To Incorporate Or Not To Incorporate?

A few weeks ago I met someone who grew up in Bothell. When I was trying to explain where I lived, I started rambling a little “North Bothell… kind of by Mill Creek, but south... I guess North Creek…” But she finished my sentence for me, “You mean unincorporated south Snohomish County?”

“So you know the place?”

She made it seem like it was some kind of long running joke for some residents of the area- that many of us live in a place that is so difficult to describe or name. Bothell address. Mill Creek zip code. But our local government is in Everett? Recently the question of incorporation was raised again on the North Creek Community Facebook page and it felt like an idea worth digging into.

First, a little history on the idea of incorporation in North Creek because this is not the first time the issue has been raised. In 1993 a vote to incorporate the city of North Creek failed, with 59% of the vote against incorporating. It appears that the main issue at stake in that round of voting was over whether the county could provide adequate representation and services to the people of the unincorporated area including areas like law enforcement and parks.[1] According to the Seatttle Times, ultimately the people of the area decided against incorporation mainly due to a of a lack of information.


Flash forward almost 25 years and the North Creek area has seen quite a bit of change, becoming one of the largest unincorporated areas in Snohomish County according to population. And with more development and more people moving in on a daily basis, the growth doesn’t show signs of slowing any time soon. So is it time for North Creek to once again revisit the conversation of incorporation?

Since the question was raised again (at least on social media) it may be helpful to think as a community more about what some of the pros and cons of incorporation would be. To the point of the initial push to incorporate, the obvious advantages would come in terms of services offered and provided. Some people I have talked to have felt disconnected from the county government, especially when it comes to big decisions around zoning for development and sidewalks. And with so much growth in the area, being able to have more of a voice in these decisions would seem like a win for the community. In addition, many people point to the idea of a North Creek police department as a potential positive reason to incorporate. And for others, just feeling like they have a home apart from “unincorporated south Snohomish County” would be a good enough reason to become our own city.

At the same time, there are reasons the initial vote failed that continue to keep people from supporting the idea of incorporation. An increase in taxes is one probable outcome of a positive incorporation vote. But the most significant reason that I have heard from people is the idea that incorporation limits the freedom that people feel right now- including restrictions on things like fireworks and what people are allowed to have in their yard. Others are not necessarily against incorporation, but don’t see a need for it because North Creek is already a great place to live.

Daniel Steinberg, who raised the issue on Facebook, is in favor of at least beginning a new conversation about incorporation. “We’ve lived in North Creek for about a year and have come to appreciate the location immensely. That said, it sort of feels like we don’t have a town of our own. Having seen how well Mill Creek is doing, it would be amazing to look at that model, even if what we ended up doing is commensurately smaller.”

With the new North Creek High School opening this year and a sudden surge in community awareness, perhaps now is a good time to be asking some of these questions. Let us know what you think about the idea of incorporation. Are you for it? Against it? What are your reasons? If you’d like to write a guest blog post, feel free to send us an email at