Lane’s Island Crossing bid stalls

ARLINGTON – A state growth board has stuck a stick in the spokes on the latest attempt to urbanize Island Crossing.

Just two hours before Arlington was scheduled to vote on annexing Island Crossing, the Central Puget Sound Growth Management Hearings Board issued a decision Tuesday afternoon that led to backpedaling by City Council members.

At a special session called for the annexation, the City Council postponed a vote until challenges over the Island Crossing annexation are heard in court.

The hearings board reinstated rural zoning for the land at Island Crossing, and the decision is the latest twist in the battle over the farmland next to I-5 northwest of Arlington.

Arlington auto dealer Dwayne Lane has been leading the fight to annex the land into the city, so he could build a car lot on a high-profile spot next to I-5.

Others – including Gov. Gary Locke, farmers and managed-growth activists – say the land should stay in farming. And potential development of the floodplain property worries nearby neighbors, who say a car lot, big-box retail stores and other pavement-intensive businesses could make the area more prone to flooding.

Arlington Councilman Ryan Larsen said it seemed like the council was in a rush to approve the annexation.

“I’m still waiting for this City Council to engage in a conversation on this issue,” Larsen said. “I’m still trying to figure out why this is any different than anybody else’s project.”

It was clear that the hearings board’s decision still had some reeling Tuesday night.

“It’s far from over,” said John Burkholder, a consultant for Lane. “There have been things happening at the hearings board that are bizarre at best.”

Environmentalists and farmers praised the decision to wait. John Mauro of the Pilchuck Audubon Society said the city was right to delay an annexation vote. “It would have been illegal” to annex, he said.

Some thought an earlier hearings board decision had spared the land from annexation and intense development.

In March, the hearings board said the County Council’s expansion of Arlington’s growth area into Island Crossing was invalid because it ran counter to the Growth Management Act. The act protects farm and forest land from urban development.

But the board later rewrote its decision and removed its finding of invalidity, which gave the County Council a chance to fix the ordinance that expanded Arlington’s growth area. That board decision also meant that earlier land-use designations for the property – restricting it as “rural freeway service” land and “riverway commercial farmland” – were back in place.

Earlier this month, the County Council passed an emergency ordinance that once again expanded Arlington’s growth area to include Island Crossing.

Council members said the move was justified by a consultant report that claimed there is a shortage of large properties in Arlington that can be used for large-scale commercial businesses, such as Lane’s car lot.

Critics, though, worried that Arlington officials would immediately annex the land and let Lane submit development plans for the property – before the hearings board reviewed the County Council’s latest growth plans for Island Crossing.

However, the legal cloud over Island Crossing returned Tuesday.

In its decision, the hearings board said that since the council’s emergency ordinance removed the “rural freeway service” and “riverway commercial farmland” zoning from land at Island Crossing, the county’s growth plans for Island Crossing were faulty once again.

The hearings board said the earlier designations will remain in place until the County Council’s emergency ordinance is reviewed by the board later this month.

Reporter Brian Kelly: 425-339-3422 or kelly@heraldnet.com.

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