Snohomish-area residents concerned about annexation

SNOHOMISH — Darleen Raines remembers her rural neighborhood just west of the city limits before the developers started coming in.

Raines, 76, has lived on 89th Avenue SE for 45 years. She’s been worried for the last several months that she’d be forced to leave the home she raised her children in. She feared rising utility costs would come with proposed annexation into the city of Snohomish.

Raines and several of her neighbors oppose the incorporation of about a dozen homes south of 16th Street between Highway 9 and 89th Avenue SE. If approved, the city code would have required affected homeowners to pay to connect to city utilities.

It costs about $25,000 to hook up a single-family home to Snohomish water and sewer, according to the city. Raines and her neighbors are also concerned that city utility bills would more than double what they’re paying now.

The City Council changed the rules earlier this month. Now, annexed homeowners only have to connect to city utilities if their existing septic system fails or if they are expanding their home’s floor plan by more than 20 percent.

“At some point and time, we want everyone to be on city sewer and water. It’s for public health,” Mayor Karen Guzak said. “But we did decide to cut them some slack.”

Now, the state Boundary Review Board for Snohomish County is set to consider the 22-acre annexation proposal later this month.

Westcott Homes initiated the process last year. In January, the city requested to incorporate a 17.4-acre area. It has since extended the proposal to include six additional parcels. Now, the annexation affects 11 homes and about 29 people.

Melanie Clark, a development manager for Westcott, said the company is interested in building up to 20 new homes off of 72nd Street SE. Whether city utilities are available is a deciding factor in the project moving forward, she said.

Snohomish Planning Director Owen Dennison said the city put in a sewer trunk line to allow for growth in the area. Having new development to help cover the cost of that line would benefit the city, particularly after the economic slowdown, he said.

Sales tax revenue from new construction and retail purchases also help the city pay for providing services.

Mark Marzolf, of Camano Island, owns several area properties, including one Westcott wants to buy in the annexation proposal. He builds houses and sells real estate for a living.

Marzolf, 62, supports the annexation. He said he’s seen problems with failing septic systems in the area. Connecting to city utilities would be better for the environment and for public health, he said.

“The price people pay is their problem,” he said. “They choose to live in that area.”

Marzolf said expensive utility fees are just the cost of living and doing business in Washington these days. He doesn’t like it but he understands the need.

“It’s to save the fish, save the swamp, save all that stuff,” he said.

Still, Raines said she can’t afford to switch to city utilities. Her husband died 9 years ago, leaving her on a fixed income. She’s also retiring from her job due to medical problem. She works with special needs children for the Snohomish School District.

Raines said her septic system is working just fine. She replaced the drain field last summer and expects the system to last for a long while.

She continues to oppose the annexation though she won’t be forced to pay for city utilities under the changed rules.

The council’s decision to reverse course marks another response to frustration from homeowners in recent months. In December, the council decided another group would not be held responsible for $112,239 in outstanding building fees the city failed to collect. Snohomish administrators had previously insisted that state law forced them to make people who bought homes in the Denny and Kendall development pay for the city’s mistakes.

Now, the 16th Street annexation is up for consideration by the Boundary Review Board. It has scheduled a public hearing for the proposal on June 19. According to state law, the can approve or deny the original proposal at that time but it would have to schedule another hearing to discuss the expanded annexation area.

Amy Nile: 425-339-3192; anile@heraldnet.com.

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