Annexations would add thousands of people to Lake Stevens

LAKE STEVENS — Leaders here are reviewing a plan that would allow the city to grow by hundreds of acres, more than 1,700 households and potentially thousands of people.

The multiple proposed annexations would be spaced out over the coming years, with the largest, most densely populated areas likely to be added after 2018.

The City Council is expected to vote on the plan Tuesday. It would set the city up for annexing the rest of Lake Stevens’ urban growth area. The council previously directed staff to look into adding eight neighborhoods totaling nearly 1,200 acres. The proposed annexations stretch from an industrial zone north of the lake to the residential expanse in the southeast.

Lake Stevens is no stranger to annexations. Between 2000 and 2010, the city quadrupled in size. It went from being the county’s 12th largest city to the fifth. The biggest annexation, which brought an estimated 10,000 people from unincorporated Snohomish County into the city, happened in 2009. Frontier Village, with its commercial center, was annexed in 2007.

There are about 50 homes and five businesses in the proposed northern annexations and about 1,680 homes in the southern stretch, community development director Russ Wright said. The exact population that could be added to the city has not yet been tallied but likely would be between 4,000 and 5,000 people based on the average household size, the city said.

The annexations need to be spaced out so the city can pay for public services to keep up with the increased population, Mayor John Spencer said.

The first area, 60 acres near Machias, is slated to be annexed before the end of the year. City planners hope to work with property owners on a petition, Wright said. That’s the most common way to annex into a city and requires 60 percent support from property owners.

Three other areas toward the north end are on a tentative schedule to be annexed in 2017.

About 1,000 acres of mostly residential or undeveloped properties southeast of the lake likely wouldn’t be annexed until at least 2018, Wright said. Adding that land would mean the city’s boundaries would fully circle its namesake lake.

“For a long time, our tagline has been ‘one community around the lake,’ ” Wright said. “We really want to move forward with that.”

The annexation process is being planned out now so it won’t be rushed, Spencer said. Larger areas wouldn’t be brought into the city until costs for police, utilities and roads have been reviewed.

“This entire Puget Sound region is growing like crazy,” Spencer said. “This is where the employment is and this is where people are moving, so we need to provide more urban services.”

Because the southeast annexation area is residential, it wouldn’t bring in the same tax revenue as industrial or commercial property. The city needs to be confident that the budget can provide for services once it’s added, he said.

Information on how taxes would change is expected to be available before any final decisions are made, Wright said. Those calculations still are in progress.

Schools and fire protection service would not change. Likely the most noticeable differences would be the shift in law enforcement from the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office to the Lake Stevens Police Department and the addition of city sewer, Wright said.

The city would need to decide how to zone annexed properties, determining how they may be developed. The goal would be to zone parcels based on how the county has labeled them or how they currently are used, he said.

“We are planning some denser zoning (in the south) because that’s going to be another big residential pocket,” Wright said. “It’s not as big of changes as people sometimes think. You don’t have to get on city sewer immediately. You don’t have to pave your driveway, if it’s not paved, immediately.”

However, there would be requirements later. If a septic system were to fail and city sewer were available in that neighborhood, annexed homeowners would need to connect. Also, if a property owner sought permits to subdivide or develop their land, a connection to city utilities would be required.

The next step is to finish research and distribute information to property owners, Wright said.

Kari Bray: 425-339-3439; kbray@heraldnet.com.

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