Opponents speak out on fully contained communities

Brandon Stone, Skagit Valley Herald, Mount Vernon, Wash.
·2 min read

May 3—Opponents of a proposal that would allow the county to consider urban-style communities on rural land spoke out Monday during a meeting of the Skagit County Board of Commissioners.

Allowing such a community would take away from what makes the county and its individual communities special, community organizer Margery Hite said at the public hearing.

A proposal from developer Bill Sygitowizc asks the county to amend its planning policies to allow for what are called fully contained communities — communities that are similar in size, density and makeup to cities but lack their own municipal government.

The commissioners will decide at 9:30 a.m. May 11 whether to further study this and other amendments to the county's Comprehensive Plan as part of an annual review of land use policy.

Hite said the presence of fully contained communities would fundamentally change the character of the county.

"It's basically changing Skagit County from a rural county to a suburban county," she said.

A fully contained community shifts some of the focus of growth away from cities, which is where state law says it primarily belongs.

Hite said a change of this scale should be considered during the Comprehensive Plan update process, which occurs every six years and allows for more in-depth study of land use and planning policies.

Most who spoke in opposition to the proposal said they were concerned about Avalon, an idea for a fully contained community near Avalon Golf Links that Sygitowicz has pitched in years past.

However, Avalon is not included in this year's proposal, according to Tim McHarg, senior land use planner with Van Ness Feldman, the firm representing Sygitowizc.

At the public hearing, county residents Richard Bower and William Gregory both said county services — from law enforcement to roads to school districts — would be strained if they were required to serve Avalon.

"They will destroy the very soul of our county, at the expense of agriculture and forested land," Gregory said.

At an April 27 meeting, McHarg said the cities in the county aren't growing at the rate they need to, which forces growth in rural Skagit County.

State law requires counties to plan for 80% of population in and immediately around cities and towns, and 20% in rural areas. According to data compiled by McHarg, the large cities in Skagit County are missing the mark.

This contributes to sprawl, rising housing costs, worsening traffic and greater demand on groundwater, because rural areas aren't usually served by a water utility, he said.

By concentrating growth, a fully contained community would limit sprawl and preserve rural land, he said.

The May 11 meeting will be shown on Skagit21 Television or online at skagitcounty.net/Skagit21.

— Reporter Brandon Stone: bstone@skagitpublishing.com, 360-416-2112, Twitter: @Brandon_SVH