The following letters appeared in the Anacortes American between February 16 and March 15, 2000.

Talk about options

I would like to encourage those concerned about growth issues on our island to read “Better, No Bigger,” a book which focuses on sustainable community planning and serves as an action guide to curbing growth. As notes in the book’s introduction, we’ve accepted the “inevitability” of growth in “such an unquestioning manner that there has been little serious consideration of growth alternatives. There is an astonishing lack of good information about the real impacts of growth on our communities. There is very little awareness of the strategies and policy options for slowing or limiting growth. And good role models for stable communities are hard to find.” This very readable book addresses all of these issues, and more.

La Conner is scheduling a joint meeting of its town council and planning commission for 7 p.m. March 21 at Maple Hall (First and Commercial in La Conner). They have invited the book’s author, Eben Fodor, a professional community planning consultant and grassroots organizer, to speak on growth issues. The event is free and open to the public, and I urge all who can to attend.

Fidalgo Island
March 15, 2000


Word for word

In response to the criticism that Evergreen Islands is “blowing the Fidalgo study area out of proportion” and “makes it sound like the entire South Fidalgo Island will be urbanized,” I include the text of the documents that led to the Rally for Fidalgo on Feb. 29.

Excerpt from the proposed Skagit County Comprehensive Plan 4A-7.14 (p 4-27 and 4-38) - “The community plan for Fidalgo Island shall include consideration of the potential need for future expansion of the potential need for the Anacortes UGA, and shall ensure that rural development outside the current UGA is designed in a manner that will preserve options for future urban expansion, if necessary. The Fidalgo Island Community Plan shall also evaluate whether additional rural density is appropriate to minimize large-lot sprawl and to create more logical boundaries incorporating the Rural Intermediate designations.”

Excerpt from the Nov. 8, 1999, memorandum, p.35 - “The Fidalgo Island study area has been identified primarily because of its proximity to the existing Anacortes UGA, as well as several Rural Intermediate land use designations. Given the existing developing pattern and the wisdom of the County looking beyond the initial 20-year planning period for urban growth, the County has determined that the entire Fidalgo Island should be the subject of a community planning effort to evaluate the potential for additional areas of more intensive rural development or the need to take extra precautions to preserve portions of this area for future urban growth.”

Not only does the County consider opening all of Fidalgo to this study to appease a few property owners, but this proposal is in direct conflict with the Growth Management Act and the Comprehensive Plan, which was only put into place in 1997. Evergreen Islands simply desires that the County comply with its own Comprehensive Plan.

Fidalgo Island
March 15, 2000


Leave Fidalgo Island out of 2000 Plan for urban sprawl

Please join me in urging our county commissioners to cancel their proposed study for more intense development on Fidalgo Island, and to cancel their proposal to allow clusters of high density development (CaRDS) scattered about rural areas, until the county is ready to provide sewer treatment and other urban services concurrently.

We realize commissioners and their staff planners are being besieged by certain rural landowners and developers who hope to subdivide now. They would build, sell at close to urban prices, provide no costly urban services, take their profits and be gone, before (as Gov. Tom McCall of Oregon used to say) homeowners’ effluent starts running into their neighbors’ yards and into our beautiful bays.

Those original subdividers won’t be around to help when someone is asked to pay for pipes, sewer treatment, water reservoirs, safe roads, schools, firefighters, police. That’s why the Growth Management Act was passed. Commissioners were asked to enforce that law.

The county must resist the pressure of some for quick profits, leaving the rest of us with the bill. Leave Fidalgo out of the 2000 Plan for urban sprawl, unless the count is ready to fund responsible services. Adopt a responsible 2000 Plan which meets the Growth Management Act. Solve the problem urban clusters have already caused to Similk Bay. Then, commissioners should sit down with the people of Fidalgo Island and discuss where more intense development is responsible and how it could pay its way. 2002? 2003?



Not all of Fidalgo at stake

The environmental group Evergreen Islands is blowing the Fidalgo Island study area out of proportion.

