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Consistent Governance 101

Commentary by John Doyle

Recently, the Avalon Golf Course owners under the name, Skagit Partners, LLC, withdrew their proposal for a 1,000-unit residential development adjacent to the golf course. This is the third year in row that they have tried to propose this project. It was turned down in the first two years.
It’s hard to know where to begin. This project violates local policies regarding development in Skagit County on many levels. Not only does the project violate planning policies, this approach violates the whole purpose of land use planning.

In the mid-1990’s, the county citizens, municipalities and county officials painfully began the Growth Management Act (GMA) planning process. These policies and plans are in place to guide development and preserve Skagit County’s unique character especially with regard to resource lands.
The primary purpose of GMA planning was to confine urban development to adjacent urban areas (Urban Growth Areas) and prevent the wastage of sprawling development.

The project proponents are undermining the fundamental premise of planning. They were proposing to change both the County-wide Planning Policies and the Skagit County Comprehensive Plan to accommodate a single development proposal.

The Skagit Partners, LLC tried to convince the Commissioners and planners that “fully-contained communities” are somehow “ok” because they are cited as an option in the Growth Management Act. However, this is a disingenuous claim. Like any legislation, there were some compromises made to pass the legislation. “Fully-contained communities” was one of those compromises. It was added as a concession to get passage of the bill, even though it was considered by the sponsors of GMA to be antithetical to the act.

In Skagit County, we considered the issue of Fully Contained Communities and decided that it would lead to segmenting of resource and farm lands. Eventually, the rural economy would become non-viable as it has in other parts of the State.

The viability of farmlands is under constant threat. Skagit County must remain vigilant to grow in a manner that enhances its best qualities, and not degrade them. It is important that citizens and elected officials review and improve land use development regulations. GMA has evolved over the years and will continue to change, but its purpose must remain steady.
Editors’ Note: This article was originally published in the La Conner Weekly News and is used here with permission. Simi Jain, a lawyer for Skagit Partners, LLC has said the proposal will be resubmitted for consideration as a 2020 Comprehensive Plan amendment.

John Doyle is a retired La Conner Town Administrator and Planning Director. John has held a variety of State and Local management positions with an emphasis on land use, environmental and energy policy.

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