by Jeff Switzer
The City of Woodinville may be able to annex the Grace area in the future after all. At the Jan. 16 GMA appeals hearing, Snohomish County agreed that their "urban reserve" designation of the Grace Urban and Maltby Industrial area did not meet the requirements of the Growth Management Act, and requested the designation be remanded for reworking.
The City of Woodinville had appealed the designation last fall because it effectively blocked the City's future plans to annex the area. The Revised Code of Washington states that any other designation other than urban prevents a city from annexing that area.
"We're happy the county came to its senses," said Woodinville City Attorney Wayne Tanaka. "It would have been nicer if they had done so in the first place."
The Growth Management Hearings Board is expected to issue the remand within the next few weeks. Woodinville's appeal was one of many against Snohomish County, and the Hearings Board has until March to issue a decision. Snohomish County will have 120 days from that date to comply with the order.
Ray Sturtz, planning director with the City of Woodinville, hopes that the GMA Hearings Board acts quickly in remanding the comprensive plan back to Snohomish County, which would require action within 120 days.
"They may issue a decision all at once," said Sturtz. "The issues are clear cut, things can be worked out, and the city is willing to work with Snohomish County. Let's not drag it out and waste taxpayers' money." In the meantime, Sturtz plans to work with the county to designate Grace and perhaps the Maltby industrial area as urban. Snohomish County had suggested the remand and wanted to include it in their Phase II Comp Plan revision, which could take up to five years.
The city's goal is to have the urban designation before May when the Council is expected to adopt Woodinville's Comprehensive Plan. Snohomish County has several options under the expected remand: designate the area urban; designate it rural, which would leave them open for another appeal from the City of Woodinville; or use some other "innovative technique" to describe the area, as they did when designating it "urban reserve."
"The reality is it would have to be urban," Tanaka said. Another problem Snohomish County will have to deal with is that a rural designation would not be consistent with the existing uses of the area.
While some of the area is residential, much of it is industrial. If Snohomish County declares the area urban, Grace would not automatically be annexed to Woodinville, as annexation is a separate process.
The Grace urban area includes approximately 490 acres located generally along SR-9 and SR-522, some of which is zoned for and developed with industrial uses. It also includes the Wellington Hills Golf Course.