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Island Crossing annexation escapes appeal

Island Crossing from Thompson Bridge.  -
Island Crossing from Thompson Bridge.
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ARLINGTON — Arlington officials released a sigh of relief at the City Council meeting Tuesday, Jan. 20, two hours after the deadline for appeals on its Island Crossing annexation.

While some community members might be wondering why the city wants responsibility for a place that floods almost annually, Council members and staff agree that it’s a good thing.

Jan. 20 was the deadline to appeal Judge Fair’s decision against the county’s effort to stop the annexation. The city of Arlington voted to annex Island Crossing in late November 2008 after legal advisors determined the state Supreme Court’s October decision had sufficient time to take effect. The state’s top court ruled in favor of Arlington’s proposed annexation of Island Crossing, saying it should be up to local jurisdictions to make such decisions.

In an interesting turn around, the Snohomish County Council then opposed the annexation, saying it was not in Arlington’s Urban Growth Area and therefore could not be annexed.

The annexation proceeded amid a flurry of storms concluding with a significant flood Jan. 7 and 8 which filled a substantial portion of the annexation area with water.

“The flood gave us the opportunity to see where the main water channels are and how best to plan for them,” said Bill Blake, the city’s natural resource manager and assistant community development director.

At the Jan. 20 meeting, city administrator Allen Johnson said city staff will proceed through “multiple layers of the onion” to transfer responsibility from various agencies to Arlington.

“We are negotiating agreements with the Silvana Fire District No. 19 and SnoPac,” Johnson said.

The assistant administrator, Kristin Banfield said the city police department is already cruising the area and that responsibilities for fire will transition in November this year.

“It’s tied with the distribution of tax monies to the fire district,” Banfield said.

County Councilman John Koster said the County Council agreed during an executive session that it doesn’t make any sense to fight the annexation.

“Everyone agreed that we’ve already beat that one to death,” Koster said.

“People looked at Judge Fair’s decision and felt she had ruled on the merits of the case, and they all felt it doesn’t make sense to go any further.”

Back in town, City Council members explained why they wouldn’t drop the annexation.

The long-timer on the Council, Sally Lien wants to remind folks that the annexation area is much larger than Dwayne Lane’s 15 acres.

“I believe the biggest issue is zoning,” Lien said. “If that land remained in the county it could have 20 houses on it.” Lien said, adding that any development inside the city limits will have to meet environmental regulations.

“It will have to meet the muster of Bill Blake,” Lien said. “And you know that’s not easy.”

“It’s also about the land on the bluff,” said City Councilwoman and Mayor Pro-Tem Marilyn Oertle.

“I think the right thing has happened,” Oertle said. “Now we can zone it appropriately. The owners of the properties will have to go through all the environmental impact requirements,” she said that she believes that Arlington will make it better.

Meanwhile the Arlington Planning Commission has been continuing a public hearing on a Cedar Stump Rezone, a city initiated rezone that proposes changing the annexation area from light industrial to highway commercial with some high density residential behind the rest stop, according to David Kuhl, the city’s community development director.

“The rezone will allow better design standards,” Kuhl said.

Once the planning commission takes a position on that proposed rezone, the city will then take action, Kuhl said.

The city’s fire chief, Jim Rankin said the annexation did not add a lot of extra responsibilities during the flood.

“We always partner with the different agencies anyway,” Rankin said. During the flood, the fire department delivered several pallets of sand bags to Silvana Fire District 19 station No. 95 and informed the property owners they were available, and city police helped close SR 530 west of town, when the state Department of Transportation had not yet arrived.

“We undertook action where we thought it was needed,” Rankin said.

“Now we have a chance to plan the area with the flooding in mind,” Blake said. “We can design any future development to encourage fishery habitat, and we can create a plan that will protect existing property owners in the area and downstream.”

Blake said he is already meeting with the Stillaguamish Tribe’s Natural Resource Department to strategize a plan for the area, and will be calling the developer of a motel that submitted an application to the county last year to build a hotel behind Patty’s Egg Nest Restaurant (formerly Weller’s).

“It’s important to us because Island Crossing is one of two portals into Arlington,” said City Councilman Graham Smith. “Development of the area will be much less hodge podge under Arlington’s supervision.”

Hearing postponed

The Arlington Planning Commission’s public hearing on the city’s proposed Cedar Stump rezone from light industrial to highway commercial and some high density residential, has been rescheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 3.

The meeting starts at 7 p.m. in the City Council Chambers at City Hall, 238 N. Olympic Ave., in downtown Arlington. For information call City Hall at 360-403-3441.

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