Planning Commission passes Smokey Point plan

MARYSVILLE With only a few changes from what officials have presented in the past, the city Planning Commission May 6 passed a long-awaited master plan for the Smokey Point area.

The plan now goes to City Council, which can accept the plan as it stands, alter it any way they like or send it back to planners.

With city officials aiming to bring in commercial and light industrial development, the Smokey Point scheme affects 675 acres sitting between 172nd Street NE and 152nd Street NE to the north and south and from 43rd Avenue and to the Burlington Northern Railroad tracks, west to east.

"I'm very proud of the city staff for all the time they put into making this a good area for business," said Planning Commission member Becky Foster.

Judging from commission member comments, the biggest change to the plan presented by city planners was a revamping of landscaping standards. According to Foster, Planning Commission member Steve Leifer said city officials had taken care to ensure high design standards for buildings going into the area. With that in mind, Leifer argued the overall plan could withstand a reduction in some of the landscaping requirements imposed on those buildings. The specific proposal reduced certain setback requirements, the reasoning being that if buildings are aesthetically well designed, there is no reason to hide them behind trees and bushes, cutting into the property available for development by individual landowners.

Even with the change, Foster and others said the plan dictates the inclusion of plenty of landscaping and green space.

The area actually has relatively few property owners and most seemed to leave the commission meeting satisfied with the city's effort so far.

"I'm personally pretty satisfied with what the Planning Commission has in mind," said property owner Bill Binford.

As have numerous city officials, Binford described the area as key to the city's future economic health. He believes the land probably represents the biggest remaining undeveloped tract north of Seattle.

"There's a lot of interest in that area," Binford added, stating potential "There's a lot of interest in that area," Binford added, stating potential developers already have contacted both he and other landowners. While he declined to discuss what companies have shown interest, he said developing roads in the area will be key to how quickly that interest turns into a tax base for the city and jobs for its residents.

With the importance of roads in mind, by most accounts, Binford is spearheading creation of a Road Improvement District.

Essentially, an RID requires the agreement of a certain percentage of property owners in a given affected area. Binford said he is in the process of collecting names of landowners, with a couple of different petitions circulating. Once enough names are gathered, the issue goes to City Council. The city then sells bonds covering the cost of the roadwork, with those bonds secured by liens on the affected properties.

In the past, city Community Development Director Gloria Hirashima has said the city has not made use of an RID for street development for some time, but said they can be a quick route to getting new infrastructure in place.

According to Binford and most city officials, one key addition to the area needs to be a bridge connecting Smokey Point and Twin Lakes boulevards, the latter of which runs near the Lakewood Crossing shopping plaza. With petitions still circulating, Binford said it's too early in the process to discuss the price of such a project or when a road might actually materialize.

Other key road projects in the area might include other connections to Smokey Point Boulevard and eventually an interchange with I-5. Binford and others said the latter obviously will be a huge project almost certainly requiring state dollars to make it happen.

Potential roadwork actually led to another change in the initial plan. Responding to comments from property owners, Hirashima told the planning commission language added to the plan allows some flexibility and variation from the city's thoughts on the positioning of new streets. She said officials would consider different schemes as proposed by property owners as long as those changes meet the traffic flow requirements as seen by city officials.

Overall, Planning Commission Chair Steve Muller said he is pleased with what the city has come up with so far. He and other officials estimated businesses moving into the area could create up to 12,000 new jobs for Marysville.

Besides roads, as hinted at above, the plan goes extensively into design standards for new buildings, landscaping, setbacks, pedestrian walkways and bike paths.

"We want it to look really cohesive," Hirashima has said in discussing the overall plan.

At one point, the 121-page master plan refers to efforts to bring the "typical light industrial or commercial development to a higher level of urban design." The same paragraph mentions incorporating the area's natural environment. The plan includes several examples of what the city feels are successful business developments elsewhere, such as buildings and business parks in Bothell and Issaquah.

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