Lake Stevens lifts ban on sewers

By Theresa Goffredo

Herald Writer

LAKE STEVENS — Lake Stevens City Council member Rich Estep feared that lifting the sewer moratorium would unleash a torrent of development.

On Monday, Estep made an emotional plea to the council, asking it to postpone what he believed was a hasty decision. And though his pleas were convincing, they did not persuade enough members to vote no.

The council voted 4-3 in favor of an ordinance that lifts the town’s more than two-year-old moratorium on new sewer hookups. Those voting in favor of lifting the moratorium were council members Jack Blackwell, Glenn McLoughlin, Neal Dooley and Virginia Connell. Estep was joined by council members Gen Moore and Dan Reichenberg in voting against the ordinance.

Last week, the council postponed lifting the sewer moratorium because it felt it first wanted to make sure the city had in place new rules regarding planned residential developments. Those rules generally would create higher standards for these types of planned subdivisions by forcing developers to provide open space, stands of trees and a variety of housing types.

But on Monday the council postponed again a vote on setting higher standards. And then the council voted to lift the sewer moratorium.

Estep objected, saying he felt that he was "jumping the gun" without the new planned residential rules in place. "I feel it’s an injustice to the citizens and nothing is in line."

Lifting the sewer moratorium is expected to open the door for 200 new sewer connections and the potential for new homes or commercial and industrial projects.

Lake Stevens Public Works supervising manager Rick Vilhauer told the council that he didn’t think there would be a landslide of developers once the sewer moratorium was lifted. Currently, there are only two applications from developers that are complete, Vilhauer said.

But Estep said at least "120 (hookups) would go in a heartbeat." He asked the council to continue the moratorium for at least another 30 days to ensure that the new rules for planned residential developments would be in place.

"Hindsight is better than foresight, so let’s continue the moratorium," Estep said. "It won’t make or break this community, but our decision can."

Several city leaders were pushing for an end to the moratorium, which is expected to bring a welcome boost to the city’s tax base. The tax base has been stretched to the limit to pay for services such as police and sidewalks that growth in Lake Stevens has demanded.

According to the 2000 census, the Lake Stevens area was the fastest growing region in Snohomish County. The city’s population is at 6,361, an 88 percent increase since 1990 when 3,380 people lived in town.

The city has forecast, based on residential development alone, an additional $120,000 in on-going revenue from new property taxes. There is also an anticipated one-time infusion of $500,000 from taxes generated from the sales of building materials, and from the sale of building permits that will also be added to the general fund budget.

The city’s general fund budget for this year is $1.9 million.

You can call Herald Writer Theresa Goffredo at 425-339-3097

or send e-mail to goffredo@heraldnet.com.

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