Cavalero Hill land may go green

  • Wednesday, December 13, 2000 9:00pm
  • Local NewsLocal news


Herald Writers

Thirty acres at the center of a heated debate about growth near Lake Stevens could become parkland rather than a parking lot.

Snohomish County officials, hoping to defuse a fight that has stalled new land-use regulations for years, are negotiating to buy the land on Cavalero Hill from a developer who has pushed for commercial development.

"I figured if there was an opportunity for us to remove that lightning rod it might be able to move the land-use discussion forward," said county councilman Rick Larsen, who said he broached the idea to the developer earlier this year.

Larsen said the land could be used for a park in an area where residents have been bemoaning the lack of parks. The purchase could also include 105 acres alongside Ebey Slough near the base of Cavalero Hill, which could be used for wildlife habitat restoration, he said.

County officials and the developer, Bill Binford, have declined to say what price is being offered or sought for the land.

The county Parks and Recreation Department, which is pursuing the purchase, needs direction from the council on whether to move forward with the negotiations, parks planning supervisor Marc Krandel said.

The county has had the property appraised, Krandel said. But he declined to say what the results were and said any discussion of price would take place behind closed doors. Larsen cautioned council members and others not to discuss prices in public during a Monday meeting.

Binford, a partner in the Kirkland-based Venture Pacific Partners, said the county had a window of opportunity to buy the land.

"I think it’s a win-win situation if the county wants to take advantage of it," he told the council.

The prospect of a park instead of a shopping center was attractive to Jody McVittie, who lives on Cavalero Hill and has led opposition to commercial development there.

"I think it’s not a bad idea. I think that would solve a lot of the land-use issues," she said.

Not all of them, however, she said.

A plan for future development in the Lake Stevens urban growth area, which includes Cavalero Hill, still could mark that area for business development even if the county buys that particular piece of land.

"The question is, what will happen without someone who is doggedly pushing it," she said.

The development plan has been years in the making, and redrafted at least once, partly because of opposition revolving around the Cavalero Hill property. The county council in 1999 reversed an earlier decision clearing the way for that land to be zoned for commercial development, following a challenge by a group McVittie belonged to.

The latest version of the plan, which designates part of Cavalero Hill for a small commercial center, is being circulated for public comment by the county’s planning commission. The county has yet to reach a final decision on it.

Lake Stevens Mayor Lynn Walty said he was surprised about the possible deal.

"Maybe they’re trying to work something out so they don’t end up in a lawsuit," Walty said. Binford has said he would resort to legal action if he had to, Walty said.

As to building a park there, Walty said: "I’m never down on parks. That’s an easy way to look at it."

Resolving the controversy over a commercial center there could remove a major stumbling block to the city’s efforts to annex land in the surrounding urban growth area, he said.

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