Lake Stevens UW site loses ground

LAKE STEVENS — The community’s proposed site for a University of Washington branch campus is shrinking, but not disappearing.

A family that owns nearly one-third of the site pulled out on Friday, disappointing backers but not leaving them without a shot at their goal.

“We’re still in the game. This is like a roller-coaster ride and this is a little dip,” said state Sen. Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens. “I’m actually not worried.”

Lake Stevens is one of the final four locations where a future four-year college may rise. Two others are in Everett and one is in Marysville.

Next week, a state consultant will recommend which one it considers best suited for a university. Then state legislators and Gov. Chris Gregoire are expected to make a final decision next year.

Until Friday, Lake Stevens’ proposal covered 98 acres along 20th Street SE from Cavelero Road almost to 87th Avenue SE.

Then the owners of four parcels totaling a little less than 30 acres in the center of the proposal’s footprint chose not to make their land available.

“While the 30 acres are no longer available, the site is still large enough for us to continue to evaluate it and include it in the report,” said Deb Merle, higher education adviser to Gregoire.

The loss of those acres had a domino effect. It cut off access to 28 acres on the east flank owned by the Lake Stevens School District. Since most of that is considered unusable due to the presence of wetlands, it too will be effectively dropped from the proposal.

This leaves roughly 40 acres, of which 35 are county-owned on Cavalero Hill.

That means if the Lake Stevens site is eventually chosen, the college would likely be built on land long envisioned to become a county park.

That could stir things up politically among County Executive Aaron Reardon and the County Council members.

Reardon agreed in September to let the land be considered as part of the larger proposal. The latest news doesn’t change anything, he said.

“It is still up to the University of Washington and the state to determine the best site,” Reardon said, noting that the idea of a park on the property is not gone.

County Councilman Dave Somers, who represents the area, wants to see a park developed there or somewhere nearby.

“My preference would have been for them to try to reconfigure the proposal so (the county land) is not part of the package,” Somers said Friday before learning those 35 acres now are a majority of the Lake Stevens offering.

“My position is the same as long as the search team understands the situation,” he said.

“If they can still do the project there and it is still the best site — which I have a hard time believing — that park is important and would still have to be replaced,” he said.

Reporter Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623 or jcornfield@heraldnet.com.

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