600-home Lake Goodwin developer told to do full environmental study

EVERETT — A controversial development near Lake Goodwin can’t go forward without an in-depth environmental study, a hearing examiner has ruled.

The McNaughton Group wants to build nearly 600 homes on land northwest of Marysville, but was asking the county planning department to review the development in chunks. A hearing examiner said the Edmonds-based developer and county planners need to focus on the overall effects of the entire proposal.

The examiner on Friday said the county’s planning staff “completely ignored” the cumulative impacts of traffic, water runoff and other changes the proposal would cause to the surrounding, mostly rural area.

“This is a major development that must be analyzed in an environmental impact statement,” wrote Barbara Dykes, the hearing examiner.

The hearing examiner was asked to review plans for rural cluster subdivisions that a McNaughton-affiliated company, Lake Goodwin A Joint Venture LLC, is trying to build. Developers building in rural cluster housing zones are allowed to build more homes on that land, in exchange for putting them closer together to preserve open space.

The hearing examiner was looking at one application with 49 lots. The developer has applied to build eight other subdivisions, most of them right next to each other.

Those plans compelled nearby residents two years ago to form a group opposing large housing developments in rural areas. That group, called 7-Lakes, filed the appeal with the hearing examiner in 2007.

In particular, 7-Lakes objected to county planners determining that the project did not require more in-depth environmental review of the homes’ combined impact.

Dykes agreed and in April ordered planners to do more work on the cumulative impact of the development. She clarified her order in May and again last week.

Only during the latest order did Dykes specify that she was ordering an environmental impact statement, a study of how the housing would affect nearby habitat and infrastructure that typically takes more than a year to finish and can easily cost the developer hundreds of thousands of dollars.

County planners tried to comply with the examiner’s previous decisions, but her directions were too vague, said Executive Director Brian Parry, who oversees the planning department.

“We can’t read Barbara’s mind,” Parry said. “She modified her request to specifically ask for an (environmental impact statement). If she had asked for it initially, it would have been provided.”

Considering the applications separately didn’t ignore the total impact the developments would have, Parry said, because county code already forces county planners to take some of that into account when approving permits.

Barring a successful court challenge, the McNaughton Group would need an environmental impact statement to go ahead with the development. The company would pay for the study, but the county would choose the consultant who does the work.

The company already is appealing the hearing examiner’s May decision in King County Superior Court and plans to add the latest ruling to that case.

“Clearly, we’re disappointed in the hearing examiner’s ruling,” Kevin Ballard, McNaughton’s chief operating officer, said in a statement. “Now, after more than a year of cost and delay, the hearing examiner is yet again requiring more study and data that is simply unwarranted and in most cases, redundant.”

Ballard added that his company has complied fully with the current land-use code and has completed several studies that go beyond what’s required.

The development not only spawned 7-Lakes, but became a cornerstone of a political campaign when the nonprofit’s founder, Ellen Hiatt Watson, decided this year to run for the Snohomish County Council’s 1st District. She stepped down from the nonprofit to run her campaign. Watson, a Democrat who has accused big developers of wielding too much influence over county land-use policies, said the planning department’s behavior “doesn’t pass the laugh test.”

“The planning department had the gall to essentially reject the hearing examiner’s decision,” she said. “It’s not their place. It’s not their job. Who are they working for? Is it the developer or is it the county?”

Parry, the county executive director, said Watson was criticizing planners “for her political aspirations.”

“There’s no issue of (planners) failing to comply with orders of the hearing examiner,” he said. “The hearing examiner has much broader discretion than any permit reviewer.”

County Councilman John Koster, the Republican incumbent Watson is trying to beat in the Nov. 3 election, mostly agreed with his rival on the general issue: Planners should look at adjacent developments as a single project when it comes to considering their impact. Koster said the Legislature should try to clarify state law on this point.

“If there’s a single owner and you know that there’s going to be cumulative impacts, it defies logic not to look at it,” he said.

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

Talk to us

More in Local News

Two snowboarders head up the mountain in a lift chair on the opening day of ski season at Stevens Pass Ski Area on Friday, Dec. 2, 2022, near Skykomish, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Ski season delayed at Stevens Pass due to no snow

Resort originally planned to open Dec. 1. But staff are hopeful this week’s snow will allow guests to hit the slopes soon.

Siblings Qingyun, left, and Ruoyun Li, 12 and 13, respectively, are together on campus at Everett Community College on Thursday, Oct. 19, 2023, in Everett, Washington. The two are taking a full course load at the community college this semester. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Siblings, age 12 and 13, are youngest students at EvCC campus

Qingyun Li was 11 when he scored a perfect 36 on the ACT test. His sister, Ruoyun, was one point away.

Edmond’s newly elected mayor Mike Rosen on Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2023 in Edmonds, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Mayor-elect Rosen wants to ‘make Edmonds politics boring again’

Mike Rosen handily defeated incumbent Mayor Mike Nelson. He talked with The Herald about how he wants to gather the “full input” of residents.

A speed camera facing west along 220th Street Southwest on Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2023 in Edmonds, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Traffic cameras, and tickets, come to Edmonds; Mukilteo could be next

New school zone cameras in Edmonds will begin operating in January. Mukilteo is considering enforcement cameras as well.

A person walks their dog along a flooded Old Snohomish Monroe Road on Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2021 in Snohomish, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Flood-resistant floors and sandbags are price of riverside life in Sultan

Flooding is a threat every year for 75,000 locals — and the long-term forecast suggests it’ll only get worse in the coming decades.

Everett Community College is introducing a new Trojan design as the college's symbol of student spirit and athletics. The design incorporates the Feather Star, EvCC's official logo, in the Trojan's cape.  (Dan Bates / The Herald)
Amid staffing crisis, student nurses run into shortages in education too

Everett Community College’s nursing program has 79 slots. Hundreds apply each year — and that’s just the first hurdle.

A family walks through the Wintertide lights Thursday, Dec. 1, 2022, at Legion Park in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Wintertide Lights returns for the month of December in Everett

The free family event is open nightly at Evergreen Arboretum and Gardens in Legion Park.

Lynnwood Mayor Christine Frizzell speaks during a ribbon cutting ceremony to celebrate the completion of the 196th ST SW Improvement Project near the 196th and 44th Ave West intersection in Lynnwood, Washington on Tuesday, Aug. 15, 2023. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Lynnwood council, jarred by anti-Semitic rants, approves tax increase

Three people spewed hate speech via Zoom at a council meeting this week. Then, the council moved on to regular business.

From the patrol car footage of Everett police officer Ryan Greely, Molly Wright sits in the back of a police car after being arrested for obstructing a law enforcement officer on Aug. 10, 2023 in Everett, Washington. (Screenshot from a video provided by Molly Wright)
‘My rights were violated’: Everett officer arrests woman filming him

Ryan Greely arrested Molly Wright in August on charges of obstructing, though state law generally allows filming police in public.

The Days Inn on Everett Mall Way, which Snohomish County is set to purchase and convert into emergency housing, is seen Monday, Aug. 8, 2022, in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Over $130M for affordable housing set to be approved by County Council

The five-year investment plan of the 0.1% sales tax aims to construct 550 new affordable units.

Man killed in Highway 99 crash near Lynnwood identified

Brian Paulin, 32, lost control while driving on Lincoln Way and Highway 99.

The county canvassing board certifies election results at the Snohomish County Auditor’s Office in Everett, Washington on Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2023.  (Annie Barker / The Herald)
General election results stamped official by canvassing board

In Snohomish County, one hand recount will take place. Officials said ballot challenges were down this year.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.