Woodway, Shoreline vie for control of Point Wells sewage

WOODWAY — A water war it’s not — but you might call it a sewer skirmish.

Neighboring cities on opposite sides of the Snohomish-King County line find themselves in the unusual predicament of fighting to control a future neighborhood’s waste water.

The area in question is Point Wells, an unincorporated patch of Snohomish County waterfront where an international real estate developer wants to build up to 3,081 luxury condos.

The sewer spat foreshadows an annexation rivalry for the same area between Shoreline, in King County, and Woodway, in Snohomish County.

Each city argues that it’s best-suited to serve Point Wells. That includes pumping away the icky stuff that drains out of sinks, bathtubs and toilets.

The latest disagreement involves Shoreline’s request to assume control of a waste-water district that serves most of the city, but also extends into Point Wells. That would sit fine with local governments to the north — if the coverage area didn’t include Snohomish County.

“I’m sure it’s a sheer coincidence — all the area that they want to assume is Point Wells,” County Councilman Terry Ryan said during a meeting earlier this month.

It’ll be up to boundary review boards in both counties to decide the sewer dispute. The boards have authority over boundary changes and mergers involving cities and special-service districts. They must reach a decision this fall.

If successful, the assumption would take effect in October 2017, dissolving the Ronald Wastewater District into Shoreline. Four homes the district serves in Woodway are not part of the proposal.

Point Wells “is already part of Ronald’s sewer area, so it makes sense that it would be included,” said Eric Bratton, a Shoreline city spokesman.

Snohomish County and Woodway oppose Shoreline’s move, as does the Olympic View Water &Sewer District serving Woodway and south Edmonds.

Woodway town manager Eric Faison argues that it would be “less efficient and more costly” for Shoreline to serve Point Wells. That owes in part to the likelihood that future sewage from Point Wells would be pumped north, through Woodway, to a treatment plant in Edmonds.

“It’s illogical to me that Shoreline would be the service provider, and not Woodway and Olympic View,” Faison said.

County planners also have designated Point Wells for Woodway’s eventual annexation, he noted. The town of about 1,300, featuring some of the region’s most expensive homes, eyes Point Wells as its possible downtown commercial district.

While Olympic View doesn’t serve Point Wells’ sewer system, it does provide water to the petroleum and asphalt business now located there.

“It is probably our fifth-largest user,” said Lynne Danielson, the district’s general manager.

The Snohomish County Council voted last week to oppose Shoreline assuming control of sewer service in Point Wells. Not all council members agree.

“You really are pressed to say Shoreline can’t do it,” Councilman Brian Sullivan said.

Much of the Point Wells debate, thus far, has focused on the limited access to the site via a single two-lane road in Shoreline. The city is working on a traffic study with Blue Square that will be submitted to Snohomish County for an environmental impact study.

The transportation hurdle also complicates plans to provide Point Wells with police or fire protection.

“Annexation make senses for Shoreline,” Bratton said. “We’re going to be absorbing 95 percent of the impacts from any development at Point Wells. They’re going to be using our parks, they’re going to be using our roads.”

A utility road in Woodway could, in theory, be upgraded to connect to Point Wells, Faison said, but the town has received no requests to look further into the issue.

Point Wells includes 61 acres. Owner Blue Square Real Estate has holdings in the United States, Europe and Israel. The company and its affiliates since 2006 have worked to shape zoning laws on the property to allow for high-rise towers of up to 180 feet. Shops and public beach access also figure into the plans.

The outfall for King County’s Brightwater sewage treatment plant crosses the southern edge of Point Wells, but has no other connection to the dispute.

A robust effort from people in Shoreline and Woodway has attempted to limit the number of people who could make their homes one day at Point Wells.

Blue Square this spring prevailed in a state Supreme Court case, preserving its right to build at higher density.

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

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