By Chris Winters Herald Writer
Cities and towns across Snohomish County will deal with a variety of issues and projects in the coming year as large as major capital improvements and as small as opening a new park or widening a local street.
The county’s largest city looks poised for a growth spurt after years of relative stagnation.
You’re likely to see it unfold in the form of a new boatyard on Port Gardner, a downtown hotel and a brand-new neighborhood along the Snohomish River.
“I think the citizens of Everett can look forward to a very vital 2014,” said Lanie McMullin, the city’s executive director for economic development.
Seattle boat builder Foss Maritime plans to set up shop at the 60-acre site of Kimberly-Clark Corp.’s former waterfront mill. Parent company Saltchuk expects the real estate deal to close during the second quarter. More detailed plans should emerge after that.
“It will be a great fortune on the part of the city of Everett to have them here,” McMullin said. “They are an exceptional family-owned company with a bright future.”
Separately, developers hope to break ground next year on two city-supported projects that stalled for years because of the recession.
Polygon Northwest hopes to start building 230 houses as part of the Riverfront project, the brownfield along the Snohomish River that the Bellevue company acquired from another developer over the summer. Whether that happens may depend on the city planning commission and the City Council approving development amendments for Polygon.
Separately, Touchstone Corp. of Seattle is under an Oct. 31, 2014 deadline to break ground on a Courtyard by Marriott hotel on a parking lot next door to City Hall. The city granted Touchstone another year to start the project because of trouble lining up financing.
While economic signs are looking up, the city also must patch up crumbling road and sewer infrastructure.
In the spring, Everett plans to close the Broadway bridge between Hewitt Avenue and California Street. Without the work, the 101-year-old span over the railroad tracks is at risk of failure. The city expects construction, and related detours, to last about a year.
Public works staff also is looking into long-term fixes to prevent flooding in the city’s combined sewer and storm water system. The city expects to pay out around $3.2 million dollars to settle damage claims filed after the system overflowed following storms in August and September.
Among Snohomish County’s smaller cities, Arlington is one city taking the long view by rebuilding its reserve fund, which was nearly depleted at the beginning of 2012, and is still only at about one-third of what the city’s policy requires.
The city will also be finishing its 67th Avenue widening project, completing upgrades to Haller Park, and working alongside Marysville to have the state declare the two cities’ industrial corridor a regionally designated manufacturing and industrial center in order to draw more manufacturing businesses into the area.
Arlington Mayor Barbara Tolbert said that the city will be looking for ways to fund replacement of public safety big-ticket items such as fire trucks.
New asphalt will take priority in the coming year in Edmonds. Because of budget shortfalls, the city has gone five years without repaving a single street, Mayor Dave Earling said.
“Our roads are really in deficient condition,” he said.
The city has set aside $1.2 million for street overlays and another $300,000 for maintenance in the coming year, the mayor said.
The city also plans to break ground during the summer on a new $6.7 million street to connect Highway 99 with 228th Street SW to the east. The project will enable the city to eliminate the dangerous left-turn from southbound Highway 99 to 76th Avenue W and will improve connections in all directions between the highway and 228th, which connects to the Mountlake Terrace park-and-ride lot and I-5. The work is expected to be done in 2015.
Lake Stevens has four major issues on its plate going into 2014, Mayor Vern Little said. The city is looking at new rezoning and development, mostly in the Frontier Village neighborhood, recruiting new businesses to town, and looking to alleviate traffic congestion in both Frontier Village and the Highway 9-204 interchange.
The last major issue is working to improve the Lake Stevens Police Department, notably through its new Division of Professional Standards and the hiring of a new police lieutenant, with a goal of better handling both internal investigations and complaints from residents who encounter police.
Lynnwood is seeing change at the top, with Nicola Smith defeating incumbent mayor Don Gough in last fall’s election. Projects on tap for 2014 in Lynnwood include a major redevelopment of the amphitheater in Lynndale Park, expected to be done in June. That same month a new farmer’s market is scheduled to begin at Wilcox Park, city administrator Art Ceniza said. Incoming mayor Smith will also be working to make City Hall more responsive to the public and has expressed support for a new city center.
Marysville, with the assistance of a $3 million Transportation Improvement Board grant, will finish its long-running State Avenue widening project. The city will also be putting in a children’s spray park in Comeford Park and the opening of the 6.3-acre Doleshel Park on the site of a former tree farm.
Marysville will begin 2014 with six additional police officers on the streets, Mayor Jon Nehring said, and the city will start building a capital reserve fund to allow the city to make investments in the future without taking on as much debt as would otherwise be the case.
“Overall, we’re not flush, but we are in healthy stable financial position,” Nehring said.
Mill Creek is also seeing a political change, with a new mayor and three rookie City Council members taking office in January. The city is trying to bring in a Target store that will not appear to be a typical big box store and also feature a public library on the top floor. The city is also opening a new park on 132nd Street SE in the summer, and Henry M. Jackson High School, part of the Everett School District, is putting its own bond issue on the Feb. 11 ballot to renovate its football field.
Monroe opens the new year with a new mayor, Geoffrey Thomas, who is inheriting several ongoing projects. These include building synthetic turf sports fields, allowing a private wakeboarding business to operate on Lake Tye, rezoning land near Highway 2 in east Monroe, and deciding whether to continue its unpopular red light camera enforcement program.
Mukilteo is also seeing a change in the political winds, with Jennifer Gregerson defeating two-term incumbent mayor Joe Marine. Gregerson is considering major changes, including eliminating the city administrator position and hiring the city’s first human resources director. The city will also restart talks with Snohomish Fire District 1 to provide fire protection to Mukilteo, and Gregerson plans to improve the quality of chip seal used to repair city streets.
Snohomish recently faced controversy after insisting homeowners in the Denny and Kendall development pay thousands of dollars in fees the city failed to collect from developers. The city is taking steps to release the homeowners of financial obligations and collect the money from the developers.
Trying to put that issue behind it, Snohomish is looking forward to several new projects in the new year, including the opening of the $22 million Snohomish Aquatic Center in January, repairs to Second Street, a new roundabout at 15th Street and Avenue D, and a new boat launch on the Snohomish River.
Stanwood is also looking at new leadership, as Leonard Kelley begins his first term as mayor, and three new council members are sworn in: Rob Johnson, Arne Wennerberg and Dorothy Gorsuch. The city will be looking at building a new roadway system for its downtown that will decrease the cost of developing vacant land in the center of the city. The city will also work on plans for recently purchased parcel of land along the Stillaguamish River, putting in a community boat launch, and finding a location for a new YMCA facility.
Stanwood will also be putting together an economic development plan to make it more attractive to businesses.
Herald writers Noah Haglund, Amy Nile and Bill Sheets contributed to this report.