September 26, 2007 |

Q & A: Could we really be getting a UW campus?

Q & A: Could we really be getting

a UW campus?

I’m sure a lot of you are wondering what’s up with all this U-Dub talk. One day you hear that Lake Stevens is in the running for the University of Washington campus, the next day you read that our area is not on the list of finalists. “What in the name of Purple and Gold is going on,” you understandably ask.

It’s time to clear up some misconceptions.

First – Lake Stevens and Snohomish are definitely in the running to house this campus. Second, the Snohomish County Coalition for Higher Education (SCCHE) submitted a site proposal to the consultants behind the site search a little over a week and a half ago. Having said that, let’s take the opportunity to ask and answer a few questions.

So what is this ‘SCCHE’?

The Snohomish County Coalition for Higher Education is comprised of the Cities of Lake Stevens, Snohomish, Monroe and Granite Falls and the Lake Stevens and Snohomish Chambers of Commerce. The group has had semi-regular meetings in committee form with representatives of Lake Stevens and Snohomish City Councils, the mayors of Snohomish and Lake Stevens, the Lake Stevens School District, the presidents of the Lake Stevens and Snohomish Chambers of Commerce and local business, labor and educational leaders throughout the summer.

Okay, so there’s a bunch of people working together. What’s the end game?

The coalition was formed to recommend a University of Washington campus site in the greater east county area. The coalition submitted a preliminary proposal to the Governor’s Office and the University of Washington about a month ago. The proposal recommended the siting of a new campus in the Rural Urban Transition Area between Snohomish and Lake Stevens along SR-9.

Okay, back up for a second. What’s the story with the UW campus? I thought we wanted an independent university?

True, earlier this year much of our community voiced its support for an independent university in our area. At the legislative level, this topic became a source of great debate. In the end, Governor Gregoire stepped in and decided we would get a new four year university – but that it would be in the form of a University of Washington.

The good news is that this campus will be located in Snohomish County. It is also important to note that “UW North” is the State’s first new four-year university since Evergreen was instituted in 1967.

So it’s decided. We’re getting a UW. What happened next?

On June 6, the Governor’s Office released a request for proposals for the siting of the new campus. They asked interested landowners and organizations to prepare a report summarizing a preferred site, and detailing specifics in regard to community support, Growth Management issues, and long-term growth potential. SCCHE prepared their submission and turned it in, as mentioned earlier.

Great. But I saw the list of nine finalists, and the SCCHE site wasn’t listed. Wattup with that?

True, when the UW/Gov’s office released the list of finalists two weeks ago, the SCCHE site didn’t make the cut.

However, the state contacted the group and assured the committee that its site was highly thought of. Specifically, SCCHE was prompted to tighten up the proposal and resubmit within two weeks.

The original proposal was too broad. In order to clarify, the committee was asked to contact individual land owners interested in selling and narrow down a specific contiguous site. The state’s consultant, NBBJ (a world-renowned architectural and civic engineering firm), issued a press release stating in part that the deadline was extended by two weeks in order to accept additional proposals.

This extension allowed SCCHE to submit a highly competitive proposal.

So what happened in those two weeks?

SCCHE hit the ground in the RUTA area and started knocking on doors and spreading the word that the UW was interested in the Snohomish/LS area.

The coalition quickly gathered a large base of support, with numerous property owners voluntarily joining the effort. At the end of the two week period, the coalition submitted a site proposal that included primary, secondary and supplementary sites totaling over 280 acres.

Hey! I live in that area and haven’t been contacted. Is the university going to take my land?!!!

Not a chance. Only those who are interested in joining the effort or discussing the process are involved. Initially, only property owners with over 20 contiguous acres in a selected location were approached. After the consultants take a look at the proposal, more info will be released. Adjacent area property owners enjoy the possible benefit of increased property values and would no longer face the risk of County approved residential projects – like the dreaded LDMR.

Great, the proposal is done and nobody is taking my land. What happens next?

The consultants are reviewing the proposal – a daunting task considering the coalition’s report includes over 1,000 pages of documentation and support material. In the meantime, the coalition is looking to build on the overwhelming community support it has garnered.

Sum it up for me. What does the opportunity of landing this university mean for our area?

It’s truly a once in a lifetime chance. As our communities sit on the threshold of exponential growth, we face huge deficiencies in education and job opportunities. In both Snohomish and Lake Stevens, the largest employers are civic entities like the school district. There are no accredited institutions of higher education in our area. When the University of Washington moved from downtown to Montlake, the 646 acre current campus area was a pasture deemed too far from the urban core to be successful. The visionaries behind the one of the greatest public universities in the world are looking for a new home. We can be the next Montlake.

Rah-rah, hurray, very inspiring. Too bad I heard Everett’s a lock for the site. Be honest dude, do we have a chance?

True, Everett has pumped hundreds of thousands of dollars into the effort to land the campus. They’ve hired three full time lobbyists with clear connections to the search team and/or the University. But Everett is also facing some big deficits. Both of the Everett sites are extremely small. Two years ago, NBBJ – the same consultant behind the current search team – authored a report stating that a four year university in the Snohomish County area would require approximately 300 acres to accommodate the campus. Both Everett sites are less than 100 acres and constricted by an urban setting.

Further, while Everett touts the advantages of its close proximity to businesses such as Boeing, Providence Medical and the Naval Station, the fact of the matter is that the SCCHE site is less than two miles outside the heart of Everett, enjoys the benefit of an opposite commute against trestle and I-5 traffic, offers a site three times larger and much cleaner than either Everett site and carries the additional benefit of a large base of support from east county cities and organizations.

Great. Maybe the process can’t be bought. But Everett is a big city. They probably need the university more than us, right?

Sure, Everett is a city of over 100,000 – but Lake Stevens UGA will be at 40,000 in the near future. Combine that with the population of Snohomish, Monroe and other east side cities and we’re just as populous. Further, this area has no higher educational opportunities, while Everett residents can choose from current classes offered by Western Washington University, Central Washington University and Everett Community College among others.

So who all is supporting the SCCHE effort?

The proposal is cosigned by Mayor Little of Lake Stevens and Mayor Hamlin of Snohomish. The Lake Stevens School District Board of Directors held a special meeting last week in order to pass a resolution in support of the site proposal. The County has expressed support. The Lake Stevens Chamber of Commerce passed a resolution of support, and local businesses like Barclays North and the Lake Stevens Journal have been active in the process. Furthermore, at the candidate forum held earlier this month by the LS Chamber, every single candidate for office in the City of Lake Stevens voiced their overwhelming support for this endeavor.

Oh, and I’m kinda a fan of it too, in case you can’t see the Purple and Gold Jon Brockman jersey I’m wearing as I write this.

Kevin Hulten is a former Managing Editor of the Lake Stevens Journal. Send feedback to kevin.hulten@gmail.com.

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