Top row from left: Mason Thompson, James McNeal and Carston Curd. Bottom row from left: Mark Swanson, Thomas Agnew and Amanda Dodd.

Top row from left: Mason Thompson, James McNeal and Carston Curd. Bottom row from left: Mark Swanson, Thomas Agnew and Amanda Dodd.

Housing density is the big question in Bothell City Council races

In one of three races, Mason Thompson is defending his council and mayoral seat from longtime fellow council member James McNeal.

BOTHELL — As Bothell grows, City Council candidates have different ideas on how to keep the city viable for generations to come.

Split between Snohomish and King Counties, Bothell is home to over 47,000 residents — and state law mandates the city, like others, have a “comprehensive plan” to manage growth.

The biggest issue for candidates on the ballot? Housing.

Single-family zoning requirements in much of Bothell long slowed construction of “middle housing,” like duplexes, triplexes and townhomes. But this year, state lawmakers passed a bill allowing middle housing despite local zoning rules. The measure aimed to increase housing supply and density.

Candidates are also focused on issues like salmon recovery, public safety and traffic.

For Position 2, incumbent council member Mason Thompson faces James McNeal, who has been the council member for Position 4 for eight years. Thompson also serves as mayor.

For Position 4, Carston Curd and Mark Swanson are both two newcomers.

For Position 6, former council member Thomas Agnew is challenging incumbent Amanda Dodd.

Position 2

Mason Thompson

Since 2019, Thompson has served as Bothell’s mayor, a position elected by his council peers. The incumbent said adding housing density won’t be as disruptive as opponents may think, he said.

“We’re not changing setbacks, we’re not changing height limits, we’re not talking about enormous buildings,” Thompson said. “Realistically, it’s the next incremental step of growth for our single-family neighborhoods.”

Thompson, 44, previously served on the Parks and Recreation Board and the Capital Facilities Planning Committee. He wants to preserve the city’s environment, such as the Shelton View Forest.

Mason Thompson

Mason Thompson

Thompson said population growth has been concentrated in small parts of the city to preserve single-family housing. More diverse kinds of housing would “lessen” the impact of population growth, bringing less disruptive infrastructure projects and traffic, Thompson said.

“I believe that no neighborhood should be immune from growth, but no neighborhood should be forced to change dramatically,” Thompson said. “Middle housing is a way to kind of flip the status quo on its ear and to do something different so that we can get better results for our community.”

By building houses closer together, there would likely be reduced traffic and more opportunities to walk or bike, Thompson said.

“We’re just allowing a few more families to live in the same building and a few more modest homes to get built in Bothell,” Thompson said. “So maybe our teachers, our dispatchers, our firefighters, peers can afford to live here instead of having to drive from a different community. People don’t mind that.”

Thompson has raised over $20,000 in campaign funds.

James McNeal

McNeal has served on the City Council for the past eight years. He did not respond to requests for an interview.

McNeal has worked in construction for 27 years. He has served on 11 different regional boards, including the city’s diversity and equity, transportation and land conservation committees.

“More than ever, we need leaders that focus on the whole community and not to be divisive,” McNeal wrote in the voters’ pamphlet. “We need leaders that are positive towards community members, staff and work well with others on council. With your vote I will continue to demonstrate these characteristics.”

McNeal did not report any campaign funds to the Public Disclosure Commission.

Position 4

Carston Curd

Curd, 30, joined Bothell’s planning commission in 2017. Now serving as the committee’s vice chair, Curd is seeking a seat on the City Council.

“It’s sort of the next step that I can take and really bring some science and some background information to policy decisions that are being made,” he said.

Curd, who also works as a natural resources planner for Snohomish County Surface Water Management, advocates for more affordable housing options. Amid Bothell’s growth, he wants to expand affordable housing for those who don’t fit into single-family homes, such as students or multi-generational families.

“We’re to the point now where we don’t have much land left that is not developed with single-family homes,” Curd said. “Learning how to integrate different housing types into the fabric of our city without causing inadvertent issues with traffic or utility services, that’s pretty important.”

Carston Curd

Carston Curd

He feels housing and protecting the environment are interconnected issues.

Expanding the Seattle area’s urban footprint into fragile regions closer to the Cascades is harmful to salmon habitats — and therefore Bothell residents, Curd said. Adding more housing to already developed areas allows residents to be closer to grocery stores, schools and their community.

“That development pattern is not allowing people to live in the cities where there’s already infrastructure,” Curd said. “I think that it’s not just about density, it’s also about bringing amenities and making it like a neighborhood worth living in.”