Commissioner Bob Hart had a lapse of memory how this study area came about when addressing concerned citizens last Tuesday in Anacortes. I personally witnessed him help draw the boundaries of this study area. Because of numerous landowner complaints due to the massive countywide down-zoning, Resolution 16583 was signed by all three commissioners establishing seven study areas throughout the county. These areas already experience more intensive rural development before the Growth Management Act. The commissioners agreed to look into the possibility of creating more 2.5-acre parcels where there exists more intensive rural development prior to the GMA and allows for infill.

Evergreen Islands makes it sound like the entire South Fidalgo Island will be urbanized. Not true.

The 80 percent urban and 20 percent rural population allocation is not mandated by the state. The county wide planning policies determined this allocation. It is the most lopsided split of any county GMA plan in the entire state. The countywide planning policy committee membership was top heavy with city planners who eagerly gobbled up the lion’s share to satisfy their lust for a larger tax base.

It is disappointing that Commissioner Hart, apparently unable to defend his own actions, chose deceptive behavior in an attempt to appease the audience. It is time for a change.

South Fidalgo Island
March 8, 2000


The following letters are addressed to the Skagit County Board of Commissioners, with copies sent to the American.

Go easy on the ox

Commissioner Bob Hart:

I attended the Feb. 29 meeting on the proposed Fidalgo Island Community Plan held at Anacortes City Hall. I left disheartened.

Disheartened because the county apparently remains uncommitted to the basic concept behind the Growth Management Act, managing the effects of urban growth. Disheartened because neighbors are pitted against each other; one side hoping to use their land as they desire, regardless of the effects, the other side hoping to protect the rural nature of Fidalgo Island. Saddened that after numerous years of work, effort and expense, this unilateral county action would consign to limbo a long-range “road map” for development of Fidalgo Island.

My observations from the meeting are as follows:

· Skagit County Land Owners Association did not request a study for more intensive development. It sought redress for down-zoning of properties.

· The City of Anacortes was not consulted about the need for or the merits of a Fidalgo Island Community Plan.

· The proposed community plan and associated issue of open space reserves (CaRD Os-RSV) are inconsistent with countywide plan policies agreed to by the cities and the county in 1997.

· The proposed plan is inconsistent with the population allocation and growth management process defined in the GMA. Impacts of population growth and reallocation are scheduled for review in 2002, at the earliest.

· At least one county commissioner condones the concept that public participation is best fostered by the “gore the ox” or “piss ‘em off and they’ll respond” approach.

Based on these observations, I request that you:

· Cease implementation of the proposed Fidalgo Island Community Plan. Instead, spend the time and money ensuring proper support of the current urban growth areas and comprehensive plan.

· Use the prescribed grievance procedure to address the rezone issues at specific sites identified by affected land owners.

Consider alternative techniques or technologies to inform persons interested in land use issues. The county has a web site and access to email. These are effective, quick and inexpensive ways to inform interested parties. Evergreen Islands and the Skagit County Landowners Association could probably help create emailing lists.

Thank you for being involved. Go easy on the ox.

March 8, 2000


Don’t begin the study

Please do not begin the proposed “study” to rezone our island. We have historically suffered due to lack of adequate sewer and water service as more and more residences were built to add to an already over-crowded area. Add this to very limited highway access, over-crowded schools and loss of wildlife habitat daily as developers clear-cut, and we have a precious island stretched to its limit already with growing population.

We, the citizens of beautiful Fidalgo Island, will not pick up the tab for millions of dollars of services that will be needed to accommodate the onslaught of humans added due to the increased density that such a “study” will surely consider. The decision to rezone our rural land must be left to the ones it will affect - me and my neighbors here on Fidalgo Island.

Thank you for listening to your voters.

March 8, 2000


Listen to residents

Please stop considering the proposed “study” to rezone Fidalgo Island. The county has a history of proposing development here, and has been successfully stopped with pressure by the City of Anacortes and by residents.

As has been stated in previous public testimony, each and every time we have more of our precious rural land rezoned with higher density, the City - we taxpayers - pick up the bill. This includes drainage problems, septic overload, school overcrowding, strains on fire and police services, increased traffic and over-crowding in general, to mention just a few of the many woes of “greater density”.

