Lake Stevens attempts maximum annexations

LAKE STEVENS – This city is on the brink of becoming Snohomish County’s fastest-growing community.

Rather than taking 20 years, officials are making plans to annex the city’s entire urban growth area in six years.

That means adding:

* 7,200 homes to the current 2,500.

* 28,000 people to the current 7,200.

* $2.2 billion in assessed value to the current $561 million.

Some of that growth could begin this month.

Expansion plans

Residents of four areas west of Lake Stevens have filed annexation petitions that would extend the citys western boundary to Highway 9. The petitions will go before the review board on Tuesday and before the county planning commission Dec. 13. If the expansion is approved, it would go before the Lake Stevens City Council Dec. 27.

Also, urban housing and commercial development is proposed on rural land near Marysville and Lake Stevens. A public hearing is scheduled before the Snohomish County Council on Wednesday. Final decisions are expected soon after.

Four pending annexations would increase the city’s size by about half, or 2,147 acres, and its population by about one-third, or 2,320, by the end of the year.

The reason the city wants to grow so quickly is simple: It wants to control how the areas grow and not leave it up to the county.

Mayor Lynn Walty and others say that with housing developments springing up everywhere, it’s imperative that city officials have some say in the development of the streets and other amenities before they are built, instead of having to pay for upgrades later.

“To me, (annexation) is the No. 1 issue,” Walty said.

Residents of the areas seeking annexation say they already feel as if they are part of Lake Stevens and believe they’d be better served by the city, and wouldn’t have to travel down U.S. 2 to reach the county campus in Everett.

“We have no voice in county government,” annexation area resident Marie King said. “We do, but it’s a mousy voice.”

King has been promoting annexation for four years, and said most of the people she has talked to favor joining the city.

Jennifer Buchanan / The Herald

Julie Ubert gathers signatures for a Lake Stevens annexation petition in the home of Tom and Chris Wartinger, while their dog, Snoopy, sniffs things out.

Resident Julie Ubert, who works for the Lake Stevens Police Department, also favors joining the city, because “our tax money will stay in the community.”

“They’re willing to put forth the effort to make the city grow in the best way. There’s a lot of good people with good ideas to put forth to make sure it’s the kind of community everybody wants to live in,” she said.

The two women were among those knocking on doors asking property owners to sign annexation petitions. They’ve encountered a few who don’t want to join the city, but they say most appreciate the benefits of annexation.

Those benefits would include quicker police response time, improved traffic control, more sidewalks and safety improvements, proponents say.

Residents David and Mari Jo Elder haven’t made up their minds yet about annexation into the city. They moved to the area because it was rural, Mari Jo Elder said. “But the county has seen fit to change that,” with houses springing up everywhere.

“We have quite a few concerns,” she said.

They’ve asked city officials numerous questions about traffic, whether the speed limit in their neighborhood would be lowered, and whether they’d pay more in taxes for services if their neighborhood joined the city. City employees are preparing answers, Elder said.

City and county officials said it appears taxes and fees would be about the same if annexation occurs; some would go up and others would go down.

“It seems like the city is going to a lot of effort to try to answer people’s questions about it, and that seems positive to me,” Elder said.

In the early 1990s, residents voted down a large proposed annexation on both sides of Highway 9 in the Frontier Village area.

Since then, “one community around the lake” has become a theme embraced not only by the city but by much of the surrounding area.

“We’ve worked really hard in order to get to the climate that we have today,” Walty said.

The city is preparing for growth. Officials have hired a planner and an annexation coordinator, and will be adding a planning director and three more police officers.

They also will put more money in the budget for streets and other services in the annexed areas, Walty said.

“I believe it’s imperative that we annex our urban growth area as quickly as we can,” Walty said.

“We think it’ll take four to six years. We have to analyze each (proposal) separately as we move into it. Each one has its own financial impact.”

Reporter Cathy Logg: 425-339-3437 or logg@heraldnet.com.

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