Developer appeals six-year 'stop-work' order
Anacortes American  
Wednesday, November 18, 1998  
Page A10

By Nancy Walbeck
American staff writer

      A developer who proposed a 20-lot 
subdivision off Miller Road in Skagit 
County is appealing the six-year 
moratorium imposed on his project.
      Randy Previs of Seavestco Inc. of 
Edmonds planned to build Lakewood Park 
Estates on 44 acres, but was cited by the 
Skagit County planning department and the 
state Department of Natural Resources for 
impacting wetlands and removing, or 
"harvesting" tress.
      The county imposed a six-year 
moratorium on the project in August and 
re-confirmed that action in a letter to 
Previs dated Oct. 27.  DNR followed up 
with a stop-work order, also dated Oct. 27.
      County planning director Tom Karsh, 
who represents the lead agency in the 
action, said Previs and his Bellingham 
attorney Bob Carmichael protested the 
shutdown, saying regulations were vague 
on the term "harvesting."  The county, 
backed by DNR, maintained that Previs 
removed several trees on or near wetlands 
or critical areas, and made other 
unauthorized environmental impacts on his 
property.  Initially, Previs admitted only to 
failing to obtain a fill-and-grade permit last 
spring before beginning work on the site.
     The property, which borders on the 
Anacortes Community Forest Lands, is 
steep and pocked with wetlands, streams 
and also an old access road.  According to 
county and DNR documents, Previs 
widened and extended that road in a 
configuration that followed his subdivision 
plans.  He also cleared a larger site near the 
apex of the property, land on which he 
plans to put a home for himself.  The 
ACFL, however, was not impacted, 
Anacortes city officials previously 
determined.
      Previs, who apparently has now 
downsized his plans to the single homesite 
and some road improvements and site 
upgrades, said Monday he didn't receive 
any stop-work order from DNR and only 
knew about the action from Carmichael, 
who read the document over the phone this 
past week.  But Jim Cahill of DNR, who is 
overseeing local management of the Previs 
action, said the stop-work order was sent 
by certified mail to the developer at his 
home in Edmonds.  Cahill also confirmed 
that Carmichael was unaware of that order 
until Cahill told him in a recent phone 
conversation.
      The appeal, which likely will be heard 
Dec. 2 before county hearing examiner 
Bob Schofield, will address the 
"appropriateness" of the moratorium, 
Karsh said.  But the county planning 
director still stands by his decision to 
affirm the moratorium action, which he 
said was based on a number of issues.  One 
was a recent court case in Whatcom 
County, which won on appeal, where the 
court stated it would defer to the 
appropriate agency about what the term 
"harvesting" actually meant.
     "I agree it is a weak point in the state 
law ... the definitions on harvesting," Karsh 
said.
      As well, Karsh said the planning 
department received an additional request 
from Previs to remove alder trees and a 
"snag" tree, and the developer also wanted 
to burn or remove the existing slash piles 
of downed trees.  Karsh said he told 
Carmichael those matters must be handled 
by the DNR, unless Previs' action would 
impact critical areas.
      Cahill said Previs must contact DNR 
directly to remove the stop-work order so 
the agency can determine if future actions 
require a Forest Practices permit.  So far, 
he has heard nothing from either Previs or 
Carmichael about additional on-site work.
      Previs said Monday he is still waiting 
for his attorney Carmichael and the county 
to iron out their differences so he can go 
ahead with plans for the single homesite.  
Carmichael could not be reached for 
comment.
       Meanwhile, the environmental group 
Evergreen Islands has been closely 
monitoring the Previs project.  The group 
also hired an attorney, Smith & Lowney of 
Seattle, which sent a strongly worded legal 
brief to Karsh outlining why the firm is 
convinced Previs broke the law, and 
backing the county on the moratorium.
      Karsh agreed that the Smith & Lowney brief,
dated Oct. 22, did help, along with the 
other information already in county's hands.