By Krista J. Kapralos Herald Writer
EVERETT — Mini-cities are a no-go in Snohomish County.
The County Council on Tuesday officially tossed out County Executive Aaron Reardon’s Sept. 1 veto of their decision to ax zoning codes that allowed for the dense rural communities.
Councilman John Koster was the lone dissenting vote. “The code does need some modification,” he said. “I would prefer that today was about the modification of the code, not throwing it out.”
Councilman Dave Somers, long an opponent of mini-cities, said the concept “is not really salvageable in my view.”
“We have many planning tools” for population growth, he said. “Eliminating this (mini-cities) will help us to focus on those other planning tools.”
Rural mini-cities, also known as fully-contained communities, are master-planned developments in rural areas. The county’s previous code, which was thrown out on Tuesday, allowed builders to build the dense housing projects if they provided nearby jobs and paid for some infrastructure costs. Much of the debate on the issue centered around a mini-city that would have brought 6,000 homes to the Lake Roesiger area east of Lake Stevens.
Koster said Tuesday that mini-cities are a tool with which to handle a growing population.
The council in August voted 3-2 to get rid of the zoning code that allowed for mini-cities. Koster and Councilman Dave Gossett opposed the change.
Reardon later vetoed their decision, which would have left mini-cities as a planning option. He said he was persuaded by requests from Koster and Gossett asking him to take that step, something Koster and Gossett deny.
Reardon then produced a taped voicemail message from Koster to Brian Parry, Reardon’s executive director, in which Koster asked for a chance to talk to Parry “about encouraging Aaron to veto” the council’s decision to kill mini-cities.
Reardon accused both councilmen of “a bald-faced lie” and engaging in a “duplicitous political game.” He then tried to rescind his veto, but it wasn’t clear whether the county charter would allow him to do so.
Reardon’s spokesman, Christopher Schwarzen, said Reardon has never changed his mind about whether mini-cities are appropriate for Snohomish County. Reardon’s veto, and subsequent attempt to rescind it, on one of the most contentious development issues in recent years was based solely on the actions of two councilmen, Schwarzen said.
“Clearly, it’s Councilman Gossett who has changed his mind,” Schwarzen said.
A minimum 4-1 vote of the County Council is necessary to override a county executive’s veto.
Gossett said on Tuesday that he voted as he did to because Somers and other councilmen assured him that future development won’t be disproportionately funneled into his district. Gossett represents people in south Snohomish County.
“I think those assurances are good enough at this point,” Gossett said.
Dave Barnett, the developer who hoped to build a 6,000-home mini-city near Lake Roesiger, could not be reached for comment.
“I think the right thing was done,” Somers said. “Lake Roesiger and north county are protected for now, but it’s never really over. I suspect there will be other attempts at this type of development.”
Somers said he hopes to pursue policies that focus on urban development, including mass transit.
“That’s really the most cost-effective way to manage growth,” he said.
Krista J. Kapralos: 425-339-3422, firstname.lastname@example.org.