October 14, 2002
'Toward the City of Maltby'
by Jeanette Knutson
The way the Maltby Neighborhood Alliance (MNA) figures it, if the Brightwater sewage treatment plant lands in - as they see it - Maltby, it will be a huge enabler of growth.
The growth the Maltby area has seen thus far has been willy-nilly, hodge-podge ... developer-driven, said MNA President Mike Renzelmann. And he can't bear to see more of the same "out of control" urbanization that is already occurring.
Fears of State Route 9 or Highway 522 - or both - becoming the "Aurora avenues" of south Snohomish County motivate Renzelmann and the MNA board of directors to work toward incorporation.
Renzelmann looks upon himself as a mediator, a moderator, if you will, in the discussion as to whether Maltby should incorporate in order to control its own destiny.
"I hope we have debate," said Renzelmann. "I look forward to it."
Toward that end, the MNA sent out a letter at the end of May to 150 of its key supporters. In it, the Alliance laid out its case for incorporation of the City of Maltby and solicited help in its endeavor.
"The (MNA), formed three years ago to promote a livable community, ... has found it increasingly difficult to effectively monitor the influx of projects and changes in this community."
The group is displeased that the City of Woodinville continues to pursue annexation of the Maltby industrial area.
"The loss of this tax-base," the letter stated, "would mean Maltby would likely never (become) a viable political entity."
Should Brightwater be sited along Highway 9 and anticipated accelerated growth occur, the group suspects either Snohomish County or the City of Woodinville would control the new growth ... unless they incorporate.
Response to the plea for help in undertaking the massive incorporation project was tepid.
Renzelmann interprets the soft response in two ways.
"I view it as there is no opposition to the incorporation," he said. Furthermore, "People are pre-occupied with Brightwater."
The effort to fight the billion-dollar-plus wastewater facility siphons a lot of energy from the community, he said.
"We believe there is a good opposition force to Brightwater," said Renzelmann. "We are working in the eventuality that if we get (the plant here), we are prepared."
Therefore, Renzelmann and a few others are left to lay the groundwork for, do preliminary studies on behalf of, their city's incorporation.
Renzelmann, it must be noted, is far more tentative, cautious, in his approach to incorporation than, say, gung-ho MNA Vice-president Greg Stephens.
Renzelmann is afraid of what an expanded Urban Growth Area might bring, what the increased densities that cityhood requires might mean. By the same token, he's afraid of doing nothing, knowing "business as usual - with no plan, no vision - will lead to strip mall mania," he said.
He is not daunted, however, by the fact that a previous incorporation attempt in 1997 failed.
"The former attempt failed in petition," said Renzelmann. "It ran out of gas. The boundaries were too regional; the area was too big."
In addition, too few citizens were brought into the process and the workload was too difficult for those involved.
Renzelmann sees Maltby area residents as having four choices.
1. Become annexed to Woodinville,
2. Join forces in some way with Clearview folks,
3. Take no action, or
Stephens is focusing on incorporation. Full stop.
"I'd like to see Maltby remain more a rural-type city," said Stephens.
He envisions rural cluster neighborhoods with low-impact development.
"We are happy to go to Woodinville to shop in their big shopping complexes," said Stevens. "... We'd like a less urban-style infrastructure. ... We'd like to (try) a new way of planning a city, keeping the best features that nature has provided and guiding development around those features, not over the top. ... I think it's possible to take the best science we have and integrate it into development so that a new symbiotic relationship arises, one that provides quality of life for people and wildlife and fish.
"The reason people move out to Maltby is for that quality of life in that rural setting. ... This place is quiet, forested. We aim to protect that.
"We're hoping we can do development and not remove the forest cover, the wetlands, the streams and salmon. We want to do the right thing for people and the environment." said Stephens.
He conceded there might be some who need to be converted to the concept of the City of Maltby.
"Sometimes the hardest to (sway) end up being the most valuable," Stephens said.
Renzelmann, too, envisions a world-class City of Maltby.
"We don't want to be Lynnwood," said Renzelmann. "We want to be something new, different. We want a dynamite place. We want to be on the map, have other cities come and look at us. Our landscape is beautiful. We don't want to pave it. But we need professional help to make (such a world-class) plan gel."
According to MNA literature, "A major factor in considering incorporation is the cost to taxpayers. At this time the actual impact on taxes is difficult to determine and will require a detailed study as part of the incorporation process. However, it is hoped that taxes generated from within the existing Urban Growth Area (the Maltby industrial area) will largely, if not completely, offset added taxation resulting from incorporation.
