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Growing up in Snohomish County: Sultan becoming center of urban sprawl

As many as 800 news homes are proposed over the next five years in the city of Sultan.

SNOHOMISH COUNTY, Wash. — Like a lot of young couples, Colton and Morgan Patterson were looking for something more when they thought about buying a house. But it was a tough task given commute times, schools, and a lack of affordable homes. 

Then they discovered Sultan, a city about 25 miles east of Everett along Highway 2. They bought their home last spring.

“It was about $525,000, which is unheard of,” Morgan said.

“Five-and-a-half acres and a brand new home, we couldn’t find that anywhere else,” added Colton. “It’s peaceful and quiet and slower. Well, it used to be slower.”

Small town life in Sultan is increasingly getting bigger with growing pains to match.

RELATED: Growing up in Snohomish County: How Everett's waterfront is taking shape

Morgan, who commutes to Bellevue, leaves the house by 5:30 a.m. It takes her an hour to travel 30 miles. The worst commutes are on Fridays, Sundays, or just about any day you have to travel down the increasingly overburdened Highway 2.

“During the work week or on Sundays when we have the traffic from all the visitors it can take an hour to go six-and-a-half miles,” Colton said. “Fridays are always bad because people are trying to get to Chelan or to go skiing.”

With affordable housing in such short supply, places like Sultan that never would’ve been considered by most 20 years ago, are becoming much more popular. Some 800 new houses are planned over the next five years in Sultan alone. 

City planners point out they are mandated by the state to allow growth. In Sultan’s case, that means increasing the population from 5,000 to 8,400 in 15 years.

Mayor Russell Wiita said he’s working with state officials to find a way to accommodate all those people and all that traffic.

“We don’t know how long it’s gonna take to get some help,” the mayor said. “We’re hoping to get $1 million in a corridor study to start looking at Highway 2. That’ll take some time and it will spit out a big number that the state is gonna have to put up. Hopefully, then the federal government kicks in.”

Meanwhile, 300 more houses are being built just down the hill from the Patterson’s place. They can’t help but worry about what’s coming down the road.

“It kind of makes you think what’s it gonna be like in five years when you’re really stuck here and you can’t go anywhere,” Morgan said.

“I think we all have faith that once it’s all said and done it should be OK,” her husband added. “You can only hope.”

KING 5's Eric Wilkinson is on a series called "Growing up in Snohomish County." Stay tuned for more segments.

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