Tsunami-Lightwave • Resident • 2006 - 2007 Recommended
My wife and I and our little girl moved to Washington in the summer of 2006 and decided to move into Belara after an exhaustive internet search and a whirlwind tour of numerous apartments in the area after we arrived in the area. We fell in love with the beautiful Lakeland area and really liked the look of the grounds and apartments here at Belara. Half a year has now passed and I think we are now able to give a frank review of this place that will hopefully be helpful to others moving into the area (just as we relied greatly on these reviews when we moved here).<br> First, since it seems to be a major issue for many and the focus of most of the previous reviews, let me address the parking situation. Belara is built half way up the side of a very steep hill and sits halfway between the valley floor and the Lakeland Hills area of Auburn that occupies the top of the hill. Thus, it is stretched along a long narrow strip of terraced land laid in along the side of the hill. This geographic reality puts real constraints on the amount of available space for parking. Nevertheless, there IS adaquate space for everyone to park, though not necessarily in front of your own building. If you pay an extra $35 a month, you can get a reserved carport and you will never have to worry about finding a parking spot again. If you prefer not to pay the extra money, you will no doubt have to hunt a bit for parking spaces if you come home too late in the evening, but they are there to be found. At the very least, there are always a few spots down by the main entrance near the clubhouse, and the 2nd phase apartments on the north "wing" still has a high vacancy rate and there are TONS of spots up that way (of course, if you live in the southern portion of the complex it will mean a bit of a walk, but what is the harm of that?). There does seem to be an unusually large number of spots reserved for handicapped parking (far more than could ever conceivably be needed). I haven't actually counted, but there seem to be approximately 4 handicapped spots for every building. That just seems excessive. It is not a very politically correct thing to say, but if even a few of those were turned into standard car ports (or even unreserved spots), it would help elivate the perceived parking shortage. In any case,for those who complain about the parking, they should have looked at the constrictive nature of the grounds and known what they were in for when they were considering to move here. That was the reason we chose to get a carport when we moved in and avoid any potential inconvenience.<br> Now, that aside, here are the good and bad points we have noticed in the past few months we've been here (and some points which maybe be pluses for some but minuses for others): <br> Safety - because of the location of the aparment (halfway up the hill as described), no one has any reason to come up here unless they actually live here. Even though the gate is not up yet (which makes me wonder how they can claim to be a "gated community" at least for the moment), the hill itself keeps out any troublesome cars or foot traffic. Safety was one of the main concerns of my wife and she feels 100% satisfied and secure here.<br> Convenience - As long as you have a car, this place is extremely well located. It is a quick shot across the valley to Hwy 167, only a few short minutes from the Supermall, and just a quick run up the hill to the Top Foods shopping complex for daily shopping needs, which is one of the cutest shopping centers I've seen in a long time.(There is also an Alberson's at the bottom of the hill). There is also a huge park right at the top of the hill. That said, if you DON'T have a car (like my wife when I am at work), the very hill that supplies the security also causes Belara to be extremely isolated for all intents and purposes. It is a long hard slog down the drive way and back up the hill to the Lakeland park if you want to do it on foot (good exersise though if you are a health nut). If you don't have a car, you are effectively trapped in the complex. Luckily, they have some nice amentities to keep you occupied, which leads me to...<br> Amentities- They have a small indoor basketball court, outdoor pool (of course only for summer use) and a heated spa for year round use, a nice fitness center with new equipment and 2 TVs, a computer center and a theater room. The club house is also available for parties and other get togethers (and there is almost always a batch of fresh baked cookies put out). There is a tot-lot in each of the "wings" of the grounds to help keep our toddler preoccupied (since the park in Lakeland is effectively out of reach because of the hill). There are always a few little events or parties each month arranged by the staff (or even other tenants) which really helps build the feeling of being in a community. For example, there was a Christmas gift wrapping party one weekend in December when tenants could come in for a free continental breakfast with their unwrapped gifts and do all their wrapping there with wrapping paper and bows supplied by Belara. It was a great idea and a fun way to meet neighbors.<br> Maintenance - The construction here seems to be mostly done now (even in the phase 2 portion) but the mainenance staff are always upgrading little things around the grounds and making improvements. They added doggy-doo stations with baggies at various points around the grounds for the convenience of pet owners (of which there are many). They added speed bumps in the parking lot last autumn, and just recently added a stop sign to the exit from the phase 2 wing (we'll see if people actually heed it). We have had only minor maintence problems since we moved in, but the maintenance staff has been professional, polite and FAST with every request we had. They needed to fix our electric fireplace because it wasn't throwing heat, and they got to it within just a few hours (though they quickly identified the problem and realized that needed to call the repair guy from Lennox to actually fix it because it was a wiring problem, which took a few days). In any case, the problem was fixed extremely quickly and they matched OUR schedule to do it, waiting until we were home to come and repair it. We also had the flourecent light bulb burn out in the kitchen light fixture, and they were there to replace it within an hour of our requesting it. When the recent wind storm tore some siding off the outside of some of the buildings, they had it repaired and good as new within a week.