearing about it.”

Bridges said that will be part of the public hearing process, and the developers will have to be in attendance there. Efforts to conduct Anastasiou last week were unsuccessful and he did not return an e-mail outlining questions about the planning changes.

Bridges noted the developers only notified the city last week that they were going to ask to be considered a planned unit development, rather than condominium units, and subdivide the property into smaller lots.

“We’re still trying to understand what they want to do,” Bridges said.