UW-Lake Stevens? Not if Everett has anything to say about itBY KEVIN HULTEN As I’ve said in this column several times before, Snohomish County’s higher educational needs would be best served by a new independent four year university. This belief was augmented by several studies completed by the state’s Higher Education Coordinating Board, the support of the County Executive and several local Senators, along with the widely held belief that UW-Bothell has been an expensive (if aesthetically pleasing) failure.
Since I last wrote about this topic, it has been decided by the Legislature that we are to receive a University of Washington branch campus. Concessions were given to those who backed an independent university the branch campus will be able to admit underclassmen from day one, and the school will have a polytechnic focus.
In many ways, this is a win for everyone involved. Snohomish County will receive the state’s first new four year university since 1967, local business needs will be addressed, and student needs will be in the capable hands of one of the world’s best learning institutions.
Before we get too excited about the Purple and Gold, we need to remember that the process is not yet over. Next on the slate will be the all-important site study. It has been reported that 11 sites in the North Snohomish/South Skagit County area are in the running. Two of these sites are near Lake Stevens, and three are in Everett.
Lake Stevens Mayor Vern Little said that he feels the school should be located along the SR-9 corridor, and in Sunday’s Herald, he said that the US-2/SR-9 intersection would be an ideal choice. The other Lake Stevens site consists of nearly 300 acres of SR-92 near Lake Cassidy.
While this columnist would love to see a UW-Lake Stevens, it seems the odds are stacked against us. Aaron Reardon said Sunday that he feels that an Everett location is a foregone conclusion. Keeping in mind that Everett’s mayor forked over in excess of $30,000 to hire three lobbyists towards the cause of insuring a branch campus concept would prevail over an independent model, it is easy to see that Everett is highly vested in this deal.
Everett’s three sites are not good locations for the school, however. The Higher Education Board has said that 300 acres are needed to accommodate the new university. Of the eleven proposed sites, all are 244 acres or greater with the exception of Everett’s three locations, which range from piddly 14 and 17 acre sights at the transit station and North Broadway respectively to 76 acres at the old Kimberly-Clark plant.
Despite the fact that locating the new university on a site 15 times too small for the need would be a blow to the county and future students, Everett seems poised to disregard the needs of others in favor of its own economic development. To head off this potential disaster, outlying cities are going to have to put up a fight. Snohomish and Lake Stevens will need to put aside past issues and work together to show the University of Washington and state officials that there are viable - and even preferable locations outside of Everett. The same is true for Stanwood and Marysville.
Lake Stevens’ mayor is on the right track, but it will be an uphill struggle. We’ve got the four year university that our area so sorely needs. Here’s hoping that the big bully across the trestle won’t try to jam our new campus on a shoe-box sized lot in attempt to ramp up condo prices in a blighted neighborhood. Our University of Washington campus cannot be about economic development. It has to be about the needs of greater Snohomish County and the future students who will attend the new campus. Let’s work together to support our city and county in making sure that the home to this new university will be beneficial to everyone involved.
Kevin Hulten is the former Managing Editor of the Lake Stevens Journal. Email comments to him at Kevin.firstname.lastname@example.org.