EVERETT — The Wood Creek watershed will remain in its natural state for now.
People rallied to keep 92½ acres of city-owned land just south of the Valley View neighborhood off the surplus property list last month. Mayor Cassie Franklin removed it May 27 during the Everett City Council meeting in response to public comment, city spokesperson Kimberley Cline said in an email.
“It feels like a win so we can take a breath and get organized,” said Babby Skowyra, who lives in Valley View and has helped organize neighbors to keep the property from being developed. “We were operating out of emergency.”
The city council has considered several properties, most smaller than a half-acre, to declare as surplus. That’s the first step before the city can sell the land, though there was no buyer yet or plans for immediate development.
A notice attached to fencing at the end of a road in the neighborhood in May surprised people there.
Nestled between I-5 and the Snohomish River Valley, the property is adjacent to unincorporated Snohomish County. The land once supplied water for the city in the early 1900s, but became obsolete once Everett bought Lake Chaplain and laid pipes to bring water from the Sultan area into town.
The land, in current and proposed city zoning, is marked for single-family homes.
The area has a history of landslides.
In 2011, five homes on Burl Place and Panaview Boulevard began to slide or slump due to erosion. Residents sued the city in 2013 for property damage, clean-up and restoration costs, emotional distress and legal costs but did not specify a dollar amount. Everett leaders denied they were to blame for the slide.
Michael Wright, who has lived in Valley View for 27 years, worried about the land’s stability if an earthquake struck.
“If we have any seismic activity in this area, there will be a disaster in Wood Creek, and that’s without development,” he said. “With development, it would be an absolute disaster.”
Valley View only has one road in and out, and the potential for more development and traffic was a concern for several people who opposed the potential sale.
“I don’t want the traffic,” Wright said. “I would be the first to admit that.”
He moved to the neighborhood 27 years ago because of the views of the river valley and, on a clear day, Mount Baker.
Snohomish County records suggest the property’s value is more than $14.6 million. But only about 15 acres could be developed, lowering the city’s appraisal to $3 million. The remaining 77½ acres are protected from development due to steep slopes and streams, according to city records.
“There’s just no way that they can pull out a chunk and not impact the integrity of that whole piece,” Skowyra said.
The Wood Creek property, named for the creek that runs through it, remains on the city leaders’ and neighbors’ minds. But what will become of it is uncertain.
“We will be engaging the community to discuss the property’s opportunities and concerns to help determine what, if any action, the city might consider for the property at a later time,” Kline said.
Neighbors have sought advice and support from environmental groups, including the nonprofit Forterra and the Snohomish Conservation District, Skowyra said. They’re interested in turning it into “legacy land” such as a park or leaving it as is.
They also plan to continue public comment and outreach with city council members.
“We are looking forward to the pursuit of our discussion,” Skowyra said. “We would love that. Give us a call.”