Mukilteo rejects high-density housing as Puget Sound region’s population booms

Nov 9, 2021, 3:42 PM | Updated: Nov 10, 2021, 9:31 am
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Credit Razvan Orendovici via Flickr

While Seattle grapples with its changing urban identity and motions toward upzoning to accommodate its explosive population growth, one quiet suburb to its north wants to stay just the way it is.

That came after Mukilteo rejected high-density housing in its most recent election. An advisory vote pitched as Proposition 1 sought to check the pulse of the city on its position toward accommodating higher-volume housing.

It reads: “Do you think the City should encourage more high density housing to be built in Mukilteo?”

Nearly 82% of the population declared that they would not support the idea.

Former and now presumptive Mukilteo Mayor Joe Marine sees that as a clear indication of the city’s refusal to upzone as population forecasts for Snohomish County predict that the region could reach a headcount of one million as soon as 2025.

“[As] the mayor, that puts me in a good position … to direct staff to do things other than density,” Marine told KTTH’s Jason Rantz Show. “There are other things they can be working on. … I won’t be bringing things like that on the agenda. It would have to be the council president, … and I would encourage against that.”

While the final vote count appears to be a ringing condemnation of increasing the city’s urban density, critics of the proposition argue that its wording was deliberately opaque, intended to be misleading.

“It’s impossible to know what a ‘yes’ vote means, but [a] clear ‘no’ vote will be used to claim ‘the people have spoken, and Mukilteo’s density must remain unchanged,’” the Snohomish County voters’ pamphlet reads. “Ask yourself, why is this on the ballot? The intent of this measure is to create a political cudgel for use on elected officials — to generate a fear response in the community using frightening, unsubstantiated language.”

Marine himself proposed the ballot measure in June, the Everett Herald reports. He defends its credibility as legitimate evidence of where the community stands.

“I think they understood it pretty well,” he noted.

“I believe in local control, … if you’ve got a community like ours, it’s already basically built out,” Marine continued. “The only way for us to really, truly get density is to change the zoning and allow redevelopment within those existing neighborhoods.”

“That’s what I was always against — I’m not suggesting we change the zoning in areas that already allowed density, that’s fine,” he continued. “I just don’t want to rezone and redevelop areas.”

The ballot measure comes as an epilogue to a years-long struggle on behalf of the council and mayor to agree on a cohesive vision for accommodating population density, as required by law under the Growth Management Act. The city adopted its Housing Management Act earlier this year. That, too, rejected high-density housing and its requisite rezoning.

“We are going to be less affordable than, say, Woodway,” Marine added. “The market will decide how much people are willing to pay. And quite frankly, if they won’t pay the price for that house, the people will have to lower the price.”

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Mukilteo rejects high-density housing as Puget Sound region’s population booms