County, city wrestle over Island Crossing

ARLINGTON — As the city of Arlington moves forward with its annexation of Island Crossing, Snohomish County Council has threatened to sue if the city doesn’t reverse it’s ordinance of annexation.

The annexation took effect Nov. 26, five days after Arlington published a notice of the ordinance they passed unanimously Nov. 17.

Before the ordinance took effect, Mayor Margaret Larson received a letter Nov. 24 from John Moffat, the assistant chief prosecuting attorney of the land use section of the civil division at the county. The letter was sent under direction from the County Council.

“The letter requested that the city repeal its ordinance,” said Moffatt’s assistant, Martin Rollins.

County Councilman John Koster said it’s a legal question.

“The council voted 4 -1 to send a letter to the city,” said Koster. “There’s no precedent in this case and if the lawyers can’t figure it out, then we’ll have to ask a judge.”

The chair of the County Council, Dave Somers said it’s simple.

“Island Crossing is not in Arlington’s UGA, therefore it can’t be annexed,” Somers said.

“The city needs to apply to the county’s docketing process to ask them to put Island Crossing in its UGA.” The docketing process, he said, is an annual process and this year’s docketing is well underway.

Koster sees it as a difference of opinion on how to interpret the process following the State Supreme Court’s October 2008 decision. It ruled in favor of Arlington and against the Growth Management Hearings Board, stating it is up to the local jurisdiction to determine where growth should be directed.

The former County Council had supported Arlington’s efforts to annex Island Crossing through the years, but that was a different council. Now the County Council is comprised of four Democrats along with Koster, a Republican.

“I would prefer to avoid confrontation with the city,” Koster said.

Arlington officials said that its legal counsel determined that the supreme court’s decision paved the way for the city to take action.

“Our legal analysis determined that, since the county wanted the land in the UGA before all the appeals, and since the court ruled in our favor, then we figured it’s back in the UGA,” Banfield said.

The city’s attorney, Steve Peiffle referred back to a 2004 Snohomish County ordinance 04-057, which put Island Crossing into Arlington’s UGA.

“That ordinance contained a savings clause,” Peiffle said. “The savings clause said, if this ordinance is determined to be invalid, it reverts back to the old one.” That ordinance was appealed by several collaborating organizations, including the 1,000 Friends of Washington and Stillaguamish Flood Control District, but the State Supreme Court ruled in favor of Arlington. Peiffle determined that ordinance is now back in effect.

Moffat told Peiffle in a memo dated Oct. 27 that the city still needs to take action to put Island Crossing back into it’s Urban Growth Area on the county’s land use map.

“It is currently designated commercial agriculture,” Somers said.

“If Arlington wants to annex, they have to come in and ask us to change the comp plan through our docketing process. This year’s docket is documented and pre-analysis work is done. We are scheduled to take action in April.”

Moffat defended the county’s perspective.

“I am not aware of any authority that allows a county to ‘revive’ an ordinance that was invalidated four years ago without taking new legislative action,” Moffat told Peiffle in an e-mail.

“They [the county] never repealed their ordinance, so we see that ordinance in effect now,” Peiffle said.

City Councilman Graham Smith said they always make sure to do things legally.

“We asked our attorney what needs to be done and he said that we need to allow enough time for the legal decision to reverse itself. When we asked him if it’s been long enough, and he said yes, we decided to go ahead with the annexation.”

“The city is moving forward with the annexation,” Peiffle said.

City Administrator Allen Johnson said the city and the county are communicating.

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