Arlington City Council approves environmental review for UGA expansion

Paul Ellis, community and economic development director for the city of Arlington, explains the process of expanding the city’s urban growth area to the City Council on Feb. 18. - Kirk Boxleitner
Paul Ellis, community and economic development director for the city of Arlington, explains the process of expanding the city’s urban growth area to the City Council on Feb. 18.
— image credit: Kirk Boxleitner

ARLINGTON — The Arlington City Council voted unanimously on Tuesday, Feb. 18, to approve an environmental review for a proposed Urban Growth Area expansion for the city.

Paul Ellis, community and economic development director for the city of Arlington, explained that all the cities of Snohomish County are updating their comprehensive plans to coincide with the county’s updated comp plan by next year.

“This is part of a long process,” Ellis said. “If we expand the UGA, then 152 acres on the west side of the freeway, just north of Marysville, could eventually come into the city, if the property owners agreed to have it annexed. Before that can happen, though, these environmental and traffic studies need to be conducted, to make sure there are no adverse impacts.”

Ellis reported that not only Arlington, but also Everett, Stanwood, Sultan and Granite Falls are among the five cities in the county that are proposing changes to their urban growth areas, which he acknowledged usually means growing those UGAs.

“All of the reviews for those proposed UGA changes are incorporated into one large county study, but each little piece of that study has its own price, so that each city pays its fair share,” Ellis said. “The study should commence the week after its approval, and will probably go pretty fast to begin with, to the point that it should be halfway done during the spring, with a final completion date expected around the late summer or early fall. The drop-dead deadline is June of 2015, when all the results have to be into the county.”

Although small changes are made to each city’s comp plan on a yearly basis, this marks the eight-year period during which major changes are required to be incorporated into comp plans statewide.

“The public will want to keep their eyes out for any public hearings on the comp plan,” Ellis said. “We want their participation, which is why hearings will be scheduled throughout the next year, as pieces of the new comp plan come forward and are resolved into a draft form. If people want to see what the updates will be, getting their input into it is a good start.”

The environmental review will cost $57,065.37, to reimburse the county for Arlington’s portion of the study, and will include traffic analysis and modeling, as well as amendments to the county comp plan, and property characteristics for population calculations and proposed zoning.

“This study will look at the potential traffic impact on all our roads, and how they could be affected if the urban growth area is annexed and developed at the same level of density as the city,” Ellis told the City Council on Feb. 18.

“Will this study look at the impact on those roads if mass transit services are provided there?” Council member Debora Nelson said.

“I don’t know,” Ellis said. “We’d have to take that to Community Transit.”

When Council member Jesica Stickles asked if the county could deny the city’s request to expand its UGA even after paying for the study, Ellis admitted that this is a possibility.

“If this ultimately gets approved, how long will the annexation process take?” asked fellow Council member Jan Schuette, serving as mayor pro tem in Arlington Mayor Barb Tolbert’s absence.

“Typically three to four months,” Arlington City Attorney Steve Peiffle said. “That’s not taking into account any appeals, though.”

Ellis added that the city is paying for half the cost of the study now, and will pay the other half when the study is halfway complete, to get a better idea of what the final cost will be.

“We’ll make sure that any extra dollars that aren’t spent on the study will come back to Arlington,” Ellis said.


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