Evergreen Islands
PO Box 223
Anacortes, WA 98221
______________________________

December 15, 1999
Mr. Gary Christensen
Skagit County Planning & Permit Center
200 W Washington
Mount Vernon, WA 98273

Re: Proposed Amendments to the Skagit County Comprehensive Plan

Dear Mr. Christensen:

On the behalf of Evergreen Islands, I am presenting our concerns about the proposed amendments to Skagit County's Comprehensive Plan. Evergreen Islands is an environmental group based on Fidalgo, and a large portion of our membership resides on south Fidalgo Island. Our earnest concerns are presented in the following sections.

FIDALGO ISLAND COMMUNITY PLAN
For illustration purposes, the following excerpts regarding the Fidalgo Island Community Plan have been included.

Excerpt from the proposed Skagit County Comprehensive Plan
4A-7.14(c) (p. 4-37 and 4-38).
"Fidalgo Island. The community plan for Fidalgo Island shall include consideration of the potential need for future expansion of the Anacortes UGA, and shall ensure that rural development outside the current UGA is designated 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 existing RI designations."

 

Excerpt from the November 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 development pattern and the wisdom of the County looking beyond the initial 20-year planning period for future urban growth, the County has determined that the entire (emphasis added) 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 study area for future growth."

Evergreen Islands is alarmed by Skagit County's proposal to declare Fidalgo Island a study area for more intensive rural development. Our critique of this proposal is as follows:

· The comprehensive plan statement, "The Fidalgo Island Community Plan shall also evaluate whether additional rural density is appropriate to minimize large lot sprawl…," is an absurd contradiction of terms. To minimize low-density sprawl, Skagit County is proposing high-density sprawl in a rural area - exactly what the Growth Management Act strives to prevent!

· The memo statement, "Given the existing development pattern and the wisdom of the County looking beyond the initial 20-year planning period for future urban growth…" is a very pretentious statement. How can the county presume that it can predict what the residents will expect of their community in 20 years? The forebears of Fidalgo Island had the foresight to set aside both the Anacortes Community Forest Lands and Washington Park, and many years later the residents of Fidalgo Island realize the treasures they have been bequeathed. The County should defer studying South Fidalgo until the end of the 20-year planning period. Allow the future residents of Fidalgo Island to decide whether it was wise to keep part of the island rural.

· In the 1980's, a sewer district was proposed for the east side of South Fidalgo Island to solve the well known and well documented pollution of Similk Bay caused by failing, inadequate, or non-existent septic systems. The effort to create the sewer system failed, and the pollution continues both unabated and increasing. No subsequent actions have been taken to clean up our water, yet the county is now proposing increased densities that will greatly exacerbate the problem.

· Fidalgo Island has already experienced the negative effects of allowing urban density development in a rural area. A couple of high profile examples are as follows:

· The Point, a high-density development on rocky outcroppings, relies on septic systems to treat their waste. Runoff from The Point polluted the water supply for the Alexander Beach, a community down slope from The Point. The Alexander Beach homeowners were forced to file suit to correct the problem. The problem was addressed by lining the ditches with concrete to collect the runoff and piping the contaminated runoff directly into Burroughs Bay.

· The Del Mar homeowners association was also forced to file suit when runoff from an urban density development damaged their properties. The homeowners spent lots of money, and the problems were eventually solved with the assistance of taxpayer's money.

· The City of Anacortes adamantly opposes declaring Fidalgo Island a Study Area. Based on a survey of the residents of South Fidalgo, the city decided that South Fidalgo Island should not be included in the Anacortes UGA. They also determined that the cost of providing sewer service would be astronomical.

· A lot of homeowners on South Fidalgo Island rely on wells for their water supply. Homeowners on Guemes Island are already experiencing salt-water intrusion into their water supply, and increased population density will inevitably create the same problem for homeowners on Fidalgo Island.

· If the County insists on studying development of South Fidalgo Island, the environmental review that is required for a Sub Area plan should also be required for Fidalgo Island.

DEWEY BEACH RURAL CENTER (4A-11.6, p. 4-49)

In the proposed comprehensive plan, Dewey Beach is designated a rural center, and the November 8th memoranda includes a map of the Dewey Beach RC in Appendix A. The Dewey Beach RC map shows the parcels for the Island Electric, Lake Campbell Motel and Apartments, Harold's Corner Market, and the Shrimp Shack. Our critique of this proposal is as follows:

· The entrances to the businesses listed above are located on hills and at curves of one of the most dangerous sections of Highway 20 (so dangerous that it has been classified as a Safety Corridor). Commercial expansion of these areas would increase the hazard, and should not be allowed.

· These rural businesses should be "grandfathered in" along with Giselle's (?) restaurant and Lake Erie Grocery & Trailer Park, but they should be considered exceptions to the rural zoning rather than changing their zoning classification to a permitted use.

· Since the proposed sites are widely dispersed along Highway 20, changing the zoning classification of these properties to a permitted use would "sow a row of seeds" that would, in time, lead to strip development of this section of highway.

· The map in Appendix G of the memo, entitled Location and Approximate Service Areas of Rural Village Commercial Districts and Rural Centers, is in error. The purple line delineating the 2.5 Mile Buffer City/UGA should include a lot more of Fidalgo Island than is shown on the map (i.e., draw a 2.5 mile circle centered at Sharpes Corner and one centered at the edge of Skyline).

VENDOVI AND SINCLAIR ISLAND RURAL CENTERS
(4A-11.11, p 4-50)
These islands are about as far as one can get from an urban center. Residential developments and rural centers on these islands are antitheses of the underpinnings of the Growth Management Act. Residential developments and rural centers should not be allowed on these islands.


FINAL COMMENT
The period of time allowed for providing comments on the voluminous set of documents was much too short - so short in fact that it borders on being criminal. Concerned parties were not given enough time to review the documents thoroughly, and as a result, the documents will not be 'as good as they can be'.

 

Sincerely,

Tom Glade
Vice President