The following article appeared in Fidalgo This Week, Friday, January 7, 1999.
Ruling targets future rural growth
by Nathan Lindberg
In June of 1997, Skagit County approved its comprehensive plan in compliance with Washington State’s Growth Management Act (G.M.A.) and with a general consensus from the city and county officials. A month later the state legislation changed its policy by passing ESB 6094 that allowed for more local control over land issues.
A group of land owners felt the zoning in the original county comprehensive plan was not fair and made a coalition called the Association of Skagit County Land Owners (A.S.C.L.O.), which today has about 500 members. Now the coalition is asking for zoning to be reconsidered and the county has given some indications it may comply.
In a Nov. 8 memorandum, the county proposed to take advantage of ESB 6094 and look at rural areas that might be rezoned for more density. Big Lake, Birdsview, Day Creek, and South Fidalgo Island were all written as potential areas for greater population growth and the county is considering making “community plans” for the areas.
For Ken Howard, president of A.S.C.L.O., the reconsideration is logical.
“Skagit County isn’t the same as King or Thurston County,” said Howard. “About 40 percent of our population is rural. The GMA proposed 80 percent of the population in incorporated areas and urban growth areas and 20 percent in the rural. I think (in Skagit County) a 70/30 split would be much more reasonable.:
Howard argues that the county’s original comprehensive plan for zoning ignored local growth pattern s and local conditions.
Howard said ESB 6094 is an opportunity for the county to reassess its zoning laws. “Now that we have that tool, wouldn’t it be wise to use it and reassess the original rules?” said Howard.
Howard and two-and-a-half or five-acre lots, instead of ten would give landowners more freedom of diversity and yet could retain a rural atmosphere.
“We’re not saying you should go out and pave South Fidalgo Island,” said Howard. “We’re saying you can sustain growth and still retain a rural setting.”
Anacortes City Planner Ian Munce was not pleased with the county’s consideration.
“We had all these discussions in the early ‘90s and I thought it was over,” said Munce. Munce said in the original comprehensive plan an average density of two-and-a-half acres was proposed. Present zoning, he added, meets the two-and-a-half acre average.
Munce said the county had no discussion with Anacortes before the new zoning consideration was proposed. He voiced his frustration with the county. “It’s kind of pathetic we have to follow them around to adhere to our agreements,” said Munce.
Skagit County Assistant Planner Gary Christensen downplayed the issue and said it was too early for assumptions to be made.
“At this point it’s just an idea,” said Christensen.
Christensen said the areas considered were just potential spots for further study. He said it was not certain if the County Commissioners would take any action at all, and if they did they would consult all adjacent jurisdictions.
“The study doesn’t mean it will result in change,” said Christensen. “It just means there will be more information out there and we certainly will consult with the cities and adjacent areas.”
The proposed study will go through the county planning commission and may be on the county commissioners’ agenda in the spring. If the county does decide to conduct a study, it will involve public input, and ultimately it may be the residents of South Fidalgo Island that will decide their own fate.