Lynnwood's Municipal Urban Growth Area (MUGA)
Lynnwood is located in the southwest corner of Snohomish County, an area the County has designated the "Southwest Urban Growth Area" (SWUGA). This is the area where most of the County's population lives and where much of our new urban growth and development will occur in years to come. In response to these future demands, the City has adopted an area called the "Municipal Urban Growth Area" (MUGA).
What is a Municipal Urban Growth Area?
The Washington State Growth Management Act of 1990 (GMA) made counties with large populations responsible for the designation of Urban Growth Areas (UGAs) to plan for future growth. most future growth, and all "urban" growth, will be accommodated within these areas. Since cities are "urban" in nature, all cities are within UGAs.
As cities grow and develop, they are expected to become the primary providers of urban public services and facilities. Once cities take on more of those responsibilities, counties will be better able to focus on the needs of rural and natural resource lands, as well as the provision of "regional" facilities and services. Cities cannot annex rural areas, but they are expected to eventually annex the UGA areas adjacent to them. To do this, cities designate the Municipal Urban Growth Areas (MUGAs) that they will "grow" into.
When UGAs were first introduced to Washington in the early 1990s, the concept was new and different. The future growth and annexation needs of most communities were not yet addressed in their Comprehensive Plans. It was too early to assign a specific growth area to each city. The most reasonable option at that time was to include all the cities in the southwest corner of the County in a single large UGA - with the understanding that the details would be worked out later.
Today, Snohomish County's UGAs include all cities located within the County. They also contain large areas of unincorporated territory that are needed for future urban growth or that have already been "urbanized" but have not yet annexed to a city. The largest grouping of these cities is in the southwest corner of the County, designated as the SWUGA. It includes Everett, Mukilteo, Edmonds, Woodway, Mountlake Terrace, Brier, Bothell, Mill Creek, and Lynnwood.
The MUGA Process
The southwest corner of Snohomish County is one of the most intensely developed areas of the County. Nine cities are in the midst of all the traffic, shopping centers, strip malls and new development. Between those cities are areas that are city-like in appearance but are actually unincorporated areas of the County. This corner of Snohomish County is where most of the County's population lives and where much of our new urban growth and development will occur in years to come.
Over time, the unincorporated areas are expected to gradually join their neighboring cities through the process of annexation. Until then, those cities have no jurisdiction or authority in the unincorporated areas. Therefore, the planning that must be done for future neighborhoods, street systems, public utilities and services, etc., must be a coordinated effort by the County, affected cities and the various special districts (school, fire, library) that also provide services. This is often complicated and not always efficient. A subcommittee of the County's Planning Advisory Committee (PAC) studies "urban transition" issues, hoping to find better ways of doing business.