Leaders worry about future of Lynnwood church as Sound Transit eyes light-rail extension options

Alderwood Community Church church leaders believe Sound Transit is eyeing its five-acre campus alongside Alderwood Mall Boulevard for acquisition for Sound Transit’s light rail extension through Lynnwood. (Photo by Doug Petrowski)

For more than 100 years, Alderwood Community Church has been a fixture in South Snohomish County, holding services and ministering to the community from its location on what was — in 1920 — a rural dirt road but now is Alderwood Mall Boulevard, a busy four-lane thoroughfare next to Interstate 5 in Lynnwood.

Home to a large sanctuary, classrooms, office space and a separate three-story building called the Compassion Center, the church’s five acres are bustling with activity not just on Sunday mornings but at various times throughout the week.

But church leaders are now worried that their century-old campus may be taken away from them, to accommodate Sound Transit’s light rail extension through Lynnwood.

Pastor Wyatt Martin has told his staff, church members and attendees that their property is part of Sound Transit’s acquisition plans as the agency looks at proposed routes for the Everett Link light rail extension through Lynnwood.

“They currently have three plans that will bring light rail through the (Alderwood) mall area up to Everett,” Martin explained at all three of the church’s Sunday morning services Feb. 5. “And at this moment, right now, all three of them not only bring light rail through our property here but also through our buildings as well.”

“Their current intent is to take our property, to compensate us for it, but to make us go somewhere else,” he said.

According to a member of the church’s elder board, on Jan. 28 Wyatt received word from an undisclosed source that Sound Transit planned to eventually seize the church property, on which it would build a  portion of the Lynnwood segment of the Everett Link light rail line and stage some of the construction equipment necessary for the project. The elder board met four days later to draft their response to the news; Martin and church Elder Board Chairman Jason Carter first shared the developments with church attendees Feb. 5.

“It’s obviously very overwhelming news to hear,” Carter said.

Sound Transit is in the early planning stages of the 16-mile Everett Link light rail extension that will stretch from the Lynnwood Transit Center to downtown Everett. Construction of the line isn’t scheduled to begin until 2030, with service expected to start in 2037. 

While short on detail as planning is still in its early stages, the latest Sound Transit map of proposed light rail routes through Lynnwood shows the line cutting through the Alderwood Community Church campus at the intersection of Alderwood Mall Boulevard and 33rd Avenue West. (Map courtesy of Sound Transit)

Sound Transit had been studying six potential routes through Lynnwood for the light rail line but its Level 2 Alternatives Development Report last month disclosed that those options have been whittled down to three lines. All of those lines travel the same path as Alderwood Mall Boulevard from the transit center and then turn north onto 33rd Avenue West. While the report wasn’t specific as to where the light rail line would be placed, leaders at Alderwood Community Church now believe Sound Transit plans to take over the church site for the line.

While Sound Transit is still in the earliest stages of planning for the light rail line, the agency does admit that any of the three options eventually chosen for the Everett Link Extension will likely affect the Alderwood Community Church campus.

“Currently, all three alignments that run from the Lynnwood Link Extension terminus to the West Alderwood (mall) station areas would impact the church and the Compassion Center in some capacity,” said John Gallagher, Sound Transit media relations supervisor.

But Gallagher disputed the claim by Alderwood Community Church leaders that Sound Transit has set in stone a plan to purchase church property through either negotiations or a process of eminent domain.

“We are in the first phase of this project in alternatives development and are not close to pinpointing properties for acquisition,” Gallagher said. “This process typically happens once we get through the environmental review in phase two. We don’t know what the impacts will be for the church just yet.”

Both Sound Transit and Alderwood Community Church report a conversation took place between the transportation agency’s Government & Community Relations Director Erik Ashlie-Vinke and the church’s Executive Administrator Josh Bishop concerning Sound Transit’s intentions for the church property. But both sides see different results coming from that discussion. Church leaders said they believe they received confirmation of Sound Transit’s plan to seize the five acres owned by the church, while Sound Transit insists that isn’t true.

“Erik (Ashlie-Vinke) did not say that ST’s current alternatives development require that we take all five acres of the Alderwood Community campus property,” Gallagher said. “He explained to (Executive Administrator) Bishop that it is far too soon to know what property impacts may be this early in the process.”

Representatives from Sound Transit and Alderwood Community Church met again last week to discuss the planned light rail line, a development that Carter called “a good start.” 

Gallagher stated that “those conversations … will be ongoing.”

Designing the light rail line in the area around Alderwood Community Church will be a challenge for Sound Transit. “The area of the alignment is very constrained with WSDOT (I-5) on- and off-ramps, the Interurban Trail, the future Poplar Way Bridge, SnoPUD transmissions lines and an electrical substation,” Gallagher said.

(The Poplar Way Bridge extension is a City of Lynnwood project to construct a $49 million bridge over I-5 that will connect 33rd Avenue West with the intersection of 196th Street Southwest and Poplar Way on the freeway’s south side. Bridge project design is expected to be finished this year with construction beginning by early 2024.)

All of the challenging elements to Sound Transit’s light rail line design in the area have been on the southeast side of Alderwood Mall Boulevard; now with Alderwood Community Church’s opposition to any vacation of their property, Sound Transit is presented with another obstacle to overcome, this one on the opposite side of the busy arterial.

