Annexation battle ahead

MARYSVILLE – A city known for its aggressive annexation strategy is poised for its biggest move yet.

On Monday, city officials will move to annex 1,200 acres of the Sunnyside and Whiskey Ridge areas.

Marysville leads the county in the number of annexations and the amount of acreage annexed, according to a new report from Snohomish County Tomorrow. Since 2000, the city has completed 19 annexations that added 1,400 acres.

The public hearing is expected to be contentious, as passionate property owners voice their opinions.

Supporters stand to make millions selling their property to developers.

Others don’t want to be a part of Marysville. They fear a change in school districts and a decrease in property values.

Hanging over the entire process is an appeal before the Central Puget Sound Hearing Board that questions the validity of the city’s urban growth area.

In December, Snohomish County extended Marysville’s growth area to include Whiskey Ridge’s 411 acres.

The area may be annexed in two bites. The area south of E. Sunnyside School Road is in the current proposal. The northern chunk is scheduled to go before the council in late June.

Land-use watchdog Futurewise, working with the Pilchuck Audubon Society, has appealed the growth area decision.

The county didn’t adequately plan for the impact that increased growth will bring, Futurewise legal director John Zilavy said. As more people come in, more roads and equipment to maintain them are needed, he said.

The county should have inventoried what would be needed and how much it would cost, he said.

“The Snohomish County comprehensive plan, as it was adopted, does neither,” Zilavy said.

County officials have said they made the necessary preparations.

But as the annexation and appeal move forward, it’s not clear how the two actions will play out.

The Hearings Board will review the appeal in July. A ruling is expected Sept.15.

On a fast track, the city’s annexation could be made official when the council reconvenes in September after its summer break.

If the annexation is approved and the appeal is successful, the annexation would be nullified, city attorney Grant Weed said.

Tom Fitzpatrick, a lawyer who formerly worked on planning issues for Snohomish County, disagreed. He said that if the annexation goes through and a lot of urban-type development gets locked in, going back to a rural situation is not realistic.

Futurewise’s Zilavy said the question is likely to wind up in court.

City officials said they are pursuing the annexation anyway because they were petitioned by property owners.

“The city has a duty to move forward with the annexation, so that’s what we’re doing,” city administrator Mary Swenson said. “To not move forward, the city would not be working in good faith.”

Supporters said they want better services: bus lines, policing, ambulance aid and sewer access.

Without sewer service, property owners can’t recoup their full property value, said Laura Lacey, who initiated the effort.

Whiskey Ridge, reportedly named for whiskey runners who operated stills in the area, is today mostly single-family homes on 5-acre parcels.

Easy access to freeways and views of water and mountains make the area ripe for development.

Property will be marketed for about $500,000 per acre, said real estate agent Barbara Miller, an annexation supporter. That means many people who own land in the area could get about $2.5 million for their parcels.

Across 83rd Avenue, subdivisions already exist.

There, in the Heartland Estates and older subdivisions closer to Soper Hill Road, about 60 homeowners have signed a petition protesting the annexation.

“Marysville is very unattractive,” said Holly Farrar. “It’s just not something that we wanted to be a part of.”

She said she fears the change would hurt property values.

Trent Olson spent about $50 on yard signs opposing the annexation.

“We associate more with the Lake Stevens community because we’re a hop, skip and a jump away,” he said. “Our schools, our churches, our day care, they’re all in Lake Stevens.”

Olson said he’s concerned that annexation may force his children to switch school districts from Lake Stevens to Marysville, but officials said that wouldn’t happen.

“Annexations have nothing to do with school attendance boundaries. Those are already set,” Marysville School District capital projects director John Bingham said.

Annexation would allow the city to keep the fees developers pay for roads, sidewalks, parks and other things, Swenson said.

Plus, the city could control development, applying building standards consistent with the area, community development director Gloria Hiroshima said.

Reporter Jackson Holtz: 425-339-3437 or jholtz@heraldnet.com.

Public hearing

The Marysville City Council has scheduled a public hearing on the proposed annexation for 7 p.m. Monday at 1049 State Ave.

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