OLYMPIA — Three Lake Stevens leaders made a pitch to lawmakers Thursday on why 40 acres in their community are best suited for a proposed University of Washington campus.
They outlined the benefits of the site off Cavalero Road that’s been widely ignored as the debate on where to build the college focuses almost exclusively on land in Everett and Marysville.
“We care about higher education,” state Sen. Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens, told the Senate Higher Education Committee.
“We need to be heard. That’s why I’m here,” he said in the hearing on his bill designating Lake Stevens as the campus site.
He, Lake Stevens Mayor Vern Little and business owner Colleen Hill said the Cavalero area property is more easily accessible than Everett Station and offers greater opportunity for future expansion than exists in Marysville.
It may already be too late for Lake Stevens because Monday the panel backed legislation directing the college be put in Everett.
Hobbs said Sen. Paull Shin, D-Edmonds, the committee chairman, assured him that his bill would be given “full consideration” in spite of the committee’s earlier action.
Little told senators if the Lake Stevens site is not chosen, the city will rally behind the one that is selected.
“We do not want to get into a war or fight with any other sites. We need the process to go forward,” he said.
Last year, the Legislature allocated $4 million to find a potential location and craft a preliminary academic plan for a new branch campus to serve Snohomish, Island and Skagit counties.
As envisioned, this college would, in 20 years, have 5,000 students with instruction focused in science, technology, engineering and math.
In November, a state-hired consultant ranked the top four finalist sites. Everett Station, with 27 acres near the transit center, finished a few points ahead of the 369-acre property in Marysville near Smokey Point.
The former Kimberly-Clark property in Everett was third with the Lake Stevens proposal scoring the lowest of the quartet.
In Thursday’s hearing, Hobbs sought to remind committee members that all four sites remain in play.
He said the communities of Lake Stevens and neighboring Snohomish have had a hard time getting out that message because they have not spent tens of thousands of dollars on lobbyists as has the cities of Everett and Marysville.
And Hobbs jabbed his alma mater for taking sides.
He said it doesn’t help that the University of Washington — which he called the 800-pound gorilla — “said it wouldn’t weigh in publicly or privately but they have.”
UW is endorsing Everett, though its leaders said they will work to develop the college at whatever site is chosen.
Whatever the outcome, Hobbs said he won’t impede getting a well-developed university started.
“Even though this site may not be selected, my hope is in the end we have a University of Washington North Sound,” Hobbs said.