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    Preserving Skagit County's rural character by protecting the environment, supporting        sustainable resource based economies and promoting livable urban communities.

 

Editorial Reply to Skagit Valley Herald Editorial on FOSC Settlement with Clear Valley's Wetland Mitigation Bank - April 19, 2010

Have the Skagit Valley Herald editors ever wondered why citizens file appeals?  Do they really think Friends has enjoyed trying to force County government to follow the law?

Of the 34 appeals Friends has filed in the last 17 years, two were settled and all or part of the others were successfully litigated or appealed – that is Friends won on all or part of the issues we challenged.

The Clear Valley property is zoned Agriculture/ Natural Resource Lands and features prime agricultural soils identified using the NRCS soils survey.  When the developers requested permits for their wetland mitigation bank project, the County Code contained no language to guide the permitting of wetland mitigation banks.  Therefore, in Friends opinion, planning staff had no legal basis for issuing development permits.  Further, in reviewing the County’s Comprehensive Plan and the State’s Shorelines Management Act (adopted about two decades before the Growth Management Act)  Friends determined that agricultural lands must be protected whenever possible.  When Friends felt the County failed to follow these laws we appealed.

 The County’s Shorelines Master Management Plan (SMMP) recommends that “developments of an industrial or commercial nature”  be prohibited and that “rural shoreline areas should be managed in such a manner as not to preclude future agricultural uses.”  Wetland mitigation banks are unarguably commercial in nature and the Clear Valley project will undoubtedly preclude future farming of 400 or more acres of prime ag land in the fertile Nookachamps basin.  In Friends opinion, failure to adopt regulations that would have prohibited wetland banks on Ag/NRL – designated lands was not merely an oversight.

Skagit County citizens depend on their elected representatives to ensure that the planning staff, outside contractors and other employees act in the public interest and refrain from making decisions that only benefit private interests.  Nobody could have anticipated the deceitful manner in which the County processed Clear Valley’s permit applications or the County Commissioners’ adoption of the hearing examiner’s decision instead of ruling on the appeal themselves as is their duty and obligation.

The Friends Board of Directors believes that appeals are always a last resort.  However, appeals are necessary when the County refuses to acknowledge official policies and improperly interprets the County code.  The Friends’ membership has shown its support for the Board year after year by generously donating to the organization’s legal fund.

Skagitonians To Preserve Farmland has its own Board of Directors and is not affiliated with Friends of Skagit County.  Both organizations are guided by their respective boards, staff and counsel.  SPF’s goals and missions are different to those of Friends hence the very different settlement agreements with Clear Valley mitigation bank developers.

Friends received $30,000 from Clear Valley for settlement to date.  The settlement agreement between the two parties requires Clear Valley to pay Friends an additional $200,000, only if Clear Valley pays the County up to $1.4 million to proceed with the grading permit in construction of the wetland bank.

If you have questions, please contact us.  Thanks for your continued support of Friends.

 

   

Preserving Skagit County's rural character by protecting the environment, supporting sustainable, resource-based economics and promoting livable urban communities.

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