Lake Stevens’ growing pains

By KATHY KORENGEL

Herald Writer

LAKE STEVENS — About 200 people packed a public hearing Monday on another proposed new plan for the city’s urban growth area.

And most who spoke said the plan still is not good enough.

They said it does not adequately address needs for more roads, parks and schools, and slower growth. And a long-debated proposal for a new commercial center on Cavalero Hill received few words of praise.

However some said parts of it were an improvement over past proposals.

The newest comprehensive plan is for a 10-square-acre area around the city known as its urban growth area. It is designated as the area where the city’s population may expand by 2012.

It is the latest product of five years of planning by the county and residents.

The newest plan calls for, among other things, a slightly smaller urban growth area, a small commercial center on Cavalero Hill, and an innovative planning system, called development phasing overlay, that limits growth to areas that have the infrastructure to handle development.

Testimony was taken on the overall plan and then on the overlay proposal.

The most often mentioned concern was that the area already lacks adequate facilities, particularly roads, to deal with the growth its seen in recent years.

Steve Cottle said it already takes him 35 minutes to get from his home to I-5, a trip of only a few miles.

Residents of the Cavalero Hill area, who said traffic already backs up daily on their main drag for miles at rush hour, were particularly concerned about how proposed increased densities in their area might worsen congestion. And many expressed concerns about traffic if the proposed commercial center were to be built.

Another common concern was parking. The plan allots 2.7 acres of public-use land per 1,000 residents, which is what the area presently has.

"We go to local schools to walk in the evenings," Andrea Taylor said. "We don’t have sidewalks, safe roads for adults.

"I can’t imagine where I would have my kids play if we had youngsters," she said.

Kristin Kelly, representing Cavalero Residents for Responsible Growth, said they have several concerns about the proposed commercial center. She said members of her group favor further developing Frontier Village as a commercial center instead.

Of the few people who did address the development phasing overlay, about half supported it. The overlay would be the first of its kind in the county.

The idea is that the planning department has designated areas with sufficient infrastructure for growth as green zones, meaning development can continue. These are at Frontier Village, within city limits, and around the Tom Thumb area.

Most of the rest of the urban growth area would be designated red zones, meaning growth can’t happen until the infrastructure can be brought up to snuff. This could be done by developers or by taxes collected from local or road improvement districts.

"It’s only fair to say to developers pay your fair share," Taylor said.

Other speakers worried that such districts would only increase what they see as already hefty property taxes.

Several people said the system would throw up so many barriers that development would be discouraged and, in effect, it would lead to a growth moratorium.

Bill Binford, who owns property within the proposed commercial center on Cavalero Hill, said, "This is an economic train wreck."

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