The property owned by the church runs more than 600 feet in length along the northwest side of Alderwood Mall Boulevard. It’s less than a mile from the abrupt end of the Lynnwood Link Extension that Sound Transit hopes to begin operating before the end of 2024, with a planned connection to the Everett Link Extension.

The elevated portion of the Lynnwood Link light rail extension scheduled to begin service in late 2024 ends abruptly near the intersection 44th Avenue West and 200th Street Southwest. Sound Transit plans on the Everett Link Extension of its light rail service connecting here and traveling northeast — the same direction as Alderwood Mall Boulevard — before turning north at 33rd Avenue West. (Photo by Doug Petrowski)

“Preliminary design will begin this summer and continue for several years,” Gallagher said. “As the design progresses, Sound Transit will identify properties potentially affected by the project, and we’ll identify them in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement currently planned for 2025.”

Leaders of Alderwood Community Church believe they have representatives inside the City of Lynnwood that are allies and who don’t want to see the church forced to move out of their current location. “They (City of Lynnwood officials) see us as a pivotal part of the growth of Lynnwood,” Carter told Feb. 5 church service attendees. “They actually don’t want these three plans to be the plans Sound Transit goes with.”

“So the City of Lynnwood is on our side,” Carter added.

Lynnwood Mayor Christine Frizzell also serves on the Sound Transit Board of Directors. While she has made no public comments about the church’s situation, City of Lynnwood spokesperson Nathan MacDonald said: “We are aware of Alderwood Community Church’s concerns. We’ve been told by Sound Transit that it’s still too early in the design process to know if any property will need to be acquired with the proposed route as was approved by city council. We know that Sound Transit has been in contact with the church and plans to continue those conversations throughout the process.”

Alderwood Community Church Elder Board Chairman Jason Carter (left) and Lead Pastor Wyatt Martin are urging church members and attendees to send online comments and attend a Sound Transit public meeting/open house Feb. 15. (Image from Alderwood Community Church website)

Believing that Sound Transit has its sights set on taking church property, the leadership at Alderwood Community Church is asking that church members and attendees take advantage of a current comment period that the transportation agency is holding through March 10. Sound Transit is accepting input from the public concerning the Everett Link Extension prior to beginning studies on the environmental impacts the line and the construction of it will have on the community.

Incorporated in November 1920, Alderwood Manor Community Church began with approximately 75 members, said Church Elder Board Secretary Tony Bollen. A small white church building was constructed among the wooded areas and chicken farms that made up the area. The church campus expanded with construction projects in the early 1960s and again in the mid-1970s, coupled with acquisition of the northwest corner lot at the intersection of Alderwood Mall Boulevard and 33rd Avenue West.

“It’s been a steadily growing church for, what it is, 103 years now,” Bollen said.

Alderwood Community Church attendees mingle between services in a portion of the church lobby on Feb. 12. (Photo by Doug Petrowski)

The church now sees approximately 1,000 people come through its doors during three services on Sunday mornings, plus dozens more for a mid-week seniors’ service. The church offers food and assistance weekly to those in need at their Compassion Center. Bollen hopes the impact the church makes on the community will resonate with Sound Transit.

“So what we’re trying to do right now is be sure that Sound Transit understands — we don’t have any animosity toward Sound Transit; they’ve done a good job so far and they’re just trying to make a wise decision — we just want them to understand, look, this 100-year-old church means a lot to the city of Lynnwood,” Bollen said. 

“We serve 150 families a week at the Compassion Center who need food,” Bollen continued. “We serve several hundred people here at the Compassion Center that need medical care. We’re the home to a Vietnamese congregation; we’re the home to a Hispanic congregation, a place that’s a spiritual home to 1,500-plus people. It’s a huge part of the community.”

The public is invited to a Sound Transit in-person public hearing/open house Wednesday, Feb. 15, at the Cascade High School cafeteria, 801 E. Casino Rd., Everett.

“We want to tell Sound Transit, hey, we’re excited about light rail, we support light rail, we just don’t want it coming through our sanctuary,” Bollen said.

— By Doug Petrowski

  1. Acc helps many,many people. Although transit is necessary not through church property ! Please reconsider another route

  2. Public transportation, as valuable to residents as it is cannot replace the value of a strategic spiritual meeting place that hosts and serves a thousand or more people each week. A light rail system that causes the relocation of this spiritual meeting place known as Alderwood Community Church would not be in the best interests of this community. Alderwood Community Church and the people who call this location home are of much more value to those people and this community than this public transit route. It would be more advantageous to alter the route rather than to displace this Church and it’s property.

    Sound Transit should reconsider any devision to displace Alderwoood Community Church. Although I do not live in the Lynnwood/Seattle area I once did and I have watched the exponential growth of Seattle and the region over the years. With the continuing increase in population of this area more efficient public transportation is a very needed thing but not at the expense of other very important part considerations for a thriving community which include thriving and growing worship centers such as Alderwood Community Church.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Real first and last names — as well as city of residence — are required for all commenters.
This is so we can verify your identity before approving your comment.