<br> Noise - This is a so-so area for any apartment complex and Belara has its issues too. The noise is by no means excessive for anyone who is accostomed to living in an apartment setting. We seldom hear our neighbors, but the sound does transmit down through the floor to the poor folks beneath us. We actually had our downstairs neighbor complain about noise from us, but with a 2 year old, there is not much we can do except do our best to be aware and try to keep the jumping off the sofa to a minimum :-) . There are quite hours here from 10pm to 8am and most tenants follow these guidelines as much as possible while still maintaining some quality of life. Occationally hearing sounds from next door is inevitable, and shouldn't get on any reasonable person's nerves. One point that every prospective tentant should be aware of, however, is that the train line runs past Belara right at the bottom of the hill. The sound carries right up into the complex, and anyone who lives in the apartments facing the valley (the ones with the extremely nice view!) will need to get comfortable with this clickety-clack very quickly or they are going to go nuts eventually. If you live on the other side or in one of the buildings on the inside edge of the compelex, the outer buildings offer a considerable sound buffer and the train noises fade to little more than background noise (which prsonally I actually find quite soothing). Also, anyone in the west facing apartments needs to be prepared for some hot living in the summer. The valley facing apartments in particular get thoroughly cooked in summer by the sun. There is a good breeze coming off the valley usually, so opening the windows will help somewhat, but then, of course, the sound of the train becomes more prominent. Some of those apartments have air-conditioners (just so that the rooms will be liveable!), but not all of them, so keep this in mind when selecting a room location. If you plan to be here for only a short term lease that is between September and May, the extra solar heating may actually be a boon as it will help keep the rooms very comfortable and your electricity/heating bills down! <br> Staff - the staff here are all absolutely wonderful. They are all extremely freindly and remember us by name. There was one woman back when we moved in who was a bit snarky, but she seems to have departed for whatever reason and every single one of the current staff are extremely professional, freindly and helpful. Danielle in particular is a real angel.<br> Finally, as for the apartment rooms themselves, the Belara floor plans are all extremely well laid out and offer a lot of square footage for the rent paid. The huge bathrooms and granite countertops make for a very luxurious feel, but there were some odd choices made in other areas. The washer/driers, for example, are lower end appliances that do the job required, but doesn't match the general "upscale" feel of the apartment. Also, the dining room light fixture hangs at chest level in the middle of the room and is impossible to move or to raise. This effectively makes it mandatory to put a table in that designated location just to keep from walking into the light all the time. If you have one of those trendy high "bar style" tables, the light will be unnaturally close to the table top. Also, there is an odd shortage of cupboard space in the kitchen. Whoever designed the layout of the kitchen space (especially the cupboards in the 2 bedroom/1 bath floorplans) must have been a complete moron. They did not use much intelligence or common sense when they made their plans for the kitcen. There are effectively only 3 cupboard areas (2 up and one down), the space under the sink, and 5 drawers in the entire kitchen that are at all useable. The others are either too narrow or blocked off to be useable or practical for daily use. This makes it quite a challenge to find storage space for both food and for plates and cups etc. You will need a sideboard or something similar just to have space for both dinnerware and foodstuffs. Likewise, the "pantry" in the hallway was designed only with aesthetics in mind and not designed for practical use. It has 3 doors (low, chest height, and top, way above head)with frames that effectively cut the door into three spaces. However, the are inside is just a single large closet with shelving, but the shelves don't line up with the frame on the door. Thus, the frame of the pantry doors blocks easy access to some of the interior shelves, and the top most space (where one would normally expect to store those little-used things) is actually non-existent because there is no shelf there at all (just an open space). The frame even extends along the bottom edge at floor level, so you cannot easily slide things like cases of water or a vacuum cleaner into the bottom area of the pantry closet. Simply put, it is an unutilitarian and stupid design. Aside from these two admittedly minor gripes, we really like the layout of the apartments, especially the fact that the dining room area has "wood" flooring rather than carpet (since we have a two year old and spills are inevitable). The built in computer desk is also an extremely useful and effective use of space. The bed rooms are larger than many other apartments, and they have windows on two walls for lots of light (or at least, most floorplans do). The huge bathroom and 9' mirror is very convenient. The one thing that surprised me was that there is no heater in the bathroom except for the heatlamp. In winter, in the wee hours of the morning, this can make the first moments as you are getting ready for a shower a bit chilly, but the room seems to heat up fairly quickly just from the hot water and steam of the shower if nothing else. The apartments are well ventilated and we have not had even a hint of a mold problem here, unlike many places in the Seattle area. <br><br>This has been very long winded, but I hope that the information is useful to those looking to move here. No place can be 100% perfect, especially since a minus for one person is a plus for someone else, but all in all, we would whole heartedly recommend Belara to anyone thinking of moving to the area. It is definitely one of the best apartment complexes around.
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