The Mill Creek City Council and city staff met for an all-day legislative retreat on Saturday, February 22, 2014, and set a number of legislative priorities for 2014.
The special meeting notice said the purpose of the meeting was, “to discuss and possibly take action on the City’s vision for the City’s future including but not limited to growth and annexation, economic development and public facility planning.”
“Staff will ask the Council to consider what steps can be taken in 2014 to help realize the Council’s vision.”
Ken Armstrong, Mill Creek City Manager, organized the retreat at the direction of the City Council and facilitated the meeting.
Mayor Pam Pruitt and Mayor Pro-Tem Mark Harmsworth made it clear at the January 28th City Council meeting that they wanted to have a free flowing brainstorming session to give all City Councilmembers a chance to get their ideas on the table.
The agenda for the retreat was finalized by the City Council at the February 11th city council meeting. It was decided that the three main areas of discussion at the retreat would be growth and annexation, economic and community development, and public facility planning.
Growth and annexation
Armstrong facilitated a detailed discussion of Mill Creek’s growth and annexation.
The City Councilmembers’ ideas on the benefits of annexations for Mill Creek included:
- To provide higher and more diverse tax revenue for the city. The main source of this revenue would be sales tax.
- To increase Mill Creek’s property values by controlling future development and redevelopment in the annexed areas. This would be achieved by imposing Mill Creek’s more stringent design and development standards as well as through improved public safety.
- To incorporate churches or other community resources that would benefit the city.
All of the City Councilmembers believe that an annexation should pay for itself and not increase the property tax burden of existing Mill Creek residents.
Tom Rogers, Mill Creek Community Development Director, presented information on potential annexation areas within Mill Creek’s Municipal Urban Growth Area (MUGA).
Based on previous City Council discussions, his focus was on two potential annexation areas; the area northwest of Mill Creek along 128th Street SE out to I-5, and the area south of the City around 180th Street SE and the Bothell-Everett Highway.
Although areas to the west of Mill Creek along 164th Street SE and east of Mill Creek were discussed as well, a majority of City Councilmembers said they believe that annexing these areas is not in the best interests of the city and should not be studied at this time.
Armstrong noted that light rail will almost certainly bring significant changes to the area where 164th SE and I-5 meet. As such he suggested that council keep this in mind when developing the 2015-2016 City budget and that they may want to allocate some funding to study the costs/benefits of annexing out to the freeway along 164th Street SE from the current city limits.
The consensus of the city council was that they would like to see more detailed information regarding annexations northwest and south of Mill Creek. Armstrong told them that gathering this information would require hiring a consultant to do the work.
Mayor Pruitt spoke for the council in directing city staff to come back to them at a future city council meeting with proposals for how the annexation studies would be performed and how much they would cost. She stressed that the city council may or may not decide to move forward on the studies depending on their cost.
Armstrong began the economic development discussion by presenting a chart showing the Mill Creek’s general fund reserves each year from 2013 to 2020. He said that in order for the city to preserve the current service levels with no new revenue from East Gateway Urban Village and with no new capital project expenditures, an additional $3.1 million in yearly revenue would be required by 2020.
According to Armstrong’s figures, even adding the sales tax revenue from three and a half big-box retail stores to Mill Creek’s finances in 2016 would still result in a budget deficit requiring additional revenue by 2021.
Landy Manuel, Mill Creek Finance Director, noted that Mill Creek only receives about $0.01 for every dollar spent within city limits. He said that it would take a huge increase of retail sales to keep the general fund reserve from declining.
The city council spent quite a lot of time discussing economic development and brainstorming ideas for helping Mill Creek businesses succeed. At the end of the discussion Armstrong summarized the following ideas for possible action:
- Change ordinances such as allowing drive-through businesses in East Gateway Urban Village in order to facilitate faster development. Staff will bring ideas to the Planning Commission for discussion.
- Create an economic development committee comprised of the business community, property owners, and Mill Creek residents. Staff will bring an organizational structure to the City Council for approval.
- Change ordinances for the area along 9th Avenue south of 164th Street SE in order to facilitate faster development. Staff will bring ideas to the Planning Commission for discussion.
- Change redevelopment requirements for environmentally critical areas along North Creek to facilitate redevelopment. Staff will bring ideas to the Planning Commission for discussion.
- Add a grant writer to city staff to increase likelihood of receiving grant revenue. The grant writing function will be included in the current staffing gap analysis for an April city council discussion.
Tom Gathmann, Mill Creek Public Works Director, talked about the Facilities Master Plan that was first adopted in 2006. He explained that it took quite a lot of work to create the 20-year plan, which identified three city facilities: a new Public Works shop, a new police station, and a complete City Hall redesign.
Gathmann said that back in 2008 the plan was to construct the Public Works Shop and the Police Station in 2012 and rebuild the City Hall in 2013 and that property was acquired at that time for the Public Works shop. He went on to say that the economic downturn postponed the design and construction of these city facilities indefinitely.
The following properties were identified as possible sites for city facilities:
- Cook property (owned by the city, south of Dumas Road, west of North Creek Drive)
- Dobson & Remillard properties (owned by the city, south of Dumas Road, east of North Creek Drive)
- Mill Creek Library location (owned by the city, available if Sno-Isle Libraries builds a new library in Mill Creek)
- Silver Lake Water district property (the water district approached the city about selling this property located along 132nd Street SE, east of Lowes)
- Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office substation property (the Sheriff’s Office personnel will be relocating to a new building and the property owner approached the city about leasing this property located on Mill Creek Boulevard)
Bob Crannell, Mill Creek Police Chief, said that he likes the idea of locating the new police station on the Mill Creek Library property. He said that this property is best for ingress and egress and the size of the property is such that a new building can be built to suit. He mentioned that there are other government agencies that might be interested in partnering with Mill Creek for joint use of the building, which could reduce development and operating costs.
Armstrong said that there is a dire need for a new police station from an operations viewpoint. He went on to say that at the present time there is insufficient space to secure suspects and to interview witnesses, which sometimes results in both suspect and victim being located in the same space.
At the end of the discussion the city council’s consensus was for staff to come back to them with the following:
- Options for using the Silver Lake and/or the Sheriff’s Office properties for a Public Works shop instead of the property owned by the city. This would include the possible sale of the property the city already owns.
- Options for the location of the new police station.
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