County Planners Split Over Rural Lands Rezoning

The Olympian is reporting the nine-member Thurston County Planning Commission has failed to produce a unified recommendation as to “how much of county’s rural lands to rezone — 28 percent, 40 percent or neither.”

Click here to read the entire article.

The County Commissioners will need to come to a decision. They will discuss the three Planning Commission proposals on April 5. “After that,” according to the newspaper report, “commissioners will likely conduct a public hearing before making a final decision.”

Residents hereabouts are likely to ask, “What’s the big deal?”

Much of Thurston County is zoned residential, 1 house per 5 acres. Back in July, 2005, the Western Washington Growth Management Hearings Board ruled the county needed to add more low-density zoning districts. Exactly how to go about doing that is the big issue. How can the county rezone in a way which will both protect natural resources, preserve some sort of rural character, and yet will not reduce the value of people’s property?

Five planning commissioners supported a proposal to rezoning significant portions of the county at one home per 10 acres. In addition, no land would be rezoned only for the reason of preserving so-called “rural character.”

A minority proposal, supported by two commissioners would rezoning portions at one home per 20 acres. More than 1,000 acres would be rezoned one home per 20 acres to preserve rural character.

Joyce Roper, Chair of the Planning Commission and a member of the GNA Board, didn’t vote for either option. According to The Olympian, Roper prefers to rezone some land to preserve rural character, but wants a one-home-per-10-acre zoning district.

Now’s the time to reacquaint ourselves with the issues surrounding these important decisions. If there are to be public hearings, they will likely be over the specific Planning Commission proposals.

For more information on rural rezoning and the Planning Commission’s activities, click here to visit the County’s Rural Rezoning web pages.

APHETI Issues Alert Regarding Commercial Use of Shorelines

From The Association for the Protection of Hammersley, Eld and Totten Inlets (APHETI), we received this notice:

Dear Neighbor –

This is to inform you of our State’s interest to turn control of the Puget Sound beaches over for the profit of the commercial shellfish industry:

Celia Barton, Washington State Department of Natural Resources, in The Peninsula Gateway, Oct. 4, 2006 – “All tide (beds) should be made available for aquaculture”;

Douglas McCrae, Washington Shellfish, in conversation with property owner at Gig Harbor Rosedale Hall concerned citizens meeting, October 4, 2006 – All tidelands are farmlands; and

Peter Downey, Pacific Shellfish Growers Association, in a letter to the Pierce County Planning Commission, Jan. 15, 2007 – “Private tidelands are misrepresented as residential/recreational beaches. The County must recognize that the primary purpose of privately held tidelands is shellfish farming and not residential recreation…moreover, shellfish farmers have every right to post these private tidelands and prevent trespass”.

Visit the APHETI website (www.apheti.com) for a pictorial slide show of results of this flawed public policy. Presently, there is virtually nothing to stop what you will see from happening to the beach in front of you! Is it environmentally sound? – No.

The inter-tidal zone of a beach lies between the low and high tide line. It is the most critical habitat for supporting all life species in Puget Sound (see Science Links in the APHETI website). However, the commercial shellfish industry is given nearly free reign by State and local County agencies to decimate these areas.

Shellfish companies insert some 43,500 PVC tubes per acre into the inter-tidal substrate as “predator” exclusion devices. An acre of tubes may stretch across 700 lineal feet of beach – wider than 2 city blocks. Up to 5 infant Geoducks are planted in each tube to grow 3-4 feet into the substrate. The entire acreage of tubes is covered with giant nets which frequently ensnare and kill shore birds and marine mammals.

When mature after several years, the clams are harvested by high-pressure hydraulic jets. This liquefies the inter-tidal zone, killing surface and substrate organisms down to a depth of 3-4 feet. Suspended sediment, carried long distances by the tide, smothers critical inter-tidal organisms. The beach is left cratered like a “moonscape” (Seattle PI article). The area is harvested several times to get every last Geoduck. Thereafter the area is repeatedly replanted and the whole process continues without end.

Other problems with these practices pertain to impacts on Carrying and Flushing capacities of the shallow embayments where Geoduck farms are sited:

Carrying Capacity is the amount of “life” that can be supported by the finite amount of microscopic food and oxygen in the water which is the foundation of the marine food chain. How much of this limited food supply is being consumed by the tens of millions of Goeducks being planted? How much is too much? – Unknown!!

Flushing Capacity is the ability of tidal currents to flush away unwanted waste. The shellfish industry promotes the filtering ability of Geoducks to clean the water. A single Geoduck filters in about 31 gallons of water per day. A single farming operation can contain millions of individual Geoducks. A Geoduck is an animal – what goes in comes out as biological fecal and pseudo fecal waste matter.

The waste can cause eutrophication of the marine environment, furthering oxygen depletion, killing everything and leaving a dead zone. How much of this waste can our local marine environments handle?? – Unknown!!

