Sprawling debate over Fully Contained Communities in Snohomish County

Thursday, September 18, 2008

I recently became aware of an ongoing heated debate in Snohomish County thanks to a blog post by Jerry Cornfield at the HeraldNet. Local developer Dave Barnett wants to build a "fully contained community" (FCC) is waging an attack against county councilman Dave Somers via the website http://www.keepsnohomishcountyaffordable.org/. At the website Barnett alleges Somers's opposition to FCCs amounts to supporting sprawl, global warming, and unaffordable housing. Somers has struck back with his own website, http://www.keepsnohomishcountyaffordable.com/. Additionally, fellow councilman Mitch Ruth, who is a Republican, apparently also does not like FCCs and wrote a letter to the editor supporting Somers. This debate is likely to continue to unfold in news articles and the editorial page of the Daily Everett Herald in the months to come. 

Big brawl over a mini-city still looms, Everett Daily Herald, Sept. 21
Six-month ban on applications for mini-cities, Everett Daily Herald, Oct. 30

This debate begs the question: Do FCCs prevent sprawl or do they promote sprawl? The answer depends. First, for this question let me define sprawl as any unnecessary development outside the existing Urban Growth Area (UGA). This is hardly a robust definition, but adequate for the purpose of the question. If UGAs are fully built out with maximum capacity, then, sure, FCCs are likely better than permitting higher density development in rural areas. However, if UGAs possess capacity for the 20-year population projection for a county, then FCCs are completely unnecessary and constitute sprawl. As the current Snohomish County UGAs possess more than adequate capacity for its 20-year population projection, Barnett's proposed FCC would be sprawl.


Ellen Hiatt Watson October 9, 2008 at 10:20 PM  

There is a proposal for a moratorium on FCC's in Snohomish County, sponsored by Dave Somers, the county councilman under attack. The cities and the UGA's have not completed their infill and the FCC's (one proposed in Lake Roesiger and another proposed in the seven lakes are (north Snohomish County), are pure sprawl. Nothing but. 7-Lakes (www.7-lakes.org) is an organization fighting FCC's and other means of sprawl in Snohomish County.

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