The following article appeared in the Anacortes American, Wednesday, March 10, 1999. MAYOR, COUNCIL SPLIT ON BACKING MJB FOR WATERFRONT PROPOSAL By Nancy Walbeck American Staff Writer Over the strong objections of Mayor Dean Maxwell, a majority of Anacortes City Council members voted Monday night to recommend a state agency approve MJB’s south-dock proposal. MJB, which owns about 70 acres on Fidalgo Bay, proposed leasing five acres from the state Department of Natural Resources. The Port of Anacortes also sought the leased land, and DNR subsequently asked Anacortes City Hall for its help. Initially, Maxwell and city council members intended to develop what they termed "criteria" for DNR, guidelines for development that included previously approved land-use and shoreline regulations. They also planned to address DNR’s own set of rules for shoreline development, thus allowing the agency to make an informed decision as to which development proposal should be approved. But some council members were upset about the long delay in determining criteria, and what a few saw as an incomplete and possible unworkable Port proposal. Since last fall, MJB has said it was preparing to move forward on its South Dock project, which also included dredging to enlarge the marina area. Further, MJB wanted to take the 650,000 cubic yards of dredged material and place it on 60 acres in Fidalgo Bay , to enhance eelgrass growth. The South Dock area has eelgrass beds in the area MJB proposes for marina uses. For development to move forward, another area of the bay must produce an equal amount of eelgrass as mitigation. In the last few weeks, a few city council members and a couple of Port commissioners have met to discuss how to resolve the DNR tidelands issue. Because neither body had a majority of its members present, the meetings were not legally required to be open to the public. MJB principals, who also met with local officials, have spoken to State Commissioner of Lands Jennifer Belcher in an effort to secure the tidelands. Next Tuesday, March 16, Port executive director Rick Aschieris and Maxwell also will meet with Belcher. On Monday night, Maxwell failed to persuade city council members to table their vote until after the Belcher meeting so the city can thoroughly understand its position regarding eelgrass mitigation and what could occur on Fidalgo Bay. In a 5-2 vote, council members approved sending DNR a letter strongly endorsing MJB’s projects as well as "encourag(ing) you to approve MJB’s proposal to place fill on 60 acre so Fidalgo Bay to enhance the existing Fidalgo Bay eelgrass mitigation project." Council members Bud Rock and Jeanne Robinette voted no and Maxwell refused to sign the letter. He then said he would send a letter of his own, which clearly would not support a majority of the council members’ opinions. "You are not getting my signature," Maxwell said, directing his comment to Councilman Bill Carlisle. "I will follow this up with (my own) letter." Carlisle: "So will I." Maxwell strongly objected, saying MJB has had two opportunities to talk to Belcher and the Port should have the same consideration. He asked, instead, that council members forward the criteria data but table the letter recommending MJB’s proposal. But Carlisle said even though the MJB plan to dredge and deposit materials to enhance eelgrass mitigation "is problematic," it offers "significant hope" that more development can happen in Fidalgo Bay. However, council members Jeanne Robinette and Bud Rock say they are concerned the city’s just-acquired state approval for six acres for bay mitigation will be jeopardized. As well, Robinette asked if other property owners along the bay would benefit from MJB’s plan. She said she wanted to see those details included in any letter sent to DNR. And that’s where the issue becomes muddied, because possibly half the 60-acre mitigation credits could be dealt to DNR to use elsewhere in the state, one of several options discussed at Monday night’s council meeting. Carlisle insisted that MJB has no plans to take those credits away form the city, and city planning director Ian Munce said it’s highly unlikely the state would involve itself in any eelgrass project in the bay without the city’s explicit approval. "(But) there has been no discussion how (the mitigation) acreage would be allocated," Munce said, and some city officials clearly want that to take place. As well, Munce said a further discussion must include eelgrass restoration that is not directly involved in development. "And DNR could use that other 30 acres elsewhere in the state. I don’t have an answer," Munce said. "DNR might want those mitigation (eelgrass) credits around the state."