ARLINGTON — The adjoining cities of Marysville and Arlington are tangled in a legal battle over a new 500-unit housing project in north Snohomish County.
A Skagit County developer hopes to break ground this summer on the residential and commercial project along what is now a rural Arlington road, with about 30 buildings on 20 acres at 16612 51st Ave. NE.
It’s called the 51st Avenue Urban Village.
The City of Marysville sued over concerns the development could negatively affect traffic at a nearby intersection.
In the court case, City of Marysville v. City of Arlington et al, a deputy city attorney for Marysville argued the new project will snarl traffic at the intersection of 152nd Street NE and 51st Avenue NE, near the Strawberry Fields Athletic Complex.
Because of that, Marysville had asked Arlington to either find a way to improve the intersection or to pay $414,075 for renovations. When the northern city refused, Marysville filed a lawsuit against Arlington and the company that has applied to build the development, Arlington 51st Street LLC.
Attorneys for Arlington argue the city has no inter-local agreement with Marysville, so it doesn’t owe anything. Arlington had already considered Marysville’s future plans to renovate the intersection when making decisions about construction.
“The Applicant did not consider or address impacts the Proposed Development would have to the Marysville Intersection, and instead assumed without evidence that the Marysville Intersection would be improved by other means,” the Marysville attorney alleges in documents filed in Snohomish County Superior Court.
The company had offered to pay a smaller amount than the figure requested by Marysville.
“Although the Applicant was not required to pay traffic mitigation fees to Marysville in the absence of an interlocal agreement between it and the City (Arlington), the Applicant would pay Marysville $67,625 for intersection improvements in the interest of moving the project forward, believing this amount to represent its ‘share’ of impacts to this extra-jurisdictional intersection,” court papers say.
Marysville responded the same day, asking instead for $83,862 and 12 cents.
Then, Arlington said the company didn’t have to pay anything.
“The Applicant subsequently stopped communicating with Marysville regarding the voluntary payment for intersection improvements,” the lawsuit says.
The developer began applying for permits in 2019.
For now, the land is a grassy field with a gravel driveway, an empty white single-story house and smaller buildings around it. Those would be torn down. The land was once used for farming, court papers say.
Neighbors include a chicken and egg farm to the north, and an automobile auction business and storage yard to the east. Land to the south and west is vacant. Those areas and the proposed development are all zoned for “general commercial.”
Arlington Municipal Airport is less than a mile north.
Plans for the complex include about 30 buildings to serve as multi-family housing, commercial space and a mix of the two, along with a few outdoor courtyards. In all, there would be about 500 apartment units and 744 parking spaces.
The tallest building would be four stories, or about 50 feet tall. Lights would be down-shielded to lessen light pollution.
It’s located in the Cascade Industrial Center. Proponents point out this would be the first mixed-use development in the area and that it would provide housing with access to public transit, restaurants and a grocery store.
The industrial center is a growing hub split between the two cities, with 57% of the land in Arlington and 43% in Marysville.
If the developer’s plan moves forward, 51st Avenue NE would be upgraded during construction of the proposed project, and two other roads would be built around the property.
Late last year, Marysville shared concerns about traffic at the nearby intersection with 152nd Street NE.
In June, the Marysville City Council approved a transportation improvement plan that addresses the intersection. It shows a third lane would be added to 152nd Street NE, as well as a traffic light and sidewalks. That work is expected to begin in four to six years.
The developer was aware of those long-term plans and took them into consideration when planning the proposed development.
In the meantime, hearing Examiner Andrew Reeves held an open meeting May 6, at which people were allowed to testify.
Besides the city of Marysville, one neighbor, who runs the egg farm, shared concerns. He worried there may not be enough of a shield between the proposed complex and the business. Arlington’s director of community and economic development, Marc Hayes, said trees would be planted as a buffer.
Another neighbor, who owns 20 acres, said she had no concerns with the project, court records show.
Reeves approved permits for construction. Marysville requested the Arlington hearing examiner to reconsider because the proposed project would cause environmental impacts and increased traffic.
“It is a truism that increased congestion impacts public health and safety,” the hearing examiner wrote in response. “Marysville has failed to explain, however, how this particular proposal will cause impacts to public health and safety that are significant enough to warrant reconsideration of the Hearing Examiner’s decision under SEPA, the municipal code, or established caselaw.”
The request to reconsider was denied.
Marysville filed the lawsuit July 17.
An initial court hearing is set for Aug. 25.