We here on Fidalgo Island pay a higher average price for our land and homes than most other areas of Skagit County. I pay more for my home so that I may enjoy the local rural atmosphere. I do not wish to pick up the tab for the millions more in tax dollars that will be need to support the thousands of new residents this type of rezoning on Fidalgo Island will inevitably bring.

Listen to your Skagit County residents on Fidalgo Island and drop the proposed “study.” It is a waste of your time and will be met with overwhelming opposition.

March 8, 2000


We’ll fight the study

I feel strongly opposed to the proposed “study” to rezone Fidalgo Island. As I understand, the “study” will consider the possibility of an increase in density for many acres of Fidalgo Island.

I live in Mount Vernon and work in Anacortes. I grew up in Anacortes and continue to enjoy the rural atmosphere and forest lands I grew up within. It will be a mistake to consider the rezone: it is not fair to increase the population of the island in the interest of developers and possible revenue to the county, at the great expense to the citizens of Fidalgo Island. Also increased devastation of wildlife habitat will inevitably follow deforestation as always. This should be a decision made by the residents of the island, not the county commissioners.

Again, please do not pursue this “study.” Many of us who feel strongly opposed will fight to keep it from taking place.

Thank you for your continuing support of our concerns.

Mount Vernon
March 8, 2000


Don’t encourage over-population

Skagit County Commissioners:

In good conscience, how can you even think of proposing a study to rezone Fidalgo Island? The only way to get off Fidalgo Island is either by Highway 20 or over Reservation Road to the Rainbow Bridge. What is going to happen in a catastrophic event if Fidalgo Island’s population becomes tripled ore worse? This does not even address the present traffic on Highway 20 from Interstate 5 to the Memorial Highway turnoff. This two lane road is already filled beyond its capacity to handle heavy traffic.

Please study what has happened in the rezoning of Mount Vernon. In the 10 years since I have lived here, the traffic on College Way and Riverside Drive has quadrupled during the “rush hour.” Yes, we don’t have a Seattle-size population here, but if you consider the number of cars in ratio to the number of arterials we have in Mount Vernon and surrounding communities, the ratio would dwarf Seattle’s rush hour in comparison. In fact, College Way/Waugh-Martin roads is an accident waiting to happen with the speed limit 45 mph and no intersection traffic light. I shudder to think what the traffic is going to be when the housing development on College east of Waugh is completed.

Why do you “community leaders” think the money brought by more people is worth the consequences of over-population of the community?

Mount Vernon
March 8, 2000


Keep ‘two Fidalgos’

I don’t know if you have read or perhaps are even aware of a book that was published late last year called “At Home on Fidalgo”. Let me make the enclosed copy a gift to you. I think you will find it both entertaining and informative in it’s entirety, but let me draw your attention to the lead article by William Dietrich. In it he refers to “two Fidalgo Islands” and indeed, that is true. There is a world of difference between the asphalt and concrete urban setting and the natural rural portion of Fidalgo. That is why I’m writing to you. I want to appeal to your good judgment to preserve “two Fidalgo Islands”.

It is my understanding the County has identified Fidalgo as a study area for more intensive development which can only mean rezoning for greater population density. I’ve asked myself several questions about this and I’ll share my thinking with you.

1. If more land became available, would people come to rural Fidalgo? Of course they would, in a heartbeat. Unfortunately, the human pressure they would exert would quickly and forever change the two dimensions Mr. Dietrich wrote about to a one dimension place.

2. If more land became available, would developers come? Without a doubt and some of them would be inclined to cause just the “thorny” kinds of problems the County is going through currently and the recent past. I can’t imagine you want or need the expense or exasperation.

3. If more land became available, would tax revenue for the County increase? It would, but so would the demand for County services. There is an alternative to increase tax revenue.

4. If rural Fidalgo is rezoned only three years into the 1997 comprehensive plan, does that mean the County had a faulty plan to begin with? I don’t think so. It was well conceived then and worth of support now.

