Granite Falls puts new sewer connections on hold

A surge of residential development is on track to eat up its remaining sewer capacity.

GRANITE FALLS — The city is putting the brakes on new applications to connect to its sewer system in response to a surge of residential development that is on track to eat up its remaining sewer capacity.

The Granite Falls City Council on April 11 approved a six-month moratorium on most new connections. The city’s wastewater treatment plant can handle an estimated 643 more residential units. As of April 6, the city had approved or accepted applications for 555 units.

The moratorium is expected to slow development in Granite Falls, city manager Brent Kirk said, but the countywide building boom continues. The goal is to have a design, cost estimate and financing options to upgrade the wastewater treatment plant by the end of the six months. If not, the City Council could consider extending the moratorium.

The most likely project to increase capacity would be an expansion of the wastewater treatment plant, Kirk said. Designs have not been completed. The price tag could be upwards of $14 million. A council presentation suggests that the city should “closely monitor the housing market to assess long term demand. The intent — avoid putting the cost of the new facility on the current rate payers.”

Granite Falls has a population of about 3,748 people, according a presentation by city staff. That is expected to jump to 8,482 by 2038.

Developers are looking beyond large cities to find land they can build on, and homebuyers are venturing farther afield, too. Granite Falls still has sizable properties without slopes, wetlands and other features that complicate construction, Kirk said, and homebuyers seem to be attracted by the small-town feel.

“You can’t find that in other neighboring communities closer to I-5 because they have grown so much in population over time,” he said in an email

New homes in Granite Falls have been purchased by people moving from Woodinville, Redmond and “areas in the county that have become more crowded and expensive to live in year after year,” Kirk said.

Not all applications for new sewer connections will be denied during the moratorium. Exemptions include construction of a house or two-unit duplex on an existing lot, or a commercial project in the general commercial zone that does not exceed available sewer capacity.

Though the moratorium has passed, a public hearing is expected in May. It allows the council to affirm their vote, modify or revoke it. An engineering consultant plans to talk about the city’s sewer capacity and needed improvements to the system.

Kari Bray: 425-339-3439; kbray@heraldnet.com.

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