The most important local elections in 10 years are coming up in November, and candidate filings start in May. In their four-year terms, local elected officials will be enmeshed in Snohomish County’s eight-year cycle of Buildable Lands Project, due in June, and their own requests for Urban Growth Area expansions.
The state’s 1990 Growth Management Act and Puget Sound Regional Council’s Vision 2050 dictates the bulk of residential growth will be in I-5/Everett growth areas served by transit and jobs. Snohomish County’s June Buildable Lands Report will then divvy up the rest of our county’s growth quota.
The GMA regulates most residential growth to within a city’s Urban Growth Area. Upzonings, affordable housing, aggressive annexations, innovative designs, infill, cottage housing, and impervious surface and height allowances are just some of the ways cities are meeting the demands of their UGA growth quotas.
But some city councils will see their Buildable Lands Reports as carte blanche permission to expand Urban Growth Areas. Every five years a city can apply for UGA Expansions and with the county’s June Buildable Lands, some councilfolk and their developer friends are already planning their city’s expanded UGA’s into adjacent hobby farms, sensitive critical areas, green belts, state highway corridors and resource lands.
This urban expansion into rural lands is not sustainable! The U.S. 2 trestle is inadequate, there is no light rail coming to Highway 9 towns, and family wage jobs do not follow residential development. We cannot send these “commuter” problems into the countryside until we invest the time and money to update essential, urban services and infrastructure. These are the hard conversations voters must have with those November candidates. We must hold the line on UGA expansions and in November elect officials who feel the same way.