As Lynnwood grows, so grows concern over its largest-ever annexation

LYNNWOOD — John Dunlap’s seen a lot of new developments spring up since he bought his first house about a mile east of I-5 in 1970.

“There was nothing down here at that time except a forest behind me,” said Dunlap, who retired from the Washington State Patrol in 1991.

As he considers the pros and cons of his neighborhood joining the city of Lynnwood, Dunlap said he sees only good outcomes, especially with police response.

“I’ve been a country boy all my life,” he said. “I just feel that we’re going to have better response times and more controls. You feel a part of the community when you can be involved with the local police department.”

City leaders have proposed annexing an area stretching southeast from Brier, north to 148th Street SW. The annexation would add 27,500 new residents by Jan. 1, 2011. A consultant’s financial analysis showed the annexation would be feasible for the city, even when the slow economy is taken into account.

A vote is scheduled for April 27. If a majority of voters in the proposed areas agree to be annexed, Lynnwood’s population would nearly double, from 35,700 to 63,200.

Before that vote can occur, however, the courts will have to decide whether Mill Creek has a valid argument against Lynnwood’s plan.

Mill Creek sued Lynnwood in July, claiming the area off 164th Street SW from Larch Way to I-5 fits more naturally within its city boundaries than in Lynnwood’s.

Lynnwood officials say they know there’s a lot at stake in the city’s largest annexation proposal in its 50-year history.

Cities of 50,000 or more residents, for example, can receive federal grant money directly rather than waiting for the state or Snohomish County to pass it along.

Cities also have a big incentive to initiate annexations by Jan. 1, 2010, because the state has promised to reimburse them 12 1/2 cents for every $1 of the state’s share of sales tax income.

For Lynnwood, that amounts to $50 million — $5 million a year for 10 years.

State election laws, however, prohibit city officials from campaigning on city time or using city resources. They’re only allowed to provide information.

Not everyone is as excited about the prospect of annexing into Lynnwood as Dunlap.

Jodie Rutten, who lives near Martha Lake, said she’d like to be annexed — but into Mill Creek, not Lynnwood.

“Mill Creek is our town,” said Rutten, who grew up in unincorporated Lynnwood, near Lake Serene. “We don’t go to Lynnwood for our services; we go to Mill Creek.”

Jon Engstrom, senior pastor for Christ the Rock Fellowship, which would be in the annexation area, said his nondemoninational congregation hasn’t taken a position on annexation.

Personally, Engstrom said, “my experience would make me want to lean more toward Mill Creek. They are in general more proactive and perhaps more cohesive as a community.”

Carl Cerniglia, who lives off of Cypress Way between 196th Street SW and 212th Street SW, said he won’t be campaigning on the city’s behalf, though he supports the proposal.

“I wouldn’t be willing to sway people one way or another,” he said.

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