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.
The appointed Skagit County Planning Commission (PC) wields considerable power in land use planning decisions that affect everyone in the county. Who are the Planning Commissioners? How are they appointed? Do they represent the people of Skagit?
On May 11, 2021, despite over 700 public comments urging them not to do it, the Skagit County Commissioners unanimously voted to docket a comprehensive plan amendment proposal to allow FCCs or “Fully Contained Communities”. By “docketing” the proposal, the County Commissioners prepared a path for developers to turn sections of rural Skagit County into massive housing enclaves.
Skagit County is proposing a Comprehensive Update (major rewrite) to the County’s Shoreline Master Program (SMP), which has not been comprehensively updated since its adoption in 1976. These are just a few of the concerns recognized by several nonprofit groups and tribes who are reviewing the draft and provided comments during the May 11, 2021 Public Hearing before the Skagit County Planning Commission.
Skagit County, Swinomish, and La Conner began to address the impacts of climate change in the mid-2000s. Each took a different approach. What became of those efforts?