"Instead of these taxes flowing out of the area and a portion coming back, they would stay within the city taxing area.
"We believe there is a good chance that we can accomplish better land use, community involvement, and a vision for Maltby without an accompanying increase in property taxes."
City of Woodinville's Viewpoint
It seems the City of Woodinville has plans for some - not all - of what Maltby folks call "their" Urban Growth Area (UGA).
According to one of the big-picture guys at Woodinville City Hall, City Manager Pete Rose, "The southern 300-odd acres of what Snohomish County calls the 'Maltby UGA' are considered by Woodinville to be 'Woodinville UGA.' Woodinville has prevailed in court to exercise its right to do this. ... In fact, the Grace area is included in the Woodinville comprehensive plan and Woodinville has a sub-area plan identified for that area."
Rose said "(Maltby and Woodinville) are in the same boat, trying to avoid being marginalized in the Brightwater siting selection process. A City of Maltby appears to me to be one strategy to achieve this. A Woodinville annexation of the site would be another. The rural residents feel the most marginalized as their Snohomish County Council representatives are avoiding 'ex-parte' communication because they are in the quasi-judicial chain of command and may hear appeals on the project. It is the 'Perfect Storm.'
"Woodinville is the most affected incorporated jurisdiction, but it may never issue a single permit in the process (Snohomish County is currently the agency with jurisdiction).
"The unincorporated residents do not have a voice with their elected Snohomish County Council and do not have a user's stake in the service provided by the wastewater plant.
"Those on the margins are naturally reacting by trying to use existing structures to get access to the process or inventing structures (City of Maltby) to do so."
Would Maltby's incorporation plans affect Woodinville's plans to annex Grace? You bet they would.
Rose said, "We are told by Mr. Stephens that if Maltby files incorporation papers, it will include the portion of the UGA that Woodinville identifies as the 'Grace UGA.' Woodinville's comprehensive planning includes that area for future commercial growth that is integral in a long-term sustainable community. It is prime for redevelopment and Woodinville would like its community development standards applied to make it quality and consistent redevelopment.
We far prefer to annex Grace over a Maltby incorporation. Woodinville would have some legal ability to say what the (Brightwater) plant should look like if it does come here, and it would have to be annexed to Woodinville for that to happen. Otherwise, adherence to our 'Northwest Woodland Character' design theme (like City Hall), and our residential, commercial and industrial design standards would be voluntary rather than required.
"The prospective City of Maltby size mentioned to me by Mr. Stephens at the recent public hearing would need a change in the urban growth boundary - not a sure thing and not necessarily wanted by all of the rural residents.
Woodinville considers the change in the Urban Growth Area to be separate from the prospective incorporation effort.
If the Urban Growth Area is going to be widened and approved by Snohomish County, the City of Woodinville would like those residents who are logically served by Woodinville to have a shot at annexing to Woodinville, as they are Woodinville addresses, most attend Woodinville schools, they use Woodinville recreation facilities and they shop here. Energized by the Brightwater process, it is likely the area will produce several future community leaders," said Rose.
Snohomish County's Viewpoint
Snohomish County officials have heard about Maltby's interest in incorporation.
Snohomish County Councilman Jeff Sax (District 5) talked with the County Auditor Bob Terwilliger about it.
Terwilliger said he was aware that some folks have been inquiring, asking about (incorporation) requirements; but to date, the auditor's office has not seen any paperwork.
"I fully support the Maltby incorporation effort" said Councilman Sax. "I think it would be a terrific addition to the southeast portion of the county, to allow those folks down there to chart their own course, create their own character (for) the community they want to live in.
"As for as the rest of the Council, I cannot honestly say whether they would support it or not. I would be somewhat surprised if they didn't.
"I have been talking with Mike Renzelmann who is part of the Maltby Neighborhood Alliance and have encouraged him throughout the process," said Sax.
Judith Stoloff, principal planner for the Snohomish Department of Planning and Development Services, said, "It is not in our work program to do a fine-grained study for the Maltby area at this time. We haven't seen anything official yet (concerning the incorporation.)"
Stoloff also said, "There has been discussion to use Brightwater mitigation money - if it is sited along Route 9, if (such funds) can be obtained - to do a community-lead planning activity for that area, to help them develop and keep the area natural, if that's what they want. However, if they don't want to be a city, we would support that too. We want to facilitate what they want (for their community)."
In order to gauge public sentiment regarding incorporation and to plan for the future, the MNA will be hosting a series of public meetings throughout 2003. For more information about incorporation efforts, check out firstname.lastname@example.org.