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Wednesday, July 21, 2004 - Page updated at 01:33 P.M.
Tribe's aid sought in land-use battle for gas station
By Emily Heffter
A frustrated landowner whose plans to build a gas station were stymied by a state growth board has teamed up with the Stillaguamish Tribe to try to remove his project from state and county jurisdiction.
Landowner Mark Verbarendse has agreed to sell 32.5 acres near Stanwood to the Stillaguamish Tribe if the tribe can get trust status for the land.
The tribe applied in May to the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs to convert Verbarendse's land into federal trust land. Trust land is owned by the federal government but maintained by Indian tribes and is exempt from local land-use regulations.
Verbarendse said he is reluctantly teaming up with the tribe but felt it was one of his best options after two failed attempts to get his property rezoned through county regulations. If the land is pre-approved for trust land and sold to the tribe, he would probably lease it for a gas station, tribal officials said. The Bureau of Indian Affairs will decide about the land based on criteria that include whether giving the land trust status will help the tribe provide services to its members.
"It's been something that's been talked about between myself and the tribe, and I just kept forging ahead, hoping I could get it done the old-fashioned way, so to speak," Verbarendse said.
Although the Stillaguamish do not have a reservation, the tribe's aboriginal land included about 58,600 acres along the Stillaguamish River. The tribe says Verbarendse's land is within that territory.
Verbarendse's strategy is gaining popularity in Snohomish County.
Members of the Dwayne Lane family have been approached by the Stillaguamish Tribe's real- estate agents about a 15-acre parcel they own near Arlington. The Lanes have been working for more than a decade to have the property rezoned to allow an auto dealership to move there. The county approved the change, but a state growth board overturned the decision. They have appealed to Superior Court.
Tom Lane, who owns the Arlington car dealership, said he doesn't have immediate plans to work with the tribe, but he wouldn't rule it out.
Snohomish County officials object to such partnerships. Besides losing the property taxes, they say it threatens their ability to control land uses.
Stillaguamish Chairman Shawn Yanity said the tribe is just doing what it has a right to do.
"Part of our sovereignty is being able to do that," he said. "It's not special rights it's our sovereignty."
If it doesn't work out with the Stillaguamish, Verbarendse said, he will pursue his case in court. The Snohomish County Council voted in 2002 to rezone his land, at Exit 215 off Interstate 5, for a gas station and other freeway services. The anti-sprawl group 1000 Friends of Washington appealed the council's decision to the Central Puget Sound Growth Management Hearings Board and won.
Verbarendse said he has sunk $350,000 plus land costs into the project, so he can't afford to give up. He's confident he'll build a gas station on the land eventually.
"It's not a matter of if; it's a matter of when," he said.
Emily Heffter: 425-783-0624 or email@example.com
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