Everett agency approves growth plan

By David Olson
Everett Herald Writer


EVERETT, WA-- The city's planning commission Tuesday night unanimously endorsed a 22-year growth plan that would lead to more jobs in Everett than residents.

Under the plan, the city's population would rise from about 96,000 to more than 123,000 -- or 28 percent -- by 2025, and the number of jobs would surge 61 percent, from about 81,000 to more than 130,000.

The planning commission's recommendation moves to the City Council, which must submit a preliminary growth target to Snohomish County Tomorrow by April 1. That group, which analyzes growth issues, is made up of officials from the county and its cities.

The job growth is necessary to make the city less dependent on Boeing for tax revenue, said Brenda Stonecipher, planning commission chairwoman.

"We love Boeing and we're glad they're here," she said. "But we need to diversify our economy and broaden the tax base so we're less vulnerable."

The population and employment estimates are largely based on a city survey of available land and whether it is zoned for residential, industrial or commercial use, said Dave Koenig, manager of long-range planning and community development for the city. Much of that land is in places along the Snohomish River and in southwest Everett that are more suitable for nonresidential development, he said.

The city has an estimated 3,000 vacant residential units, so much of the residential growth can occur without building new housing. To absorb the rest of the population growth, the city must balance the preservation of neighborhood character with the need to build more high-density housing, commissioner Drew Nielsen said.

Logical places for high-density housing include near Everett Station, where people could take buses or trains to jobs, and downtown, where people could walk to work, he said.

Aileen Langhans, who lives in the Bayside neighborhood north of downtown, told commissioners Tuesday night that the city should welcome high-density housing. But, she said, it should be coupled with efforts to increase parking capacity and parkland, and shouldn't lead to the destruction of historic buildings.

The plan approved by the commission is only a general blueprint for the city rather than a specific guide, Koenig said. Under state law, the city must update its growth plan again in 2010.

The population and employment estimates will help the city plan for the increase in traffic and other side effects of growth, "so that it's done in the least disruptive way possible," Stonecipher said.

The state requires Snohomish and other counties to develop policies that encourage growth.

Snohomish County Tomorrow recently issued a report that gave a range of population and employment growth estimates for Everett. The planning commission's growth plan used the low estimate for population and the high estimate for employment.

The city plans to complete a comprehensive plan on growth by December 2004.


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