The following article appeared in the 
Anacortes American, Wednesday, 
September 9, 1998.

DEVELOPER COMPLAINS OF UNFAIR 
TREATMENT BY COUNTY, 
NEWSPAPER.

Land-Owner Stands by Right to Up-grade 
Road.

By Nancy Walbeck
American Staff Writer

Although a Fidalgo Island 
subdivision developer maintains he was in 
the right to upgrade an existing road on his 
property, his own consultants concede he 
impacted more than 2,000 square feet of 
wetlands.

Randy Previs, who owns about 44 
acres off Miller Road, plans to build 
Lakewood Park Estates.  The property will 
have no more than 20 homes, one of which 
will be his own after he moves to Anacortes 
from his Edmonds home.

But Previs who bought the property 
last year from the Willette family, has 
impacted three wetland sites on his land.  
Also, Previs neglected to apply for an initial 
fill-and-grade permit from the count, nor 
did he get written authorization from the 
state Department of Natural Resources to 
convert forest land to a residential use.
However, Previs, who maintained 
last week he has been unfairly treated by the 
county and the press, said he did make 
efforts to find out what he must do to 
develop his land.  He also insists he was 
told upgrading and re-grading the existing 
road, for the most part, was OK.
But Marianne Manville-Ailles of 
Skagit Surveyors and Engineers of Sedro-
Wooley, said Previs clearly has impacted 
wetlands.

"Randy had gone ahead and done 
road improvements; he disturbed those 
wetlands.  He thought doing improvements 
to existing roads would be OK; that you 
just go out and fix it," Manville-Ailles said, 
while conceding that the state Department 
of Ecology might yet get involved.  Skagit 
Surveyors was hired by Previs to survey the 
roads on site, before and after the impacts 
took place.

The wetland damage impacts a total 
of 2,160 square-feet - five locations on 
three wetland sites all related to road 
construction.  Wetland B, located higher up 
in the development is rated "moderate to 
high," and impacts wetlands areas alongside 
the south portion of the road, a total of 823 
square feet, according to Previs' report 
from his wetland specialists, Aqua-Terr 
System, Inc., Sedro-Wooley.

Wetlands A, the closest to Miller 
Road, is rated moderate, with its three 
impacted sites primarily attributed to road-
building activity over them.  The wetlands 
intrusion has occurred north and south of 
the main road, a total of 611 square feet in 
an area near a large, manmade pond.
Wetlands C, also rated moderate, 
comprises 726 square feet of wetland 
impacted by road construction over it. The 
site, on a road perpendicular to the main 
one, is the most northerly of the impacts.
"He (Previs) did impact some 
wetlands, and we have surveyed that," said 
Jim Wiggins, president of Aqua-Terr 
Systems.  "He will have to do some 
mitigation for the impact, and the county 
will regulate that."

But Previs was initially reluctant to 
concede any mistakes related to road-
building on the property.  He also maintains 
he was given conflicting or inadequate 
information on what was required, in the 
beginning, thus his ignorance about what 
(or whether) permits were required.  He 
does agree that the stop-work order issued 
by the county around June 1 got his 
attention, and a meeting a few days later 
convinced him he needed a fill-and-grade 
permit.

"That was to cover past and future 
grading on the site.  I am not stating I 
violated anything.  At the county's request, 
I was given 'tasks' (to do subsequently).  In 
our view, we violated no ordinances nor 
laws at this time," Previs said in a meeting 
late last week.

It is clear that the requirements for a 
fill-and-grade permit now have been 
submitted to the count planning department.  
Manville-Ailles said her firm submitted a 
drainage study, a wetland delineation 
report, a SEPA checklist (a state 
environmental report) and a set of road 
plans on Aug. 10.  She also said this was 
done to bring the project into compliance, a 
post-facto action, and doesn't begin to 
address any mitigation requirement.  That 
will come once the county determines the 
extent of the impacts and what needs to be 
done to offset the damages.

"The matter is still under 
investigation," county planning director 
Tom Karsh said last week, adding that many 
"complexities" are involved because it is 
still unclear whether logging took place to 
upgrade the road system.

However, the state Department of 
Natural Resources is sticking by its 
assessment that Previs, who has had a six-
year development moratorium slapped on 
his property, impacted the property 
substantially with his road-fixing project.  
Jim Cahill of DNR said his department 
doesn't deal with after-the-fact permits, and 
will most likely sign off on the county's 
mitigation plan - once that is decided upon.  
One reason is the county's critical-area 
ordinance, which is much more stringent 
than DNR's criteria for wetland impacts.
Karsh also added that the key to 
assessing damage on the site, and whether 
mitigation will subsequently lift the 
moratorium, is whether Previs did activity 
on his property that normally would need a 
Forest Practices permit.  Karsh said DNR 
maintains that's the case; Previs' attorneys 
say they disagree.

