EVERETT, Wash. -- County planners say the 60-year-old Snohomish County courthouse needs to be replaced. The original plan, before last year's elections, was to build it all on the existing campus. Now, the county has voted to force six property owners across the street to sell out for a much larger and more expensive project through imminent domain.
The council plans to increase the original size of the courthouse by 35% by expanding across Wall Street to Rockefeller Avenue. The cost is slated to rise from an early estimate of $75-$98 million to $168 million.
"What was initially proposed was a pretty small piece of property. The building would've been right out to the sidewalk. In fact, we would've had to remove the parking there. It really was an awkward, very contained site," said Council Chairman Dave Somers.
"They say these are designs changes," laughed business owner Brian Sullivan, who is one of those being told to relocate. "That is understating it ridiculously. These aren't design changes. This is a massive footprint change which means it's a massive dollar cost."
Attorney Royce Ferguson has owned his Everett building for 20 years and planned to stay there for at least another decade.
"You feel so helpless when the government comes after you," he said.
Ferguson addressed to county council Wednesday, pleading with them to spare the six businesses. They didn't listen. Ferguson, though, had already taken his campaign to the people. He recently spray painted "The County Council wants to demolish this building...and take your taxes to pay for it. Do not waste taxpayer money" along the outside wall of his building that faces the county offices.
Council members maintained they need the extra space for adequate parking and security. Chairman Somers reiterated a promise that the project will not cost more than $168 million.
"We have a contract. The contractor knows what the budget is. The county executive knows what the budget is, and I won’t be supporting any further dollars for it," he said.