No site specific Environmental Impact Statements (EIS) are prepared prior to inter-tidal Geoduck farms being allowed to operate. After the damage occurs, and the shellfish industry has left with millions in profit, it is the public who is left to pay for cleanup and attempt restoration. In some cases the damage is irreversible.

Response by the State Legislature –

Substitute House Bill 2220 is moving through our State Legislature. It proposes a “review of literature” and several studies to examine the effects of intensive Geoduck farming on the natural environments of Puget Sound. This bill is not a compromise between the shellfish industry and concerned citizen groups and has a number of serious shortfalls:

  1. Studies are not mandated but may be performed “as needed”;
  2. Much of the scientific literature available for review is biased by way of being directly produced by or paid for by the shellfish industry;
  3. Studies for Carrying and Flushing Capacities are not identified;
  4. The State Deptartment of Natural Resources is allowed to lease 25 acres per year of state owned lands for inter-tidal commercial Geoduck farms;
  5. State monitoring of the environmental impacts of lease operations is secondary to the “economic viability” of the leases;
  6. There is no moratorium on continued expansion of inter-tidal Geoduck farming while the proposed studies are being completed – if they ever will; and
  7. Site-specific, Environmental Impact Statements are not mandated for current and future inter-tidal commercial Geoduck farming operations.

Through your generous donations, APHETI has retained a highly experienced environmental law firm and marine environmental research group employing marine scientists with both field experience and PhD academic credentials. Both organizations provide expert input and testimony to this issue.

Regardless of law and science, the final outcome of this issue will come right down to how many individual citizens take the time to express their concerns to those who make the decisions. Individual voices do make a difference.

Please take just a small amount of time to provide your individual input regarding inter-tidal Geoduck farming practices and Substitute House Bill 2220 to the Mason and Thurston County Planning Departments and to your local State Legislators. Contact information follows:

THURSTON COUNTY

Mr. Michael Welter, Director
Thurston County Development Services
Building 1, Second Floor
2000 Lakeridge Drive SW
Olympia, WA 98502
(360) 786-5490
Welterm@co.thurston.wa.us

Mr. Mike Kain, Manager
Planning and Environmental Services
Thurston County Development Services
2000 Lakeridge Drive SW
Olympia, WA 98502
(360) 786-5490
KAINM@thurston.wa.us

MASON COUNTY

Mr. Emmett Dobey, Director
Mason County Community Development
PO Box 279
Shelton, WA 98584
(360) 427-7262, Ext. 263
Emmettd@co.mason.wa.us

Mr. Robert Fink, Manager
Mason County Planning Services
PO Box 279
Shelton, WA 98584
(360) 427-7262, Ext 366
Rdf@co.mason.wa.us

WASHINGTON STATE LEGISLATURE
Toll Free Legislative Hotline – 1 (800) 562-6000

22nd STATE LEGISLATIVE DISTRICT
Includes the East shoreline of Eld Inlet; the shorelines of Budd and Henderson Inlets and the Nisqually Reach.

State Senator Karen Fraser
404 Legislative Building
PO Box 40422
Olympia, WA 98504-0422
(360) 786-7642
Fraser.karen@leg.wa.gov

State Representative Sam Hunt
438B Legislative Building
PO Box 40600
Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(360) 786-7992
Hunt.sam@leg.wa.gov

State Representative Brendan Williams
420 John L. O’Brien Building
PO Box 40600
Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(360) 786-7940
Williams.brendan@leg.wa.gov

35th STATE LEGISLATIVE DISTRICT
Includes the East and West shorelines of Totten Inlet and the Eld Inlet shoreline of the Steamboat Island peninsula

State Senator Tim Sheldon
412 Legislative Building
PO Box 40435
Olympia, WA 98504-0435
(360) 786-7668
Sheldon.timothy@leg.wa.gov

State Representative William “Ike” Eickmeyer
328 John L. O’Brien Building
PO Box 40600
Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(360) 786-7902
Eickmeyer.william@leg.wa.gov

State Representative Kathy Haigh
431 John L. O’Brien Building
PO Box 40600
Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(360) 786-7966
Haigh.kathy@leg.wa.gov

Finally, APHETI is paying attention – and – looking out for your concerns. If you are not already a member – Join us at http://www.apheti.com/contactus.asp

If you are a current member, please renew your membership.

Membership information is kept confidential and used only for member notices. Return your membership form and check to: APHETI, PO Box 11523, Olympia, WA 98508-1523.

Conservation District Offers Free “Healthy Pastures” Workshop – March 11

FREE Workshop: Grow Healthy, Productive Pastures
Sunday March 11, 2007, from 1 – 5pm
Griffin Fire Hall, 3707 Steamboat Island Loop, Olympia WA

Come to this fun and informative workshop to learn the basics of pasture management. This workshop will cover many aspects of healthy grass production and will give you the information you need to grow amazing pastures for your horses or livestock.

Topics to be addressed include: soil testing, fertilizing, grass species, pasture rejuvenation, weed management, rotational grazing and heavy use area development.

A Farm Visit & Pasture Walk at a local livestock facility will take you out into the field to get an even better understanding of specific pasture management options and methods.

