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MILL CREEK, WA-Looking to buy time to devise development plans for 5,200 acres in Snohomish County, the County Council voted this week to extend a long, drawn out development moratorium for two more years.

While the moratorium, called a growth phasing overlay, applies to 5,200 acres scattered throughout Snohomish County, the real issue centers around 1,685 acres in the east Mill Creek area. Mill Creek Director of Community Development Bill Trimm says the area, a hotbed for developers, is currently zoned for low density, 9,600 sf lots that would extend the urban sprawl of single-family houses and increase the already congested traffic in the area.

The move angered landowners in the area, who want to sell their land to developers and escape the area’s growth. One land owner has threatened to stage a parade of horses and tractors along congested roads east of Mill Creek. Trimm, who says he can empathize with the land owners’ frustration over the ongoing delays, nevertheless advocated the moratorium extension because the city is working on plans for a proposed village center that would contain neighborhood-oriented retail shops, offices, public recreation and a residential area within walking distance of the commercial sector.

“If the moratorium hadn’t been extended, we’d have single-family developments, which wouldn’t be beneficial for this area,” Trimm tells GlobeSt.com. “The city wanted to have time to develop what we think is a more realistic plan for the neighborhood. Our whole intent is to cut down on vehicle trips by having everything within close walking distance and also having it dense enough to support transit to other areas.”

Though the moratorium extends for two years, Trimm believes it will be lifted for the east Mill Creek area within the next year. He notes that one of the longest holdups for planning has been the environmental impact study, which was just completed. The next step, says Trimm, is for the east Mill Creek advisory committee, which consists of land owners as well as representatives from Mill Creek’s planning office, to review the EIS and come up with a plan that will meet EIS requirements and ultimately get the approval of the County Council.

“The advisory committee had already come up with three land-use alternatives and the EIS was prepared to look at the potential impact of all three of them,” says Trimm. “The advisory committee will now compare apples to apples and find a preferred alternative that might be a hybrid of all three.”

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