LAKE STEVENS — Sam Low won a special one-year term on the Snohomish County Council last year.
The Republican beat a well-known Democrat, Hans Dunshee, who had been appointed to represent District 5 in early 2016.
As Low tries to keep his job for another four years, Democrat Kristin Kelly wants to convince voters in east Snohomish County that she has better solutions to concerns about development and quality of life.
Ballots for the Nov. 7 election were mailed Thursday.
As of late this week, Low had a fundraising advantage of $98,087 to Kelly’s $24,701, according to the state Public Disclosure Commission.
Q & A
Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers has proposed increasing the county’s portion of the property tax next year to avoid service cuts. Do you support an increase? If yes, how much?
Low: I am opposed to the executive’s 4 percent property tax increase. I am going to prioritize public safety and transportation in any budget negotiations. We are still looking through all the budget stuff the executive sent over so it’s hard to say where the council will end up. Keeping taxes to a minimum is the priority.
Kelly: We need to ensure safe and healthy communities, but we must operate within our means. Growth needs to pay for its impacts. We must work together to ensure that the county is adequately assessing growth impacts. I will look for opportunities to increase revenue without raising property taxes.
Can Snohomish County better manage the impacts of growth? Can you identify any missteps?
LOW: Yes. Transportation impacts and congestion needs to be managed better. Smarter planning of transportation in relation to growth and working with state and federal partners is necessary for our existing and new residents. Transportation planning has made new development difficult. Going forward I will make sure the county does a better job on that front.
Kelly: Absolutely! For years Snohomish County has not adequately assessed the costs of new growth. As a result, existing property owners have had to pay for the impacts. The current County Council has weakened many of the regulations that would have located growth in areas with adequate infrastructure; areas that have access to mass transit, sewers, sidewalks and streetlights. One big misstep is the county’s Transfer of Development Rights (TDR) program, which was originally designed to save farms and forests by transferring density from farm and forest lands to urban growth areas. Unfortunately, the program is not working because the County Council removed a critical program component that awards the additional density to developers only if they use TDR credits to save resource lands. This can and should be fixed immediately.
What is the top traffic priority in District 5? How would you fix it?
LOW: Almost all of our major traffic issues in District 5 are due to lack of infrastructure improvements and lane capacity on state roadways in east Snohomish County. To address this I have and will continue to work with state and federal representatives to get funding instead of just talking about the problem. Some days the focus is Highway 522, other days Highway 2 and others it’s the trestle. There is no way to say one is a top priority over the other especially when we spend so much time on all three highways.
Kelly: The top traffic priority is congestion on State Route 9, U.S. Highway 2 and State Route 522, their communities and neighborhoods. Unfortunately, there is no quick fix to our state and federal highways but I can work to widen choke points, build safety improvements and create more transit options. In the meantime, our County Council needs to stop sprawling development into our rural areas. We need to work with our transit services to establish more bus routes to communities in need and build more park and ride lots to make it easier for commuters to take transit.
Do you support allowing people to drive ATVs on certain county roads with speed limits of 35 mph or less? This would include areas east of Highway 9.
Low: Absolutely. I have been working on this issue, and through collaboration, have come up with a pilot program to potentially allow ATVs in certain areas. This program will increase tourism dollars and recreational opportunities for Snohomish County residents.
Kelly: At this time, I am not convinced that the risks outweigh the advantages. ATVs on our congested, narrow rural roads will create another set of safety and enforcement problems, and could put the county at risk. At this time, I am not supportive of the ATV pilot program, but I could reconsider pending additional information.
Is the county’s code enforcement system working as it should to correct land-use violations and environmental problems? If not, are there realistic solutions? There are four code enforcement officers now.
Low: Our code enforcement staff works tirelessly to address the workload they are given. Yes there are some things we could do better. I plan on working with PDS over the next few years to explore revising our complaint-based system.
Kelly: I have advocated for additional code enforcement officers for years. I am delighted that the executive’s budget proposal includes funding for one additional code enforcement officer, but I believe we need a minimum of 10 officers. Funding for the additional enforcement could be generated by raising fines for violations and assessing impact fees.
County parks planners have dialed back efforts to design future amenities at Lord Hill Regional Park, including a mountain bike skills area. Would you support more bike facilities or more space to park horse trailers at Lord Hill?
Low: I do not think this is a one or the other solution. I do not support a bike skills course at this park, but I do see continued shared use by all of our recreation enthusiasts. Lord Hill Park is over 1,400 acres; I believe we can create a plan that meets the needs of both the horsemen and mountain biking communities.
Kelly: Lord Hill is an incredibly sensitive environment in a very rural area. Having hundreds, if not thousands, of mountain bikers in the park would destroy the wildlife and bird habitat, forever eliminate the park’s peaceful atmosphere, which currently provides a quiet place for people to enjoy nature. I do, however, support more parking space for horse trailers and wayfinding signs as it is easy to get lost.
Snohomish County has been looking to build a public gun and archery range for decades and is in the process of securing a new piece of land along Sultan Basin Road. Is this a good idea in this location?
Low: Yes. The Sky Valley Sportsman’s Park on the Sultan Basin Road is good for recreation and the environment. By having this park in this area, we can reduce the impacts to the local forests currently caused by not having a reasonable place for sportsmen to go. This range is an important component to the tourism landscape of the Sky Valley area.
Kelly: This is a very controversial issue and I have heard from both sides. The county needs to have a legal location for gun and archery practice. However, I am not sure the Sultan Basin Road is the best location. I need to research the proposal and investigate whether the proposed mitigations will adequately address the noise, traffic, and lighting impacts from the facility.
Is the local community hurt or helped by the delay of the Singletary timber harvest near Wallace Falls State Park? (A judge voided the sale of trust land in August after three environmental groups sued, including the Pilchuck Audubon Society, where Kelly is executive director.)
Low: Snohomish County residents are hurt by both the delay and the deception by some of the stakeholders that came to the table earlier this year. We had a deal that helped schools, libraries, hospitals and fire districts. Special interest groups behind the lawsuit agreed to the deal and went back on their word. This land was set aside for DNR to manage specially for the purpose of providing funding for county roads, schools, libraries, hospitals and fire districts. Continued delays hurt these districts and our economy.
Kelly: Snohomish County residents are not hurt by the delay and are, in fact, helped by the delay. The delay is because the Washington State Department of Natural Resources needs to re-do their SEPA assessment. The delay can be used to bring all sides to the table to work out a solution. It is vital that we do not destroy the beauty that is the foundation for a very lucrative tourism industry in Sky Valley, and ensure that any logging will generate revenue for the junior taxing districts. This could be a win-win for all sides.
What’s at stake?
A four-year term representing Snohomish County Council District 5, which covers Lake Stevens, Snohomish, Monroe, Sultan, Gold Bar and Index, as well as unincorporated areas such as Clearview, Machias and Maltby. The salary for a County Council member will rise to $120,472 in 2018.
Residence: Lake Stevens
Experience: Snohomish County Council (November 2016 to present); Lake Stevens City Council (2014 to 2016); former owner of Already Painting, which he closed after winning last year’s election; former pastor and elementary school teacher.
Residence: Snohomish (unincorporated)
Experience: executive director of the Pilchuck Audubon Society; former area director of Futurewise; former co-owner of a grocery in the Lake Stevens area; twice elected to the Snohomish County Charter Review Commission.