Everett eyes massive annexation that would boost city’s population by 62,000

EVERETT — Snohomish County’s largest city is considering pushing its boundaries south and east — a move that could add more than 62,000 residents and boost the city’s population to 164,000.

If approved, it would be the largest annexation in Everett’s history.

Everett first needs to weigh the costs and benefits of swallowing unincorporated communities, including the Silver Firs area northeast of Mill Creek and land near Lake Stickney south of Paine Field.

The state Growth Management Act encourages cities to absorb urban areas and to provide essential services such as police and fire protection, parks, and planning.

In reality, tens of thousands of residents in Snohomish County live on islands of county land sandwiched between Everett, Mill Creek, Lynnwood and Mukilteo.

That’s because no one has seen a compelling enough financial incentive to take in those communities, including high-crime neighborhoods in south Everett near Mariner High School.

“It’s a huge policy question,” said Allan Giffen, director of the Everett’s planning department. The city has planned for annexing those areas, “but unless it makes financial sense … the city may be better off by leaving them.”

The Everett City Council is scheduled to vote Wednesday on paying Berk &Associates of Seattle an additional $24,000 to study potential annexations. The Council in October approved a $60,000 contract with the company that has also done similar studies for Mukilteo and Kirkland.

If approved, the in-depth study is expected to be released in late June.

The city is considering the mega-annexation to take advantage of a new state law that allows cities to keep millions of dollars in sales tax money that would otherwise go to the state.

The 2006 bill, sponsored by Sen. Jean Berkey, D-Everett, was created to help offset expense of annexing unincorporated areas, which don’t necessarily produce enough in taxes to pay for city services.

For cities that annex 10,000 people by 2010, it extends a one-tenth of one cent sales tax credit for 10 years. That amount doubles for cities that annex 20,000 or more people.

Annexing 20,000 people into Everett could funnel $40 million into city coffers. The study on annexations expected this summer aims to answer if that will cover the city’s expenses.

Before the city can start counting any new money, people who own property inside any area proposed for annexation would have to vote on whether to join Everett. A state board would also have to sign off on the idea.

Mukilteo and Marysville are each looking at their own annexations, which could add 20,000 people to their populations.

A large annexation would be a departure from the city’s tradition of growing gradually through annexation.

Everett has had 78 previous annexations since 1946. The South Pinehurst and Beverly Park annexation of 1962 added more than 5,100 residents to the city’s population. The last three annexations, in 2005, absorbed 1,600 people into the city.

City Councilman Mark Olson said most unincorporated areas near Everett would stand to benefit from being annexed into the city.

He said cities tend to have better planning guidelines and development standards, something counties don’t have.

“There’s decades of county neglect in a lot of these areas, and it won’t be reversed overnight,” he said.

Reporter David Chircop: 425-339-3429 or dchircop@heraldnet.com.

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