Mukilteo regroups after residents reject annexation plans

MUKILTEO — Voters shouted a resounding “no” on Election Day when asked their opinion about annexing 11,000 new residents south of the city.

Now it’s up to Mukilteo leaders to decide what to do next: consider smaller additions to this city of 20,000, or call off further expansions altogether.

“The annexation, at least for the time being, is not moving forward,” Mayor Joe Marine said.

Election results that Snohomish County certified Tuesday showed annexation opponents ahead by about a 2-to-1 margin; 5,663 opposed it, 2,924 supported it, while another 441 voters had no opinion.

The vote was advisory only and carries no legal weight. The area under discussion goes from 148th Street Southwest west to the shoreline of Puget Sound and east to Airport Road and Highway 99.

The City Council is likely to revisit the issue next year. If it opts to avoid future annexations, Marine said, Mukilteo owes it to people in the unincorporated areas to shrink its urban growth area. That way, another city, most likely Lynnwood, could take them in.

Jon Boyce ran the campaign against annexation and doubts the voters’ message got through to city leaders. He won’t feel comfortable discussing a smaller annexation, such as commercial properties along Mukilteo Speedway, until city leaders signal they’ve finally put to rest what he calls an “annexation frenzy.” They might do that by eliminating the city’s planned urban growth area.

“They share the narcissistic delusion that the only problem with the vote was the stupidity of the voter,” Boyce said. “They’re not going to put this down, it’s not going away until they decide that the people of Mukilteo don’t want it, that bigger is not better. The supermajority of Mukilteo voters said bigger is not better.”

For now, people such as Mark Fussell, who lives in the unincorporated Lake Serene area and had hoped to join the city, aren’t sure about their next move.

They’re frustrated by failed attempts for two years in a row. Last year, Snohomish County Fire District 1 challenged Mukilteo’s annexation proposal in court. The district claimed the city wouldn’t be able to provide adequate fire service and also said one Snohomish County Boundary Review Board member who supported the annexation proposal had a conflict of interest.

Fussell and other proponents believed annexation would have benefited both existing and new residents of Mukilteo.

“Frankly, right now, neither one of us win,” he said.

If growth is not well controlled, “it’s going to affect their neighborhoods. It’s not like crime or traffic stops at the city border,” he said.

Mukilteo and Lynnwood plan to continue discussions about sharing some fire equipment and personnel, though a joint meeting scheduled for Monday night has been canceled. Without annexations, the cities share no common border and are buffered by unincorporated Snohomish County.

Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465; nhaglund@heraldnet.com.

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