Ruling doesn't halt Everett's plans for shoreline

By Rachel Tuinstra
Seattle Times Snohomish County bureau


EVERETT, WAŚ City officials spent several days in Portland last week, touring the riverfront and brainstorming for Everett's waterfront development.

The tour came weeks after the Central Puget Sound Growth Management Hearings Board told the city it needed to rewrite portions of its shoreline master plan, saying the document failed to adequately protect wetlands and habitat.

Everett is considering whether to appeal that decision, planning director Paul Roberts said. But the Portland tour is evidence the city is moving forward with plans to develop its shoreline, he said.

"The city has spent a lot of public money so these lands could be returned to productive use as well as being environmentally sound," Roberts said.

"These were mostly old mill sites. The city has invested over $12 million and done a ton of cleanup to restore these areas. From our perspective, we think our taxpayers want us to continue to look at how to make this an attractive part of our city."

Visiting Portland's waterfront has given Roberts a few ideas for Everett's back yard.

"I think the Portland riverfront is very interesting," Roberts said. "They've done a good job of developing a riverfront with mixed uses, with a combination of residential, office and commercial space."

Before visiting Portland, Roberts was in Olympia to participate in a state Senate committee workshop looking at the state's growth-management hearings boards. There are several such boards that review plans for sensitive shoreline and wetlands areas throughout Washington.

Roberts told the Senate Land Use and Planning Committee that the growth-management board went too far and took too much leeway in its decision. The board attempted to integrate the state Growth Management and Shorelines Management acts, something that is beyond the board's scope of power, he said.

The growth act governs the development of urban and rural areas, while the shorelines act governs the development of land within 200 feet of state waters. The two laws sometimes collide, and Everett is one of the first cities to attempt to satisfy both, Roberts said.

A legislative task force met in the early 1990s to see whether it could integrate the two acts but was unable to reach a consensus, Roberts said. Instead, the Legislature decided local jurisdictions should have discretion in melding the laws. It was not intended that the growth-management board decide how the laws should be implemented, he said.

"What is troublesome about the board's decision is that it goes beyond what the Legislature intended," Roberts said after the committee meeting. "I merely pointed out areas where the board's decision was not consistent with Legislature statutes and legislative history."

Roberts was also quick to point out that the board had been complimentary of the city's efforts. And the growth board had a complicated task in reviewing the plan, he said.

"From a positive aspect, the board recognized the city is addressing a complicated issue," Roberts said.

State Sen. Joyce Mulliken, R-Ephrata, who chairs the Senate Land Use and Planning Committee, said she wasn't surprised by Roberts' concerns about the growth-management board. She's been hearing similar complaints for nine years.

Several Senate bills proposing to limit, redefine or dissolve the growth-management boards are working their way through the Legislature.

"I hear complaints from local governments all over the state," Mulliken said. "We either need to not have a hearing board, or we need to find out exactly what we want them to do and give them legislative direction. We need some serious clarification here."

Six measures have been proposed to deal with the growth-management boards, while four others are proposing ways to limit and clarify the Growth Management Act.

The hearing boards were designed by the Legislature to take some of the burden of reviewing land-use plans from the court system, Mulliken said. But the boards haven't done much to help the courts, she said. Many of the board's decisions end up being appealed anyway, she said.

"I'm sure Everett is considering if it will appeal," she said. "I think the board did go too far with the Everett case."

Those appeals, among other board costs, add up to a lot that the state can't afford, Mulliken said.

Rachel Tuinstra: 425-783-2259 or


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