Bob Carmichael of Simonarson, 
Visser, Zender, et. al., in Bellingham said 
Friday, "There is a lot of gray area and 
room for interpretation" regarding whether 
Previs needed a Forest Practices permit, or 
even whether any impacts have occurred.
"He doesn't think he did anything 
wrong in the first place, and there are 
exemptions here that may apply to Randy," 
Carmichael said.  "I have been on the site 
and seen what's there; I don't have any 
adverse reaction to it."

But Carmichael and his fellow 
attorney Dan Zender met with county 
planning official last Thursday and wrested 
a concession "press release" from county 
planners about county officials' comments 
in local press accounts of the matter.  In 
particular, assistant code enforcement 
officer Diana Barnett was cited for 
"inappropriate" comments, and the press 
was charged with printing "out of context" 
verbiage related to official count response 
to Previs' wetlands' intrusions.  Previs was 
at the meeting, along with his two 
attorneys, and they strongly urged Karsh to 
state that Previs had no intent to violate the 
law and had been "cooperative" with the 
county subsequent to the stop-work order.
The press release, which Karsh said 
he signed Friday, Sept. 4, and which he 
agreed to distribute to the newspapers 
involved, conceded the unprecedented 
action "isn't a normal" one.  He added that 
county attorneys and Previs' lawyers took a 
number of faxes Friday afternoon to 
hammer out an acceptable version, but 
admitted that none of the newspapers 
involved were informed as to the release's 
contents nor consulted about the issue of 
context.

In fact, as of Monday night, no press 
release had been received by the American, 
and it was unclear whether the Labor Day 
holiday was the impediment.  County 
commissioner Bob Hart, reached at home 
Monday night, said he was not informed 
about any press release and said he would 
look into the matter Tuesday, Sept. 8.
"I'm unaware of any apology 
(issued by the county). (Randy) Previs was 
to call 10 days ago, but he didn't call me," 
Hart said.

Hart also repeated remarks made 
two weeks ago, when the wetland impact 
story was first reported.  Then he said no 
one can be exempted from creating 
environmental impacts, that everyone has to 
follow the law.

"If the regulations aren't followed, 
then you are out of compliance," he said 
this week.

It is odd that Previs didn't call Hart 
when expected, because Previs accused 
DNR's Cahill of failing to call him back.  
Cahill strongly disputes that, saying that 
"our mutual (phone) machines" have been 
talking.  Previs also disputed another 
assertion, that he demanded that Dianna 
Barnett not be allowed to attend last 
Thursday's county meeting.  He 
"categorically" denied that, saying he 
requested no such thing.  But Karsh said 
Previs is mistaken, that attorney Carmichael 
specifically requested that Barnett be kept 
out of the meeting because of the 
"emotional" impact it would have on Previs.
Meanwhile, Previs said he doesn't 
want to cause any more upset for Anacortes 
residents or those who live on Fidalgo 
Island.  He wants to build his new home, 
move his wife and two young daughters 
here and be a "good neighbor".  He also 
said he realizes he will have to comply with 
a mitigation plan to offset wetland damage 
and is ready to do so.

But he also will have to deal with 
DNR, especially if he moves one tree or 
does even a small amount of additional 
clearing.  Cahill firmly stated last week that 
a conversion permit is required for any 
"next steps" Previs takes on the land, and 
much of that will require a thorough review.  
That, and the ongoing county investigation, 
might uncover further development impacts, 
particularly if a riparian or onsite stream is 
found.  Wetlands specialist Wiggins thought 
the site might have one, but his and 
Manville-Ailles work didn't extend much 
beyond road impacts and surveys.

However, the steeply wooded site, 
cut with deep ravines and home to a large 
pond near its base, is likely to have a stream 
source.  In any case, local environmentalists 
say they are keeping watch, including those 
connected with the adjacent Anacortes 
Community Forest Lands as well as the 
Fidalgo Island environmental group, 
Evergreen Islands, and Skagit Audubon.  
Elsa Gruber, longtime leader in Skagit 
Audubon and the vice president of 
Evergreen Islands board said many groups 
already are concerned, especially with any 
apparent intimidation toward county 
employees.

"Diana Barnett ... deserves 
accolades for doing what she was hired to 
do - ensure compliance with the county's 
regulations, including the Critical Areas 
ordinance," Gruber said in a faxed message 
Monday.  "I trust that the county will praise 
her, not censure her in response to external 
pressure.  I can't believe the county would 
be influence by intimidation.
"A full public airing of this whole 
situation is certainly warranted. Let's 
examine all the facts," she added.