Curd has raised over $12,000 in campaign funds.

Mark Swanson

Swanson is against adding density to Bothell.

“There is no affordable housing crisis,” he said in July.

In October, the candidate declined a phone interview with The Daily Herald, saying he would only answer questions in person in Bothell.

Swanson, who hasn’t held elected office before, believes Bothell has “forced” the city’s population growth by allowing developers to build apartments and multi-family housing, according to a Herald interview during the 2023 primaries.

Mark Swanson

Mark Swanson

He has a background in engineering, serving as an aerospace engineer for 27 years, according to the voters’ pamphlet.

Swanson is concerned about how more housing development will affect the environment, traffic congestion and crime rates.

“I will do everything I can to be transparent,” Swanson wrote in the pamphlet. “Work to save natural Bothell and preserve the neighborhoods of our town.”

Swanson did not report campaign funds to the Public Disclosure Commission.

Position 6

Thomas Agnew

Agnew, 71, who has lived in the city for 42 years believes the current board has moved too far to the left — and that is not representative of Bothell’s residents.

“You know, our city isn’t all Democrat, it’s not all Republican, it’s not all independent,” Agnew said. “They’re kind of the middle of the road.”

From 2010 to 2022, Agnew served on the Bothell City Council. Now retired, the Vietnam War veteran previously worked as a firefighter and paramedic.

He is running for another term to focus on public safety, pushing for more funding for Bothell’s police and firefighters.

Bothell police suffered reduced staffing in 2021 with 13 positions frozen. Last year, the department lost 11 positions, but hired 14 commissioned officers and one non-commissioned staff member.

For the 2023-24 budget, the police department saw a 15% increase in funds over the previous fiscal year. The fire department saw a 12% increase.

Thomas Agnew

Thomas Agnew

Agnew criticized movements to defund police that arose in 2020.

“All we have to do to look and see if that works is to look at Seattle, and Seattle’s done that, and they’re a mess right now,” Agnew said. “I’m afraid our city can go in that direction.”

Agnew says the current council is “really concerned” with bike plans and changing the makeup of neighborhoods with single-family housing. The former council member believes increased housing is a reasonable direction to take for Bothell’s continued growth. But the push for more duplexes and triplexes in single-family home areas, he said, is not the answer.

“What everybody’s pushing is for the missing middle,” Agnew said. “There’s no data anywhere that I can see that gives us a blueprint to take care of that. I don’t see a lot of science behind this yet. So are we just throwing spit wads at a wall and hoping a couple stick?”

Agnew believes those in single-family areas should have more of a voice to changes in their neighborhood.

Agnew has not reported campaign funds to the Public Disclosure Commission.

Amanda Dodd

Dodd, 35, appointed to the council in 2022 by the King County Council, wants to ensure affordable housing for the next generation.

Alongside Curd, she worked on the city’s planning committee for three years to bring community voices to housing, infrastructure and zoning regulations. This is her first time running a campaign.

“As a millennial who grew up in Bothell and struggled to afford housing, that’s a perspective that we should have,” Dodd said.

Dodd would push for more affordable housing options, like duplexes and triplexes, around the city. The longtime Bothell resident found it difficult to find housing that fit the needs of her family, who needed disability accommodations.

“Not everybody is looking with so many requirements on board, but it’s gotta be easier to find housing,” Dodd said. “We just don’t have a lot of in-between options. We go ‘apartment, condo, townhouse, single family home.’”

Amanda Dodd

Amanda Dodd

The average single-family house in Bothell has a price tag of $957,034, according to Zillow.

Dodd favors spreading out multi-family homes to prevent overburdening neighborhoods along Highway 527 and 522.

“Just remember that if you live next to a duplex, it’s gonna take up the same physical space as a single-family home,” Dodd said.

She also wants to invest more into resources, like parks and recreation, that bring Bothell residents together. The city’s budget should reflect its values, Dodd said.

“That (parks and recreation) builds community,” Dodd said. “You meet people who have the same interests as you,” she said. “You meet people who need the help you can offer or who know things that you want to know. That kind of stuff makes a city a home versus just a place you sleep at night.”

Dodd has raised over $8,000 in campaign funds.

Ballots are due Nov. 7.

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated Amanda Dodd was appointed to the Bothell City Council in 2022 by Mason Thompson. She was actually appointed by the King County Council.

Maya Tizon: 425-339-3434; maya.tizon@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @mayatizon.

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