Airport mall plans withdrawn


Herald Writer

MUKILTEO — Paine Field Airport officials have withdrawn a controversial plan for a shopping center on Mukilteo’s eastern edge.

The decision to shelve the plan came just weeks before the Snohomish County Council was scheduled to vote on a lease option that, if approved, would have paved the way for a 12-acre shopping center on county-owned land.

County airport director David Waggoner, an enthusiastic backer of the plan in the past, said questioning by residents, Mukilteo officials and county council members had prompted the pullback.

"We are members of the community and we don’t want to rush forward on something that obviously has some loose ends," he said.

County deputy executive Gary Weikel told the council of the decision Monday in a letter to county council Chairwoman Barbara Cothern. Airport and officials in the executive and council offices would return to the drawing board and devise a new plan for the land, Weikel stated.

Dr. Scott Casselman, an outspoken critic of the plan, was startled and elated by the sudden reversal.

"I think it speaks a lot for Dave’s integrity that he is willing to do this," said Casselman, a radiologist and Mukilteo resident who helped lead the opposition citizens group, Citizens Active for Mukilteo’s Preservation.

Casselman fought the plans to build on forest land sandwiched between Highway 525 and airport runways. He had warned it could worsen noise and traffic congestion along the already busy highway, and had questioned the need for another shopping center along the strip.

Mukilteo officials have voiced concerns the development could drain sales tax revenues out of the city, while creating more demand for services such as police.

Waggoner had earlier argued the developers could create a neighborhood-friendly center convenient for north Mukilteo residents. It could also earn the airport as much as $275,000 per year, he said.

Still, the project met with a cool reception from some county council members. Kirke Sievers, whose council district includes Mukilteo, said local opposition was leading him to vote against the project. He said county officials’ check of likely votes on the council showed the plan would probably fail.

Waggoner said he would now work to communicate better with local residents, and devise a new plan that would answer their concerns. It would take several months to complete the plan, he said.

"I still think that the west side of the airport will be developed, that it should be developed in a manner that’s good for the community and good for the airport," he said.

Casselman said he might support a scaled-back plan.

"There have got to be lots of very good alternatives that may not pencil out to the nickel for maximizing revenue, but are good revenue producers," he said.

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