By BRIAN KELLY
STANWOOD — The largest annexation proposal in the city’s history is coming back for a third time, but the biggest hurdle facing the controversial Cedarhome expansion has been removed.
Within the next week or so, property owners on the town’s northeastern end plan to submit a petition to annex 350 acres into Stanwood city limits.
The city council rejected two previous attempts, the last in November 1998. But the big reason for rejection — the lack of a sewer plan — has since been solved.
The city council adopted a new sewer comprehensive plan in June.
The plan calls for improvements that will allow for more development, said Stephanie Cleveland, community development director.
After the petition is submitted, the city will study how the proposal fits into Stanwood’s growth plans. Costs, benefits and possible city service scenarios also will be considered.
The annexation will then go to the city council, which will conduct a public hearing and then approve or reject the proposal.
Stanwood, however, already has started work on the review.
"Knowing this is coming, we are already doing our analysis on what it would mean for the city," Cleveland said.
City officials had considered stretching the annexation area east to 80th Avenue NW, a move that would add another 128 acres to the proposal. Some were worried that the county wouldn’t make street improvements to the major north-south arterial, but the city could ask developers to fix up the road if it was inside city limits.
But enlarging the annexation area might also increase the number of residents who oppose the Cedarhome annexation, Cleveland said. Now the council is not recommending the expansion.
"In the end, because it seemed like most of the people would not be for annexation, the council decided to remain neutral. If it happens, it happens," Cleveland said. "If it doesn’t, it doesn’t."
If the 350-acre area is annexed, growth will largely depend on how fast developers want to pay for infrastructure improvements.
There are no sewers in the area now, Cleveland said. The sewer line ends at the southeast corner of the annexation area.
"The city is not planning to install sewers. It will be up to developers to extend the sewer to their development," she said. "(Development) will be as fast as they can move that sewer along."
Cleveland said she expects the southeast corner of the annexation area to be developed first.
The entire area eventually could support about 1,157 homes, but the city expects the probable number to be closer to 800 homes. The eventual population is estimated at 3,471; Stanwood had a population of 3,380 in 1999.
The acreage is within the city’s urban growth boundary, the line that marks the maximum extension for Stanwood’s growth over the current 20-year planning cycle.
"Statistically, Stanwood is running out of residential land to meet its Growth Management Act housing targets," said Jim Miller, one of the organizers of the annexation effort.
"Stanwood has used up, pretty much, its vacant land for residential purposes within the corporate boundary," said Miller, who owns roughly four acres in the annexation area.
It also makes sense to include the area within the city, Miller said, because Stanwood, as well as the county, have made major infrastructure investments in the neighborhood, including an elementary school, street improvements, a sewage lift station and the extension of a water line.
"Of all the land that could be annexed to the city, this is the land where most of the public investment has gone in," he said.
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