Opinion

Huge residential development would cause traffic migraine

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The Snohomish County Council gave its initial approval Monday night for a zoning change for a proposed residential development in the Lake Goodwin area that would elevate the traffic issues in north Snohomish County to a whole new level.
The nearly 2,800-acre proposal could add as many as 1,200 new homes causing elected officials of Arlington, Marysville and Stanwood to write letters to the County Council voicing their opposition to the proposal concerns which apparently resonated only with Councilmember John Koster who cast the lone no vote to study the proposal further. Council members Kirke Sievers, Gary Nelson, Dave Gosset and Dave Sommers all voted to include the proposal on the final docket which is scheduled for a vote in spring of 2008.
Under current land use density, the 2,800-acre plot could hold 822 rural cluster lots and with the proposed redesignation 396 additional lots would be allowed, for a total of 1,218 lots. Edmonds-based McNaughton Group, which is requesting the zoning change, has said it is studying how to build a rural village which could set aside as much as 80 percent of the land as open space.
Many questions still need to be answered about the proposed development Should such a large development be allowed in such a rural setting? What about water and sewer service? What would be the impacts on the wetlands in the area? How will the increased population impact the local school districts? And how will the proposed development impact traffic in the area?
While all of the questions cause concerns, it is the last question that causes the most consternation among local residents and elected officials. Traffic to and from the proposed development would most likely take 172nd Street NE, a road already reeling under the impacts of on-going development in the Lakewood area.
Traffic in that area has been a long-standing problem. After years of planning, a multi-million dollar revamp of the 172nd Street Overpass was completed in December 2005 thanks, in large part, to the efforts of the Marysville-Arlington Traffic Relief Plan group an organization of elected officials, business people and community residents. Unfortunately, any relief to the traffic problem provided by the overpass project was soon overwhelmed by development in the area, and the problem only continues to get worse. The addition of up to 1,200 new families to the area would cause a significant negative impact on the traffic in the area.
If any lesson is to be learned from the recent development in the Lakewood area, it is that traffic improvements must be made before any additional development is allowed. Allowing development before requiring that local roads are able to handle the increased traffic has proven to be more than problematic. It negatively affects quality of life issues, emergency response times and local commerce.
While the proposed development in the Lake Goodwin area may be years away, so too is any solution to the traffic migraine it will cause.
County Council members should listen to local elected officials and residents when considering proposals that will have a direct impact on them. When the issue comes before them again in the spring of 2008, they should not only ask What are you going to do about traffic, they should ask, What has already been done to mitigate the traffic impacts caused by the proposal?

STF

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