SULTAN — The shoulder of Sultan Basin Road on the north side of town is dotted with signs touting new and soon-to-be constructed houses. Some promise affordable homes on acreage, three-car garages and outdoor living spaces.
It’s a tempting offer for those living in Seattle and Bellevue, where back yards are a privilege few can afford.
City administrators are counting on those amenities to attract buyers for the nearly 600 homes slated to be built in Sultan. Six subdivisions from a handful of developers are in the pipeline. As many as 100 homes could be available by next spring, city planning director Andy Galuska said.
The increase in housing capacity could mean a significant growth spurt for the town of 5,000. Sultan’s already tricky traffic situation only promises to worsen with more commuters on the road.
Galuska estimates there are about 1,500 homes in Sultan today.
Mike Pattison, a lobbyist for the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties, said the construction boom isn’t surprising.
“The hot growth in Sultan is not unexpected,” he said. “Snohomish County has a buildable land supply shortage and Sultan is one of the remaining few communities with buildable land. There continues to be strong demand for detached single-family housing and people are willing to drive farther to get it.”
More building permits were issued in Sultan by June of this year than in all of 2018, Galuska said.
The newest projects average about 5,000 square feet and prices run in the high $300,000 to $500,000 range.
According to county estimates, the city could see 8,000 new residents by 2040.
With already annoying traffic issues and maxed-out schools, city administrators are trying to brace for the new bodies.
By noon on any given Sunday, north Sultan resident Dan Klett said Sultan Basin Road is backed up past his home on Yew Avenue with cars attempting to turn onto westbound U.S. 2.
When the highway is backed up, which happens on weekends as city dwellers head for the mountains, it can take Klett half an hour to crawl the mile down to U.S. 2, the only way into town from Sultan’s north side.
It’s the sole route to the city’s only grocery store. Many other services are farther down the highway in Monroe.
City administrators partially blame Google Maps, which directs traffic through Sultan’s backroads when U.S. 2 gets clogged up.
Some residents say adding more houses to the area will only make traffic worse. But stopping growth wouldn’t solve the city’s traffic problem, city administrator Will Ibershof said.
About 70 percent of cars on the road are from out of town, based on tickets the police give out, he said.
Ideas for addressing the issue have been tossed around for years, Mayor John Seehuus said.
A recent traffic study by Transportation Solutions Inc. suggested widening U.S. 2 is the most viable option. But with the Snohomish River and train tracks to the south, that would mean taking out the first row of businesses in downtown Sultan to make way, Ivershof said.
“It’s not possible without destroying our community,” Sky Valley Chamber of Commerce director Debbie Copple said.
Seehuus sees the only realistic option as forging a bypass through the Cascades.
“That probably won’t happen in my lifetime,” he said.
For relief in the short term, Galuska said the city is considering a new east-west connection to help residents get around during peak traffic. One potential option is extending 132nd west to provide downtown access.
As new homes take shape in former pastures and empty lots, portable classrooms stack up at Sultan schools. The district is already at capacity, Seehuus said, but federal aid only becomes available once schools have to start turning students away for lack of space.
Seehuus said the city is doing its best to work with schools in planning for the inevitable influx.
All new construction is subject to impact fees, and each developer will pay $3,175 for parks, $4,350 for traffic and $1,501 for schools with each unit it builds.
Thirty-year Sultan resident Bronn Journey said he’s not against the growth coming his city’s way. But a recent request to increase a development’s density has him worried builders might have too much freedom.
Snohomish-area developer ACME Homes wants to change a 14-acre lot from low to moderate density, allowing the planned construction of 70 homes in a subdivision called Daisy Meadows.
Up on Yew Avenue, Klett moved to Sultan with his family about two years ago for the quiet. They were living in Everett, and he wanted to get his daughters out of the city.
“Given the way the housing market is, this was as close to rural living as we could get with what we could afford,” he said.
His neighborhood is flanked by a few other developments, but is mostly surrounded by open space.
Now, he’s worried that rural character will give way to suburban neighborhoods.
At 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Google Maps estimated the commute from downtown Seattle to Sultan Basin Road as an hour and 15 minutes. Late-afternoon travel times to Everett often run about 40 minutes.
Mayor Seehuus doesn’t think that will deter folks from buying up new homes.
“We haven’t had a problem so far,” he said.
Julia-Grace Sanders: 425-339-3439; firstname.lastname@example.org.
The city is currently taking public comment on the Daisy Meadows rezone.
Send comments to Andy Galuska, planning director at email@example.com. The planning board is slated to vote on the Daisy Meadows rezoning at their next meeting at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 15 ,in the City Council Chambers.