Group wants out of Granite Falls

GRANITE FALLS – Some people living on Paradise Lane are troubled with life in the city and want out.

Michael O’Leary / The Herald

Ken White of Granite Falls has been unable to get city water and sewer service extended to his two lots.

They have taken the unusual step of asking Granite Falls to “de-annex” their neighborhood.

Doing so would shift the 69 lots on Paradise Lane back to Snohomish County’s control.

Although rules for reducing city limits exist, planners and land-use attorneys said they could not remember such a move in at least the past decade, if not longer.

Craig Lian has been pushing the idea, gathering signatures from other lot owners. Lian owns two undeveloped lots, each about an acre in size, between Paradise Lane and the Pilchuck River. He said he would like to build a home on each lot, but the neighborhood does not have water or sewer service.

“I figure if water was down there, a person could make them buildable lots,” Lian said.

City officials have refused to extend services to Paradise Lane, and Lian is hoping the county would be easier to persuade, at least to provide water.

Mayor Lyle Romack said the city balked because hooking the low-lying neighborhood up to its sewage treatment plant would require an expensive pumping station. The city has no money for that, he said, and would normally require a developer to pay for it, anyway.

Even if the county were to allow a water line to Paradise Lane, Romack said people there still would have to deal with sewage. Many lots are undeveloped or do not have septic systems that meet current standards, he said.

“Would the county or the health district allow septics in there if they were de-annexed?” Romack asked.

Lian is optimistic that the county would, adding that his lots have good percolating soil.

While county officials are willing to help, the issue needs more study, said Larry Stickney, legislative aide to County Councilman John Koster.

“It’s tough getting out of a county UGA (urban growth area) and tougher to get out of a city. Once they’re incorporated, you have to make the case that they’re not urban, and that can be difficult, especially with as many lots as they have down there,” Stickney said.

John Burkholder, Granite Falls’ planning consultant, said state rules require lots with septic tanks and a well to be at least an acre to avoid contaminating drinking water. Many of the lots on Paradise Lane are slightly less than an acre in size.

“The real issue is the water,” said Brent Raasina, an official with the Snohomish Health District’s environmental health program.

If a property owner applies for a septic system permit, the district would evaluate it, but an approved source of water must be there, Raasina said.

Also, the neighborhood’s proximity to the Pilchuck River probably would trigger environmental and flood management rules, Burkholder said. Getting a building permit and flood insurance would be tough as well, he added.

“I feel bad for the people, because if you own land for some time, you expect to be able to do something with it,” Burkholder said. “But you’re stuck.”

Some lot owners on Paradise Lane do not want water or sewer service, said Mike Allen, who bought his riverfront lot 25 years ago.

“We feel very strongly about keeping it as recreational property,” he said.

Like many of his neighbors, he bought his undeveloped lot as a rustic, scenic place to park his camping trailer.

He said the city annexed the neighborhood years ago under the assumption that the lots would be developed eventually. In the meantime, new flood-plain rules were enacted, and Paradise Lane became essentially a place for recreational lots, he said.

Lian disagreed with that assessment. Some of the lots, such as his, are on higher ground and are thus buildable, he said. And the city’s zoning maps show the area as residential, not recreational, he said.

Burkholder said the city does not have a recreational zone in its code, so the area became residential by default.

Lian said he has collected 35 signatures in favor of the de-annexation from the 69 lot owners. Many who did not sign, such as Allen, want to see the neighborhood remain recreational.

“I bought this for my golden years,” Allen said.

His neighbor, Ken White, sides with Lian.

“I bought this for my golden years, too,” he told Allen last week. “I just decided to stay.”

Like Lian, White wants to build on his two small lots and would like water hookups.

“I can see his side of the story, I really can,” Allen said. “But I believe a lot of these lots down here were sold under false pretenses.”

“Oh, yeah, they were,” White agreed.

“People were told they could build down here,” Allen said.

“No, they didn’t say I could. But they didn’t say I couldn’t,” White added.

His home had a flush toilet and a functioning well, but it wasn’t until later that he realized the septic tank needed upgrading and the well was shallow.

“I should have done a little bit more research,” White said.

Herald reporter Cathy Logg contributed to this report. Reporter Scott Morris: 425-339-3292 or smorris@heraldnet.com.

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