County Council vote Tuesday is mini-cities’ last chance

Like zombies rising from a political grave, rural mini-cities refuse to rest in peace.

The issue could have died last week when County Executive Aaron Reardon tried to take back his veto of a council decision to get rid of the developments. But the county charter doesn’t say whether Reardon is allowed such a move.

Now, it’s up to the County Council to pull the plug.

A vote on overriding Reardon’s veto is scheduled at 11 a.m. Tuesday. Council Chairman Mike Cooper said he wanted to take a vote, rather than argue about what the executive can or cannot do.

“I think the best and safest thing would be to take the vote, and not get into a debate,” Cooper said.

A vote of at least 4-1 is necessary to override.

Rural mini-cities, which planners call fully contained communities, are a type of master planned community. They allow builders to create dense housing developments in rural areas if they provide nearby jobs and pay for some infrastructure costs.

So far one has been proposed for 6,000 homes near Lake Roesiger east of Lake Stevens.

Proponents say mini-cities are needed to absorb population growth. Opponents argue they waste taxpayer money by stretching infrastructure such as schools and roads to sparsely populated areas.

The council in August voted 3-2 to remove the zoning designation from county code.

Reardon vetoed the decision on Sept. 1, saying the mini-cities were necessary. He also said the two councilmen who favored mini-cities — Dave Gossett and John Koster — urged him to veto.

Gossett and Koster later denied telling Reardon what to do and demanded he correct the record. Instead, Reardon accused them of using dishonest tactics and announced he was taking back the veto.

In making that decision, he understood the council would still get the final say.

“The charter’s silent on the issue, and it may take further council action,” said Reardon’s spokesman, Christopher Schwarzen. “That’s OK with us.”

Though he initially favored the mini-cities option, Gossett said he’ll now vote to overturn the veto.

He said he changed his position after other councilmen assured him that county policies wouldn’t send a disproportionate share of the new population to his district on the county’s south end. He also said he wanted to get past the issue because of “the executive’s political maneuvering.”

About 700,000 people live in Snohomish County. State forecasts for growth by 2025 vary widely, from 70,000 new arrivals on the low end to 300,000 on the high end.

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