Island Crossing annexation hits a snag
By Beckye Randall
Following a state Supreme Court ruling last month, the City of Arlington saw the road clear to annex a 210-acre area that includes Island Crossing, a process that has been in the works for more than fifteen years.
On November 17 the City Council voted unanimously to approve the annexation. After the obligatory waiting period, the land officially became part of Arlington's footprint November 25.
However, celebrations by city staffers and landowners may have been premature.
Members of the Snohomish County Council have surprised Arlington leaders by threatening a lawsuit unless the city repeals the annexation. A council letter sent to the city November 24 termed the action "illegal" according to state growth management laws.
The state's Growth Management Act requires land to be within a city's Urban Growth Area before it can be annexed, and the County Council contends Island Crossing lies outside Arlington's UGA.
In fact, Snohomish County rezoned the area in 2003 from agricultural to commercial and added it to Arlington's Urban Growth Area, but that move was contested by groups including Futurewise and the Stillaguamish Flood Control District among others. Arguing that development of the Island Crossing floodplain could lead to flooding in other areas, the opponents petitioned the state Supreme Court to review a decision by the Court of Appeals that upheld the rezoning.
When the state's high court ruled on the case October 9, according to Arlington city attorney Steve Peiffle, it determined that "Snohomish County was right to put the disputed property into Arlington's UGA."
Peiffle said the city's legal department had gone through all the processes necessary to comply with regulations and "all the property can and should be made part of the city."
However, the county's legal advisers disagree with the city's move. The Supreme Court ruling, they contend, simply forces the Central Puget Sound Growth Management Hearing Board to reconsider the zoning request, which it originally denied.
The membership of the county council has changed since the original rezoning petition, and the current council, with a majority of Democrats, is opposed to development of the rural area.
Car dealer Dwayne Lane has been waiting more than 10 years for the land use issue to be settled. He hopes to build a new dealership on property he owns along I-5 at Island Crossing.
Existing development at the I-5 exit to Highway 530 includes restaurants and gas stations, along with a housing development along the bluff north of 188th Street NE. The remainder of the area is mostly unused farmland.