For the last decade and a half, I and other Skagit residents have urged Skagit County to address sea level rise planning in its Shoreline Master Plan (SMP) update. Most recently, as it became clear that the County’s SMP update would not include sea level rise (SLR) planning, many began to push for an alternative. This summer it seemed the County had heard us.
For Skagit citizens who watched the Planning Commission’s (PC) controversies in 2021 unfold, it seemed it was bound to happen. The new rewrite of PC bylaws enshrines the PC’s power to censure their members. That power was not included in their bylaws when they actually did severely reprimand one of their members through censure in 2021 before they gave themselves the authority to do so.
Native Americans from the Skagit Valley and surrounding areas have relied on the native elk population for food and cultural sustenance for thousands of years. When European settlers arrived here, they marveled at the abundant wildlife, including elk, that inhabited the landscape.
More than two years of fierce public outcry and organizing against so-called Fully Contained Communities (FCCs) ended in a unanimous vote on May 8, 2023 by Skagit Board of County Commissioners (BoCC). Their vote EXCLUDED from the 2023 docket two previously docketed and then deferred proposals to allow FCCs in Skagit. How did citizen action accomplish the victory?
A series of puzzling, and at times controversial, decisions and actions by the Skagit County Planning Commission led to a push for more transparency from County Commissioners regarding the process of Planning Commissioner appointments. A group of Skagit citizens from Home Rule Skagit, as well as local Good Government advocates, are behind that push. There have been small successes in this process, but more needs to be done. At a time when issues of growth are so crucial, the Planning Commission often seems to be in the driver’s seat of the county’s future.
For six years a group of citizens called Central Samish Valley Neighbors (CSVN) has been working to protect their rural community from the impacts of a large new gravel mine. The permit review process, led by Skagit County Planning and Development Services, has been long, drawn out, and fraught with problems from the outset.
The long saga of failing wells on Guemes Island goes back to 1994. The sole source of fresh water for island residents is an aquifer that has been jeopardized by unchecked drilling of new wells. As the population of Guemes has grown, and new wells are drilled by new property owners, existing wells have been corrupted by seawater intrusion making the water unsafe for human consumption. Since then, Guemes Islanders worked to get Skagit County to find a solution to protect the aquifer. They have been continually thwarted in their efforts. In 2022, they tried again.
On March 1 during a public hearing before the Skagit County Board of Commissioners, representatives of several organizations expressed concerns about the absence of references to climate change and sea level rise in the February, 2022 draft Shoreline Master Program (SMP).
The decision by the Skagit County Commissioners to docket (or give further consideration to) the Skagit Partners’ proposal to allow fully contained communities has raised a number of questions about the process for making such consequential growth decisions.
Right now, another attack is being launched against growth management in Skagit County. This is the latest in a series over the last several years. The attack is in the form of a push for Fully Contained Communities (FCCs). On March 11th, the County Commissioners docketed an amendment to the County 2021 Comprehensive Plan to review FCCs. Understandably, the Commissioners are concerned about affordable housing, and FCCs offer that false promise.