The following article appeared in the Anacortes American, Wednesday, August 19, 1998: DEVELOPER'S MISTAKES DRAW SIX-YEAR STOP TO WORK FOR 20-LOT PROJECT. By Nancy Walbeck American Staff Writer An Edmonds developer who bought 40 acres from the Willette family off Miller Road has had his residential project slapped with a 6-year moratorium by the county because of land-use violations. Randy S. Previs, who owns Seavestco Inc. of Edmonds, planned a 20-lot development off Miller Road near Scimitar Ridge Lane, dubbed Lakewood Estates. But Skagit County planning officials say Previs skipped getting permits, including one from the state Department of Natural Resources. The county enforcement officer, Diana Barnett, said a forest-practices permit outlining tree removal was not applied for, nor did an onsite inspection by DNR personnel take place before Previs bulldozed a road through his acreage. As well, the road, which follows the outline of the residential development, was built over clearly visible wetland areas and other critical-area sites, a violation of the county's comprehensive plan. "He cut and logged trees, put in roads over wetlands, graded - all without permits. He (clearly) attempted to circumvent the critical-areas ordinance," Barnett said, adding that Previs "quit-claimed" every other lot to his company, Seavestco, in an attempt to get around regulations that apply to large-parcel development. In fact, county planning director Tom Karsh said Monday, Aug. 17, that it still is uncertain what the legal ramifications are because Previs' legal advisors are saying he isn't in violation regarding tree harvesting. Karsh also was unaware that the 6-year moratorium already had been issued to Previs by his department because some issues were still unclear regarding harvesting, and if state law actually had been broken. "We are still investigating. It does look like it really is an illegal division of the land, " Karsh said, adding that the county views Previs' development as one "40-acre chunk," not a mix of small parcels, as the developer claims. On site, the only trees removed relate to the main subdivision road, pushed through from above Miller Road to the edge of the Anacortes Community Forest lands. Thirty- foot tall burn piles are stacked throughout the site, with cedar, hemlock and other large evergreens readied for fire disposal, which concerns Anacortes Forest Land Manager Bob Vaux. The manager did say Previs hasn't intruded into the forest lands, which abuts the developer's property at the ridge crest, but he did bulldoze a large swath where a narrow footpath led into the ACFL. The path was part of an easement agreement with the Willette family, which didn't transfer with the sale to Previs. ACFL staff have placed brush as an obstruction to discourage use at that location, and to protect the integrity of the ACFL. Previs, who lives and works out of an Edmonds address, couldn't be reached for comment Monday. Barnett who was alerted to Previs' construction work by a nearby property owner, issued a stop-work order to Previs as early as June 1. Although it is unclear to county officials whether he continued to work the site beyond that date, some adjacent homeowners say they have heard blasting and other activity over the past several weeks. The moratorium dated Aug. 12 , was mailed last week to Previs' Edmonds address, Barnett confirmed. Barnett walked the site with Vaux in June, and noted the multiple violations at that time, including placing a road over a large wetland, which still retained water in mid- August. Other area wetlands were compromised or bulldozed under and no evaluation has been done regarding wildlife habitat, tree retention on a steep, rocky slope, stormwater and drainage issues or buffer zones to protect critical-area habitat. However, Karsh said Previs could have the moratorium lifted if he met conditions laid out by DNR and the county. If it is proven DNR has no concerns about the tree harvest, that would leave only the critical-area ordinance to contend with. "He needs to do a critical-area review, and that means hiring a wetlands biologist to assess that," Karsh said, which includes a number of procedural steps. One of those could be a public hearing and/or appeals of action Previs has taken, or might in the future, to mitigate on-site damage. For the neighbors who have chosen a wooded, quiet enclave hidden away from noisy Highway 20, the development has been a shock. Jean Johansen, who has lived with her husband Elmer for seven years on nearby Deer Lane, said she was angry that someone would deliberately circumvent necessary environmental laws. "We have heron, eagles, raccoons, coyotes, a lot of habitat. It takes away from the forest (to build it like a subdivision)," she said. On the Johansen's five acres with the house close to the road, most of the property has been left as they bought it years ago. "I wish people would recognize preserving the forest, instead of putting in lawns. We built with the land and the rocks (already here)," she added. Johansen and several neighbors tried to buy the Willette property when it came on the market, but the $168,000 price tag was too high. She said her neighbors fear development, and now they have been put in a position where they are forced to monitor Previs' activities. In fact, Barnett said, a nearby property owner, who did not want his name revealed by the county, alerted Barnett in June about Previs' development. Meanwhile, county planners and DNR still need to clarify what Previs has done, and whether it constitutes one or several violations of the existing law. Karsh said the investigation which has consumed most of the summer, is still ongoing. And what might cause further concern is if matters drag on into the rainy season with possible impacts to homes and property from uncontrolled stormwater runoff.