County tries to block Mukilteo’s expansion

MUKILTEO — A border dispute over swaths of lucrative land at Paine Field is brewing between Mukilteo and Snohomish County.

Mukilteo officials want to claim 292 acres of mostly undeveloped county-owned airport property.

The area includes 41 houses and several businesses along Mukilteo Speedway and Beverly Park Road. The western side of Mukilteo Speedway is already part of Mukilteo, so the city wants to add the other side.

The County Council has other ideas: They don’t want to lose a single acre of airport property.

In a rare move, the County Council recently voted unanimously to block Mukilteo’s annexation plans.

Now both sides are bracing for a February hearing with the state Boundary Review Board, which will decide whether Mukilteo can be blocked from annexing the land.

“They have their position, and they didn’t want to budge, and we didn’t want to back down,” Mukilteo City Council President Jennifer Gregerson said.

Mukilteo officials say the area around Paine Field belongs in the city.

People who go to restaurants and businesses there live in the city, and the area is served by Mukilteo police and firefighters, Mukilteo Mayor Joe Marine said. For years, the city has intended to annex the area.

“It’s really our residents who are shopping there, so who should be getting the tax dollars from that? We should,” Marine said.

Mukilteo already plans to put a new shopping center on a site on their side of Mukilteo Speedway. They hope in the future to connect those businesses on the county’s side via a pedestrian bridge.

On their side, county officials don’t want to part with the revenue generated by businesses around their airport. Nor do they want to let go of prime real-estate for future commercial and industrial growth, Snohomish County Council Chairman Dave Gossett said.

Also, county officials are concerned about losing control over what happens on their airport property if it’s moved inside the city’s boundaries.

Mukilteo has committed hundreds of thousands of dollars to prevent commercial passenger service from coming to the airport.

The County Council has no current plans to bring airlines to the airport, Gossett said. However, the airport property in question — which is designated as non-aviation land — may someday be needed for new taxiways, runway expansions or hangars, he said.

The county also maintains a full-time deputy and a fire department at Paine Field to respond to incidents at Mukilteo Speedway property and along Beverly Park Road.

“We think it makes more sense to keep control of the airport property with the county,” Gossett said. “It is, after all, the county’s airport.”

The proposed annexation has nothing to do with preventing passenger service at the airport, Mukilteo City Councilman Marko Liias said.

Under state law, the county would have the final say in land-use decisions at the airport, even if the airport property became part of the city, Liias said.

Mukilteo also is pursuing a larger, 2,951-acre annexation south of its current boundaries that would add more than 10,000 people to the city’s population. More residents cost more money to provide services.

Both sides are thinking about the potential revenue, in the form of taxes, that can be generated from the land, County Councilman Gary Nelson said.

The county relies on revenue from commercial areas to keep a lid on tax rates, he said.

“I don’t fault (Mukilteo) for at least proposing the idea of this annexation, but I think the interests of everyone in the county are going to be well served by having it reviewed by the Boundary Review Board,” Nelson said.

Reporter Scott Pesznecker: 425-339-3436 or

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