A developer who wanted to build a 6,000-home community near Lake Roesiger in rural Snohomish County is in default on his property.

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A developer who wanted to build a 6,000-home community near Lake Roesiger in rural Snohomish County is in default on his property.

A notice posted last week at the 2,600-acre commercial forestland, owned by Shoreline developer Dave Barnett, says he owes $15.6 million on the property and must pay within 30 days or the bank, First Citizens Bank and Trust Co. of Raleigh, N.C., will move to foreclosure.

Barnett’s proposed Falcon Ridge project sparked more than seven years of controversy in the county over how much density should be allowed in rural areas. In September, the Snohomish County Council voted to ban the dense rural developments known as “fully contained communities” from its land-use code, leaving Barnett with limited development options.

At the remote lake, whose shores are dotted with summer cabins and about 200 full-time residents, people hope the default notice will spell the end of big-scale development plans.

“A lot of people out here are cheering. We don’t want a city on the lake,” said Cindy Howard, secretary-treasurer of the Lake Roesiger Property Association.

Land-use consultant Jim Nyberg, who helped develop plans for Falcon Ridge, said Barnett will likely sell some of the Lake Roesiger property.

“He’s looking at a way to pay the bills, pay the bank and move on,” Nyberg said.

The developer has preliminary approval from Snohomish County for several smaller projects totaling 60 lots in the Lake Roesiger area, according to county planning officials. He did not return a call asking for comment.

Snohomish County had no land-use codes to allow dense residential projects in rural areas when Barnett approached the county in November 2002 with his proposal to develop the land at Lake Roesiger, about 10 miles east of Lake Stevens.

Barnett’s attorneys and land-use advisers worked closely with county planning officials to draft the fully contained communities ordinance that was adopted in 2005.

The ordinance was modeled on planned communities, such as Snoqualmie Ridge and Redmond Ridge, where tightly clustered houses were located around business districts and open spaces, with the idea that residents could work where they lived, cutting down on commutes and containing sprawl.

But by 2008, many of the promised businesses and industries had failed to materialize in these communities, and some experienced heavy congestion as thousands of new residents commuted long distances to jobs elsewhere. Local jurisdictions were also on the hook for costly improvements to roads, schools and other infrastructure.

The Puget Sound Regional Council that year recommended that no new fully contained communities be allowed “because of their potential to create sprawl and undermine state and regional growth-management goals.”

That fall, Barnett hired a Seattle public-relations firm and paid for five mailings attacking County Councilman Dave Somers, who opposed the Falcon Ridge project and had proposed a moratorium on such developments, which the County Council subsequently adopted.

Somers and an aide also met with Barnett and afterward said the developer warned he was prepared to spend $2.5 million to defeat Somers in his 2009 re-election bid. But by that fall, the council had voted to eliminate fully contained communities as a development option and the housing market had collapsed.

Somers, who was re-elected, said he hoped Barnett’s Lake Roesiger property would remain commercial forestland and reiterated his view that the area was poorly suited to a dense residential development.

“The costs of roads and infrastructure to serve such a remote area would have been a black hole for county taxpayers,” Somers said. “I’m very glad the project seems to be dead.”

Lynn Thompson: 206-464-8305 or lthompson@seattletimes.com