Gold Bar wants county to ease up on growth limit

It’s almost decision time for a lingering proposal to allow more housing on nearly 200 acres outside Gold Bar.

The small town is pinning its hopes on a the Snohomish County Council’s approval of the change this month that would make room for about 780 people.

The idea is to allow about three houses per acre where the standard today is more spread out — one or two houses for every five acres.

The change would help Gold Bar meet its population targets without putting denser housing in the rest of the city, Mayor Crystal Hill said.

“We need it,” she said. “We can’t (increase density in) our existing area too much more, and know additional population is coming in.”

Trouble is, there’s no sewer service, and Gold Bar faces a struggle to muster the $30 million needed to build a sewage treatment plant.

Those hurdles raise concerns and opposition from county planners and County Executive Aaron Reardon’s office.

The County Council plans to discuss the idea Wednesday, along with three dozen land-use changes proposed for annual review.

Gold Bar has about 2,200 people, Hill said, and could grow to 5,000 under state population projections. They don’t want everybody moving into town and building more houses per acre.

Expanding the city won’t bankroll a sewage treatment plant, she said, but it allows growth to come in on septic tanks. Raising $30 million “with a population of 2,200 people is really not feasible,” she said.

For about an hour in 2006, Gold Bar had the County Council’s permission to expand. After a short meeting with county lawyers, the County Council reversed itself and postponed a vote until this year.

Since then, county and city officials were told to work on a sewer plan for Gold Bar. Plans didn’t get very far.

“They need to tackle the sewer issue if they want to expand,” County Council chairman Dave Somers said. “I’ll be looking at it to see if they have a clear plan how to get to sewer.”

If not, “I don’t think I can support it,” Somers said. “We’re not supposed to be building cities based on septic systems.”

State growth management rulings call for at least four homes per acre.

Three homes per acre feels right for Gold Bar, Hill said.

“We’re saying we are a rural community, a commuting community, a family community,” she said. “We want to keep that type of character. We don’t want to become the next Monroe, not with town homes back to back.”

To say no would force the community to steer away from its rural character and accept housing and population growth within its current boundaries, Hill said. That dictates a future that the community doesn’t want.

“We know our communities better than they do,” Hill said.

She’s lobbying the County Council. “We’re knocking on all the doors we can,” Hill said.

Reporter Jeff Switzer: 425-339-3452 or

Review it online

To see maps, reports and housing growth proposals, go to and search for “docket” to see the proposed Docket 12 comprehensive plan changes.

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