County growth plan ready

EVERETT – Snohomish County Executive Aaron Reardon says the county’s just-released plan for handling growth over the next 20 years is a notable departure from the county’s previous growth-management plan.

“We’ve seen tremendous sprawl. We’ve seen unplanned, unmanaged growth,” Reardon said. “We’ve seen growth that’s turned into blight. We’ve seen schools become overcrowded.

“Our plan changes the direction of this county,” he said.

With growth comes challenges.

The costs of transportation improvements and services alone over the next 20 years, for example, are expected to cost more than $2 billion. And the county faces a funding shortfall as high as $727 million under one scenario.

Closing that budget hole – which will be only a $225 million deficit if improvements are focused on critical bottlenecks and intersections – may require annual property tax increases, a hike in traffic impact fees for developers, higher fuel taxes and a new local “car tab” fee ranging from $20 to $30 per vehicle.

Tonight, the county will hold its first workshop on the draft comprehensive plan at 5 p.m. in the main conference room of the county’s new administration building.

More workshops will be held in the coming weeks before the first public hearing on the plan is held in late May.

Almost 300,000 more people are expected to live here by the year 2025, pushing the population from about 645,000 today to 930,000. The county’s plan directs much of the growth to existing cities and their urban growth areas.

“We’re going to grow. It’s how you grow that makes a difference,” Reardon said.

Many components of the growth plan are also expected to attract interest.

The plan includes new policies for fully-contained communities, built-from-scratch towns on rural lands that have been controversial in other parts of the state.

Another new proposal: Designating “urban villages” within urban growth areas that will have a mix of retail, office, and medium- to high-density residential development.

The county has identified places to put more than 10 such villages, including at 148th Street SE and Seattle Hill Road, and Maltby Road and 39th Avenue SE.

Because much of the future growth will be focused in urban areas, zoning will be intensified in 6 square miles of land already within cities’ urban growth areas.

More rural lands will be opened up for urban development under the proposed plan, however.

Ten growth areas will be expanded, and 3.5 square miles of rural land will be added to urban expansion areas.

It may not be enough for some, however.

Dozens of property owners have asked for their lands to be added to urban expansion areas. Not all of those properties have been included in the proposed changes to the growth plan.

Mary Lynne Evans, manager of the county’s long-range planning division, said there is ample room in the urban growth areas to accommodate the next 20 years’ of development.

“We found there were many, many places within the urban growth areas that could develop,” Evans said. “Our numbers show that it is enough.”

Still, that may not satisfy developers who have asked the county to expand the cities’ growth areas to bigger boundaries than those in the rewritten plan.

Beyond builders, others may find fault with the proposed plan.

Kristin Kelly, the local spokeswoman for Futurewise, a controlled-growth group, said county policies that preserve the natural environment have been weakened.

“It is disappointing to see the policy language weakened at a time when we need stronger protections of our environment,” Kelly said.

Reporter Brian Kelly: 425-339-3422 or

Growth workshops

What: County officials present a draft of the county’s comprehensive plan, the document that will guide development over the next two decades.

Where: Today in the main conference room of the new county administration building in downtown Everett.

Thursday in the cafeteria at Alderwood Middle School in Lynnwood.

April 28 in the commons at Post Middle School in Arlington.

May 2 in the commons at Monroe Junior High School.

When: 5-8 p.m.

What’s next

* Land to be rezoned will be posted by May 13.

* Joint planning commission-County Council public hearing in Everett, May 24.

* Joint planning commission-County Council public hearing in Arlington, May 26.

* Joint planning commission-County Council public hearing in Monroe, June 1.

* Joint planning commission-County Council public hearing in the southwest part of the county, June 2.

* Planning commission deliberations, June 7.

* County Council public hearing, Sept. 7.

* County Council deliberations tentatively start Sept. 14.

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