Sunday, March 16, 2008

Rural Housing Issue to the Forefront

Ecoterror attack brings rural housing issue to the forefront
By Jeff Switzer, Herald Writer

When ecoterrorists torched a pocket of multimillion-dollar luxury houses near rural Echo Lake, it highlighted an ongoing debate in Snohomish County over how to keep suburbia from shifting into the rural areas.The county is considering stricter limits on the number of houses built in rural areas, and might require builders to preserve and replant trees when constructing new neighborhoods on the county's scenic back roads.The rules target rural cluster subdivisions, where houses are built close together and large swaths of open space around them are preserved.The Street of Dreams, struck by arson, was part of a future 48-house rural cluster near Maltby called Quinn's Crossing.A banner left at the Street of Dreams arsons said "McMansions in RCDs r not green," believed to be a criticism of rural cluster developments.

In these projects, large homes often are built on suburban-style lanes and cul de sacs instead of being more spread out on traditional rural homesteads.The arsons raise the profile of the debate, but don't push the county toward any course of action, County Council chairman Dave Somers said."We can't respond to terrorist attacks," Somers said. "We need to do what's right for the county."The fires "make it much harder to take a reasoned look at land-use," Somers said. "It detracts from the debate about what is appropriate in terms of rural and urban development."

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Reporter Jeff Switzer: 425-339-3452 or

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