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'Not so fast, Woodinville,' says annexation opponent

Grace's urban future not set in stone

Grace annexation by Jeff Switzer, staff reporter
The City of Woodinville and Snohomish County are currently waiting for the Growth Management Hearings Board to issue a remand regarding Grace and Maltby's "urban reserve" zoning. But when the county reworks the zoning issue, will it be in the city's favor?
   "I think this issue will be decided in Superior Court," said Corinne Hensley, a resident in the Wellington Golf Course area, who believes that Snohomish County may sue the GMA Board if the board goes beyond its authority.
   Hensley intervened in front of the GMA Board on behalf of Snohomish County against Woodinville in the city's appeal against the County's Comprehensive Plan. "The city has gone a little too far," Hensley said. "They essentially haven't won anything yet."
   During the course of the appeal, Snohomish County conceded much of Woodinville's argument that "urban reserve" wasn't consistent with the Growth Management Act (GMA).
   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 designation other than urban prevents a city from annexing that area.

Similar to Bothell's annexation of Canyon Park?
   Woodinville's efforts and intention to annex the Grace area, even though it is in Snohomish County, is similar to Bothell's recent across-the-county-line annexation of Canyon Park, which extends to Thrasher's Corner.
   The main difference between Woodinville's case and Bothell's is that Canyon Park was part of Bothell's planning area, and Canyon Park was an urban growth area (UGA) prior to the Growth Management Act. "My experience with the board is they don't expect the county to stop so the city can play catch-up," Hensley said.
   According to Hensley, the Revised Code of Washington allows for counties to create UGAs for cities within the county, but not necessarily across county lines.
   Among the several options for county that Hensley outlined is creation of a UGA island not associated with the city, which could then become a fully-contained community--similar to what the Bear Creek area may face with Blakely Ridge and Northridge.
   The county may also allow the Maltby area to incorporate on its own; or it may give it an urban designation, as Woodinville has requested; or they may use some other "innovative technique" to describe the area, as they did when designating it "urban reserve."

Experience dealing with the county, GMA Board
   This appeal isn't the first time Hensley has appeared before the board. In November, she, along with 1,000 Friends of Snohomish County and Concerned Citizens for Sky Valley, won an appeal against Snohomish County for "failure to act," arguing successfully that the county had failed to adopt a new zoning code and development regulations consistent with their comp plan.
   The GMA Board recommended that the Governor apply sanctions against Snohomish County, though no sanctions were issued. Sanctions can take the form of cuts in state funding for projects or programs, leaving the county to use other revenues to fund its programs. Sanctions have not typically been applied in the past, as they tend to be very unpopular. Should Gov. Lowry not seek reelection this fall, we may see sanctions being leveled based on the GMA Board's recommendations.
   Hensley said the citizens have been waiting 2 1/2 years for Snohomish County to help work with them to decide their fate. "Hopefully what will come of this process is the county, the city and the community coordinating for what the community wants in the Maltby employment area," Hensley said. "It's a real unique area with the combination of rural, urban subdivisions, and urban employment area."
   Hensley has watched taxes skyrocket and rural land once used for hiking turned into houses, and she wants to stop cul-de-sac sprawling land use. "We're watching our rural land disappear," she said. "We don't want to be backed into the Cascades."

Woodinville's appeal expenses tallied
   At a recent Woodinville City Council meeting, former councilmember Bob Dixon addressed the council regarding the consultant fees the city paid for the appeal against Snohomish County.
   Dixon asked that the council remain aware of how much of the taxpayers' dollars are going to annex an area that may need large capital improvements while the revenue it would provide remains unclear.
   Attorney fees for the appeal have been approximately $7,500 in January, $5,700 in December, $868 in November, and $2,562 in October, while consultant fees were about $4,500 in January, $2,960 in November; about $24,000 in total.

   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.
   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.
   If Snohomish County declares the area urban, Grace would not automatically be annexed to Woodinville, as annexation is a separate process requiring the city council to adopt or accept an application for annexation.
   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.