Marysville: business parks for Smokey Point?

MARYSVILLE — The pastoral fields in the Smokey Point area are expected to develop, and Marysville city officials now have a plan for how they want it to happen.

They hope the area will draw business parks and light manufacturing — if it doesn’t land a University of Washinton branch campus — and they have $85 million in road improvements mapped out to go with it.

The City Council is scheduled tonight to discuss the plan for 675 acres at the north end of the city. The plan, developed with landowners in the area, could be approved next week.

Other improvements, such as the extension of sewers and restoring salmon-bearing streams, are also planned. These projects don’t have dollar figures attached to them.

There’s little money yet for paying for the roads or other improvements.

Grant money, local-improvement districts among property owners, and developer fees are expected to generate funds for many of the projects down the road. Design for a planned $17 million bridge over I-5 at 156th Street NE — seen as a key to moving traffic in the area — is the only project with funding so far.

“There will be a lot of creative tools we’ll look at to complete the infrastructure in this area,” city planner Gloria Hirashima said.

Officials say once businesses start to come, the money for improvements, and other benefits to the city, will follow.

“We just want the jobs up here,” Mayor Dennis Kendall said.

Now, the land still has a few houses with only about 50 people living there. It’s mostly open with some industry already present. Most of the land in the area has already been sold to real-estate investors.

The city is taking advantage of its chance to plan the area, city administrator Mary Swenson said.

“Most of the time you don’t have the opportunity to do this,” she said, citing other areas that grew haphazardly before they were annexed by the city.

After the proposal for a NASCAR track fell through in 2004, Marysville made plans to add the then-unincorporated area to the city and attract businesses that create high-paying jobs. A large part of the area, a little larger than a square mile, became part of Marysville last year.

Then came an opportunity for the city to pursue landing a University of Washington branch campus. A study group rated the site second to one near Everett Station, but no decision has been made.

The Higher Education Coordinating Board has been directed by the Legislature to bring together interested parties in Snohomish, Island and Skagit counties to discuss where to build the campus. A recommendation on a site is due to the Legislature by Dec. 1.

The city would still like to have the campus. It has also been marketing the area to businesses — if the campus comes, it’ll be a good mix, officials said. If not, they’re covered.

Business parks and light industry will flow nicely into development immediately to the north in Arlington around the airport, officials said. To envision what it will look like, they say, think Bothell.

So far, there has been some interest from businesses.

“There are tenants and clients talking to us right now,” said real-estate investor Jim Tosti, who owns 360 acres, the largest chunk owned by one person in the area. “The important thing is to get the property so it’s marketable and we can bring it into production.”

The key, he said, was sitting down with city officials and getting the list of funding methods written into the plan.

“We just wanted to make sure as property owners we got everything right the first time, before it’s approved,” Tosti said.

Property owners already have told the city they’d like to pitch in to pay for road improvements on 156th east of Smokey Point Boulevard and on 51st Avenue NE from 152nd Street NE to Arlington, Hirashima said. The plan’s not final but could include a city-property owner split, she said.

It’s hoped the bridge over I-5 can be built in 2010. The other roads are likely to be built or widened as the area develops, officials said.

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