Development is the top issue in Lake Stevens mayor race

LAKE STEVENS — Issues in the races for city office here this year come back to one issue: development.

Jeff Craig has made it a main thrust of his race against Mayor Vern Little.

Craig blasts some of the construction that has sprung up around Lake Stevens and in its recently annexed areas, such as cottage-housing complexes, in which small, single-family homes are built close together.

While the city is doing a better job of managing growth than Snohomish County, it still should be doing more to plan for the future, Craig said.

“I don’t see the leadership there,” said Craig, a 41-year-old Navy veteran who now works as a technician for Verizon. “I don’t see anyone taking the initiative.”

Little, a former city councilman, said the city has started doing just that. The city is working with the county to prevent unwanted development from creeping into areas that could be added to Lake Stevens in the future.

The two cottage housing developments in Frontier Village were built under the county’s zoning laws, he said.

“I’ve spoken out against that type of development,” Little said.

Little, 53, was elected to the City Council in 2003. He was appointed mayor last November to replace Lynn Walty, who resigned from the job because of a family illness. The mayor in Lake Stevens is paid $14,400 per year.

To stem the tide of development in the county, Craig called for a “mass annexation” of the unincorporated areas around the lake within a year to 18 months. City officials plan to eventually bring all of these areas into the city limits, which would put developers under the city’s growth plans and rules.

Little said the city is working with residents in those areas to educate them about becoming part of the city and to find out what they want.

The city still plans to annex around the lake within six years, but “we don’t believe forcing the issue is the right thing,” Little said.

Craig also said the city should “put together a 100-year plan so we know where we’re going to put 50,000 people we’re going to get in the next 25 years.”

If the city annexes all of its potential growth area, its population is projected to reach 46,000 by 2025. The city has doubled its population in the past two years, to 14,540.

Craig criticized Little for taking campaign contributions from developers. State public disclosure records show that as of Oct. 15, Little accepted $1,875 in donations from developers or groups that promote development interests, out of his total of more than $6,100 in donations. He has spent about $3,660 of that total, records show.

Craig has signed a pledge with the state not to spend more than $3,500, an official with the state Public Disclosure Commission said.

Little said he didn’t solicit any of the contributions.

“My decisions will not be made based on what they give me and they all know that,” he said.

Little has supported a city plan to expand no-build zones around the lake and other city waterways, but some City Council members, and Craig, have said they don’t go far enough. Little said a compromise is in the works.

He said his edge over Craig is in knowledge of the issues.

“It seems as though he wants to focus on all the stuff that has and hasn’t happened in the last 20 years, that I was not a part of,” such as development, Little said. “That’s exactly why I ran for City Council.”

Reporter Bill Sheets: 425-339-3439 or sheets@heraldnet.com.

Lake Stevens Mayor

Name: Vern Little

Age: 53

Occupation: Senior quality manager, Boeing 767 program

Hometown: Lake Stevens

Name: Jeff Craig

Age: 41

Occupation: Technician for Verizon

Hometown: Lake Stevens

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