County Council postpones action on North Creek growth

EVERETT — Homeowners from a rural enclave surrounded by the fast-growing suburbs near Bothell will have to wait a bit longer to see whether Snohomish County will consider upzoning their properties.

The County Council on Wednesday postponed a decision to explore designating three areas along 43rd Avenue SE for urban growth. The council is set to revisit the issue at 10:30 a.m. Sept. 20.

“I’d like to find a way to get them into the UGA (urban growth area),” Councilman Terry Ryan said after the hearing. “I need more time work with the planners and our attorneys to come up with a pathway.”

The council vote was 4-1 to postpone a decision, with Councilman Sam Low opposed. Low, who participated by phone, said he was ready to vote, noting that the issue has been pending since last year. Low would not say how he would have cast his vote.

The neighborhood in the unincorporated North Creek area has been one of many centers for the region’s breakneck growth. Snohomish County of late has been adding people at a rate of roughly 300 per week or 16,000 per year. Many of the new arrivals work in the bustling tech industry in Seattle and its Eastside suburbs.

Council approval at this stage wouldn’t guarantee a change to urban zoning; it only ensures that the proposals will get a closer look, with a final decision in 2019.

Two of the zoning proposals, submitted by a homeowner and a land-use consultant, would put a combined 281 acres along 43rd Avenue inside the county’s southwest urban growth boundary.

That’s controversial because it includes a potential zoning swap designating a similar amount of urban lands as rural in other parts of the county.

Two places that could be affected are the Lowell-Larimer Road corridor in the Everett area and some properties next to Granite Falls. Several homeowners there have said they would suffer financial devastation if they were suddenly unable to develop their land.

Instead of the swap, the county also could consider tinkering with its land-use policies.

A third proposal from the Northshore School District has attracted little opposition. The urban growth line runs through the North Creek High School campus, leaving 31 acres of ball fields in an area that’s technically rural.

The district wants to the county to add that piece to the urban growth area.

The school proposal is the only one county planners have recommended for approval. The other two should be turned down, in their opinion, because they’re out of sync with state law, countywide policies or the county’s comprehensive plan.

Established in 1995, the comprehensive plan was amended two years ago. It’s set for another overhaul in 2023, with a likely showdown between environmentalists and homeowners over where to allow more development.

The homeowners in the current fight live along 43rd Avenue between 188th Street SE and Jewell Road. Some of their back yards touch the grounds of North Creek High.

Farther north along 43rd, the landscape changes abruptly to vast new subdivisions of new homes with small yards. County public works officials opened the street between the two areas for a while, but installed a road block at 188th after the rural homeowners complained about an increase in traffic.

Over the next six years, however, the county is looking to widen and extend 43rd. Plans include lengthening the arterial south to Maltby Road and connecting it to Sunset Road to the north to provide an alternative to congested 35th Avenue SE.

Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465; Twitter: @NWhaglund.

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