When Elizabeth Bendokas' husband, Charles, built their family home on Ross Road in Bothell in 1959, the city's population was only 1,500, and their street wasn't even paved. "They'd oil it in...

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When Elizabeth Bendokas’ husband, Charles, built their family home on Ross Road in Bothell in 1959, the city’s population was only 1,500, and their street wasn’t even paved.

“They’d oil it in summer to keep the dust down,” she recalled.

Now 80, Bendokas spent more than four decades in the house. She raised her family there and watched the city grow up around her. Now Ross Road is a busy one-way street draining Interstate 405 traffic flow, and the huge joint campus of Cascadia Community College and the University of Washington’s Bothell branch is just around the corner.

And even though she has recently moved to a retirement community, Bendokas has held on to her family’s home, waiting for Bothell officials to finally figure out what the future holds for the rest of the neighborhood.

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“I just want to live long enough to spend at least $10 of the money from that property,” she said.

Since 1995, the city of Bothell has debated zoning changes for the neighborhood around Bendokas’ house, in response to proposals first for a Hilton hotel, then an office park, and now what some say could become a Bothell version of Seattle’s University District. The City Council has been slow to loosen controls on the area, but development plans have stayed alive.

Majority support

Now, a majority on the council supports allowing a dense retail and residential development in the neighborhood between Ross Road and 112th Avenue Northeast, near the gates of the UW Bothell-Cascadia College campus.

The council is set to take a final vote Dec. 27. If the zoning ordinance passes, much of the neighborhood could soon turn into a five-story development of shops, restaurants, offices and perhaps 200 condominiums and apartments.

“You can draw parallels to ‘The Ave,’ to the University Village” in Seattle, said Bothell Community Development Director Bill Wiselogle.

Since it was proposed in 1988, the joint campus has been intended to serve “place-bound” commuter students with jobs and children. The campus has no dormitories, and there are no plans to build any. UW Bothell Vice Chancellor Bill Kelleher says most students come to campus two days a week.

Two sections

Under the council’s current plan, the northern part of the neighborhood would be zoned as a “residential-activity center,” a downtown-style designation that would allow unlimited-density residential and commercial development, constrained only by a 65-foot limit on building height.

The southern section would be limited to “neighborhood businesses” and professional offices. Building heights there would be capped at 35 feet. Additionally, in some areas, between eight and 15 residential units per acre would be allowed.

Dick Paylor, a former Bothell city councilman and now a real-estate agent for some of the site’s property owners, likened plans for the residential-activity-center area to Kirkland’s Juanita Village, where four stories of condominiums sit atop retail stores.

“If you talk to the university people, they’ll say we don’t need dorms or student housing,” he said. “But even those people who commute would love to live across the street if they could.”

In a meeting last month, Councilman Jeff Merrill argued that without the incentive of profitable residential units, developers might decide it’s not worth their while to build on the site. “If you take away the [residential-activity center], the property is going to remain dormant,” he said.

Councilman Mark Lamb agreed, saying that a new multiuse development on the site would make a fine eastern gateway to Bothell’s downtown.

“I think it’s going to be a really exciting and dynamic area,” he said.

Merrill and Lamb supported the Planning Commission’s original recommendation that the entire area along 112th Avenue Northeast and Beardslee Boulevard should be zoned as a residential-activity center. A compromise proposal to limit development in a southern section won the support of council members Tim Tobin and Sandy Guinn.

Councilwoman Andrea Perry had initially opposed the zoning changes, saying she had not heard broad public support for the development and hadn’t seen a need for student housing.

Perry has recently agreed to support the zoning change if it comes with certain conditions, such as guarantees to improve traffic flow in the neighborhood.

Still opposed

Mayor Patrick Ewing and Deputy Mayor Mike Johnson remain opposed to the plan, citing traffic concerns, the lack of a need for new housing in Bothell, and uncertainty about whether a largely residential development would contribute to Bothell’s economic growth.

“There can be growth and development in the city of Bothell,” Johnson said, “[but] I think it should be encouraged in the retail areas that we already have. I think that the neighborhoods should be protected.”

The council is still hammering out details of a plan to require developers to bear some of the expense of a new road connecting Ross Road and 112th Avenue Northeast, which would allow the city to dead-end Ross Road.

The proposed connector road would run right through where Bendokas’ house now stands.

During the years of uncertainty, developers bought up property around Bendokas’ house, and neighbors moved away. In the end, she found herself isolated in a sort of suburban slum, surrounded by three boarded-up houses. Bendokas finally moved to a retirement community after police found squatters in the house next door.

Bendokas says that while she’d be sad to see her old house demolished, she’s not against growth or development per se.

“Things have changed,” she said.

Jim Downing: 206-515-5627 or jdowning@seattletimes.com