Birthplace of Snohomish County's next city?
6,000 houses, a school and shops proposed for Lake Roesiger area
Kevin Nortz / The Herald
Children get off a school bus Thursday outside the Lake Roesiger Store, which acts as a sort of town center in the rural area, offering a gas station and an espresso stand. A new development could eventually bring 6,000 houses, a golf course and shops to the area.
A view west from the southeastern corner of Lake Roesiger shows a portion of the area beyond the lake's western shore where the proposed development would be built.
Developer Dave Barnett's concept for the Falcon Ridge planned community calls for single-family houses, condos and apartments, and includes an 18-hole golf course on about 190 acres. A school, shops and jobs also are planned.
A mixture of densely populated buildings and detached houses will mirror projects in suburban Lynnwood or Mill Creek.
It might take until 2033 to finish building the entire project, and when it's done it might become Snohomish County's 21st city.
The housing is needed, said George Kresovich, Barnett's land-use attorney.
"The average working stiff finds that they now have to drive until they qualify, because we've restricted the ability to provide housing that people want at prices they can afford," Kresovich said.
The Lake Roesiger proposal is allowed by state law and county rules, but faces a long review expected to last years. It is the first for Snohomish County to review under strict growth management planning rules.
The conceptual project already faces opposition from Futurewise, a group that fights housing projects in rural areas, and County Council chairman Dave Somers, a Democrat.
As Barnett's team and a 12-person county technical team study the project, residents in the Lake Roesiger area are buzzing about how the project might affect them.
Chief among the concerns is how traffic would change and what road projects would be needed.
Services for the project, such as water and fire protection, are already being discussed. Though the property is out in the sticks, the project has easy access to public drinking water.
Barnett's team already approached Snohomish County Public Utility District to explore water service. Everett's twin water supply lines from Spada Lake -- each 4 feet in diameter -- run right past Lake Roesiger.
"If that community were to go forward, it would be a big impact to us," said Zeda Williams, a PUD senior administrative manager. The PUD has 18,500 customers. Adding another 6,000 homes plus businesses would be at least a 33 percent increase.
Barnett would have to build new local reservoirs and water pump stations, said Brant Wood, a senior water resource manager for the PUD.
"What we've said is that we can provide service, at their cost, for a large development," Wood said.
Having a public water system available also means water for fighting fires. However, the local volunteer fire department worries that such a big development eventually will require higher taxes and a full-time fire department.
Fire District 16 Chief Brian Anderson lives on the west side of Lake Roesiger. He said his tiny fire district wouldn't be overwhelmed by the development, but changes would be needed.
"If there was to be a city, there would undoubtedly have to be another fire station," Anderson said.
The district's annual budget is $195,000, a fraction of what larger full-time districts collect, he said. The district's 23 volunteers protect about 2,500 people and get 200 emergency calls a year.
If Barnett's housing project is built, the district might someday have to hire full-time firefighters, which would likely mean higher taxes, he said.
A cut of the state's timber harvests in the area pays for the district's fire engines and other equipment. The largest challenge is attracting volunteer firefighters, Anderson said.
Traffic is another concern for people who like their quiet cottage lifestyle.
Right now, there are few details on the number of trips that the project might put on the roads, and it would likely be the biggest hurdle the development would face. The developer will pay the county to hire a traffic consultant.
The county would expect the large development to someday become its own incorporated city, county planning director Craig Ladiser said.
"It's got to have jobs and it's got to have urban services," Ladiser said.
If the project continues to move forward, public meetings could be scheduled this summer before an application is filed with the county for the project.
Yet this project and any other proposals for fully contained communities might still face a temporary ban being pushed by some on the County Council, Somers said. Somers and councilmen Mike Cooper and Brian Sullivan hope to get the ban to a vote in coming months.
"Probably millions of dollars will be spent on permitting and these things take on a life of their own," Somers said. "This project makes no sense to me in that location, particularly for transportation. This is not the right type development for our rural areas."
Reporter Jeff Switzer: 425-339-3452 or email@example.com.
What's next for the project
Dave Barnett’s proposal to build 6,000 homes on 3,000 acres west of Lake Roesiger has many years of review before anything might be built. Barnett’s experts foresee the following process:
-- Public meetings held this summer or fall.
-- A development application filed with Snohomish County between September 2008 and January 2009.
-- The county launches an environmental review.
-- Within 18 months, the county
issues a draft environmental study for public comments.
-- A final environmental study is issued.
-- County staff analyze the reports.
-- A county hearing examiner holds public hearings and issues a decision.
-- If approved, the County Council holds hearings to designate the rural property as urban and considers a development agreement for construction of the project.
-- If approved, construction follows over 20 or more years.
-- Residents of the new project consider whether to incorporate as a city.
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