Annexation is on Bothell residents’ minds

More than 1,000 people have signed a petition asking the city of Bothell to annex its Snohomish County urban growth areas (UGAs).

  • Wednesday, April 9, 2008 12:00am
  • News

Snohomish UGAs land on petition

More than 1,000 people have signed a petition asking the city of Bothell to annex its Snohomish County urban growth areas (UGAs).

Members of the North East West Bothell Annexation (NEWBA) group delivered the request to Bothell’s City Council April 1.

The city will have 60 days to decide what to do with the petition if the Snohomish County Auditor certifies its signatures.

Washington’s Growth Management Act encourages the annexation of UGAs, which are unincorporated lands designated for high-density growth.

The idea is to promote development in places where adequate public facilities already exist, thereby reducing urban sprawl.

But annexation raises concerns about the costs of providing services for new neighborhoods and residents.

Bothell would gain six square miles of territory and an additional 20,000 people by annexing all of its Snohomish County UGAs.

“We’re not asking for sidewalks or playgrounds or Olympic-sized swimming pools,” said petitioner Alan Mador. “What we want is police protection, your building code and your community development expertise.”

An analysis done in 2006 indicates that property tax revenues generated by incorporating these neighborhoods would exceed the operating costs by $626,000.

“It was an interesting finding, because it’s sort of been a rule of thumb that residential areas don’t pay for themselves,” said Bothell Community Development Director Bill Wiselogle. “They do in this case because the housing in that area tends to have pretty high values, and it’s relatively new, meaning the infrastructure is already there.”

It is also estimated that the city would bring in $7 million per year in various tax revenues to help pay for the capital costs associated with annexing its Snohomish County UGAs.

“We’re not orphans,” said NEWBA member Mickie Gundersen. “We’ll bring in money.”

Some of Bothell’s existing residents are skeptical about the benefits of annexing new land, but others, like Elaine Crawford, support the idea.

“If we’re looking to do planning, we should include the urban growth areas,” she said. “We get the impacts from those areas. With more density comes more traffic and people and crime. All of that spills over into my neighborhood.

“This is important to many many thousands of people in the city.”

Among the concerns of those asking for annexation is a perceived lack of representation from Snohomish County, which has five councilmembers serving approximately 606,000 residents.

“In Snohomish County, there’s a lack of care for the existing residents, which manifests itself in a lack of code to protect trees and habitats,” Gundersen said.

Annexation supporters have also expressed concerns about Snohomish County development policies.

NEWBA tends to favor Bothell’s system, which generally calls for lower density and greater environmental protection than Snohomish County requires for its unincorporated areas.

Snohomish County is currently in the process of updating its urban development code, and the expectation is that it will be more protective of the environment.

Still, some residents familiar with the proposed changes say they don’t go far enough.

“It’s still greatly lacking in tree preservation and restoration of habitats,” Gundersen said.

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