Regarding tax revenue, let me just briefly outline what Boulder, Colorado did some twenty or more years ago. The citizens decided the city was to their liking and wanted to preserve it. To control growth they limited the number of new building permits for residential and commercial purposes. As time went on, the demand and prices for existing property increased dramatically which resulted in greater tax revenue. In fact, a revenue surplus developed and Boulder used it to by adjacent prairie land to enhance the area even more. What the Boulder experience suggests is it doesn’t necessarily take a bigger population to grow. Reasonable self-control now will leave a Fidalgo that is an everlasting joy to its residents and future generations.

Mr. Dietrich posed an interesting idea and I quote, “if we were to walk away from Fidalgo this instant, the charm that drew us here wouldn’t decay. It would grow. The trees would get mightier, the flowers more lush, the wildlife thicker and more noisy. Fidalgo’s best days aren’t in the past; they’re in the future. If we let the best parts be”. I agree and urge you and your fellow commissioners to uphold current zoning and “let the best parts be”. Can we count on you to support this cause?

February 15, 2000


Property rights and community rights

I have been frustrated upon hearing about all the rights that individual property owners think they have. I hear about farmers have the “right” to cultivate all their available land, regardless of the consequences on fish and their habitat. I hear about developers who refuse buffers against public property because they have the “right” to develop all their land, no matter its effects on the public domain they adjoin. I hear about individual property owners, who have enjoyed low property tax on their open space, complain about their violated “rights” because zoning laws had changed before they sought to subdivide their land.

Government by the people has always had the prerogative to form and change law to protect and serve the public interest. Farmers need to do their share to protect the clean water, i.e., the rivers and streams, that run through their property, which provides all the citizens with fish and clean drinking water. Developers should help to protect the forests and parks, which are held by the government for our common welfare and enjoyment. Property owners only have the right to subdivide to the zoning that is in place at the time they apply for the permit. If you snooze, you lose.

What about the “rights” of the community interests, or of the wildlife that we have a duty to protect, or of our natural resources, or of all the many things that we need as a community. When individual or corporate action deprives the community of these interests, then we have to form law and take action to protect those rights of the community as a whole. We live in a democratic society and we all have the right to petition our elected officials to protect what we each see as our common interest. We have powerful laws in place that protect the “taking” of an individual property or of their constitutional rights. I think we need to begin thinking of ourselves more as a community and less as a group of individuals.

March 1, 2000


Don’t ‘study’ Fidalgo

To Skagit County Commissioners;

We are writing to tell you to back away from the proposal to use Fidalgo Island as a “Study” area “for more intense rural development,” etc., etc.

As has been said in public testimony before, drainage problems have never been adequately addressed in Skagit County. For instance, the state Department of Health gives the OK to proceed with septic systems in questionable areas and, then, when those systems fail, they suddenly declare the problem to be one which should be solved “locally.” Locally means the nearest city picks up the tab.

When a “city” picks up the tab, it means the taxpayers of the city - real people who must pay real dollars - are picking up the tab. In this case the citizens of Anacortes will be asked to foot the bill.

We are not going to foot the bill. We are not going to pay for the sewer lines out of town in order to rescue the unfortunate septic tank owner. We are not going to pay for the sewage coming back into Anacortes. We are not going to pay for upgrades or additions to the sewage treatment plant because of the “Study.” We are not going to pay for a second sewage treatment plant because of the “Study.” We are not going to pay for a second sewage facility to accommodate the “Study.”

We are not going to finance or support the additional transportation problems related to the densities described in the “Study.”

We are not going to finance or support the additional transportation problems related to the densities described in the “Study.”

We are not going to vote to incur bond debt to finance the above-mentioned projects. That would merely mean subsidizing a land speculator. We are not going to suffer the consequences of the “Study,” which lacks adherence to concurrency and is totally unjustified by the evidence at hand.

We are not going to be “Studied.” The idea of using us as a “Study” is very ill advised. It will be met with the appropriate response.

February 16, 2000