FREE.

Registration is requested, although not required. Please contact Sara at 360.754.3588 x136 or scarter@thurstoncd.com for more information or to register.

Sponsored by Thurston and Mason Conservation Districts

Click here for the Thurston Conservation District web site.

Now Is the Time to Support Legislation to Reduce Off-Road Vehicle Noise in Our Neighborhoods

A GNA member writes, “We have been able to get SB 5544, making it easier to deal with nuisance noise from recreational riding of ORVs in neighborhoods, to the Rules Committee. We really need your help this week to get the Senators to pull it from Rules and put it on the Senate calendar.”

The increasing recreational riding of loud off-road vehicles (“ORVs”) in rural residential neighborhoods is disrupting the peace and quiet of communities and negatively impacting the health of residents and property values. This legislation allows simple, common sense tools to be available to neighbors and law enforcement officers so that peace and quiet can continue to be available in residential areas.

Interested residents are invited to call or email as many members of the Rules Committee as possible, even if they are not your Senator, and ask them to support SB5544 and move it to the Senate calendar.

The legislative hotline number is 1.800.562.6000.

The Rules Committee page is: http://www.leg.wa.gov/Senate/Committees/RULE/members.htm

There have been misleading statements, from opponents, about what this legislation would and would not do.

What SSB5544 IS about:

1) Sets reasonable limits on noise from the recreational use Off Road Vehicles (ORVs*) in residential neighborhoods Here is what the bill does, in summary:

reduces the allowable tailpipe decibel (Db) level from 105 to 96 Db – this is the level supported by the industry, most states, and many in the ORV community

makes it an infraction for an ORV to be so noisy as to be plainly audible and disturbing to a reasonable person or in excess of 45 Db within the home and 10 feet around the home

sets escalating fines (starting at $100 and capped at $800) for repeat violations, and

allows limited circumstances for recovery of costs and attorney fees for individuals who bring nuisance lawsuits

2) Codifies the existing law, WAC 173-60, which limits residential noise, at the property line, to 55 Db during the day and 45 Db at night.

3) Protects the health of neighbors from the negative impacts of noise and the bullying behaviors that some ORV riders use because there are no clear standards being enforced

What SSB5544 IS NOT about:

1) This bill does not prohibit ORVs or dirt bikes from riding. It just requires them to be properly muffled and used in a respectful way.

2) This bill does not limit use of ORVs to manage land. This bill exempts the use of ORVs to manage forest and agricultural land.

3) This bill does not prevent the use of home maintenance machinery (the bill does not limit home maintenance machinery such as lawn mowers and chain saws).

4) This bill does not prevent users from loading or unloading machines for use elsewhere (ORVs in residential neighborhoods are exempt from noise standards for brief time periods to service and load and unload for transport).

5) This bill does not prevent use of off-road vehicles in designated or permitted parks or tracks.


* Also referred to as Off-Highway Vehicles (OHVs), quads, All Terrain Vehicles (ATVs) and generally including dirt bikes.

Residents Invited to Attend a West Olympia Access (Roads) Study Meeting on March 7 or March 15

Here is an announcement about a meeting on 3/7 from 6:30-8:30 at Jefferson Middle School or on 3/15 at Evergreen Christian Community Church on the subject of roads/access in West Olympia. Since this is immediately adjacent to our neighborhood, this may be of interest to many of us.

Please click here for more information.

THE DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION NEEDS TO HEAR FROM YOU

Your participation is key to this study.

The City of Olympia and Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) are partnering on a joint study of city street and state highway systems on the west side of Olympia. The study will evaluate how well the systems work together to support the diverse transportation needs of the west side, now and in the future.

What’s the problem?

Current street and highway networks on Olympia’s west side hinder timely emergency response, efficient transit service, and pedestrian and bicycle access. We need to more evenly distribute traffic, and provide access to planned growth areas.

What’s the study goal?

The study will result in a package of improvements and programs to meet the future mobility needs of transit, bike riders, walkers, cars and trucks traveling to and through Olympia’s west side.

Join us at one of the Public Workshops to:

• Learn about this study.

• Share your ideas about west side transportation issues and problems.

• Identify principles to be used to evaluate alternatives.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

6:30 to 8:30 p.m.

Jefferson Middle School
2200 Conger, Olympia

— OR —

Thursday, March 15, 2007

6:30 to 8:30 p.m.

Evergreen Christian Community
1000 Black Lake Blvd SW, Olympia

(Two identical workshops are planned for your convenience.)

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

Kathy McCormick
West Olympia Access Study
2424 Heritage Court SW Ste. A
Olympia, WA 98502

(360) 956-7575
e-mail: westolympia@wsdot.wa.gov

For information about this project: http://www.trpc.org/programs/transportation/projects/woas.htm

or the Washington State Department of Transportation’s website at:
www.wsdot.wa.gov

A Forum & Social Gathering on “Post-933: Opportunities & Challenges” – March 7

Livable Thurston, a coalition led by Futurewise, is presenting a forum and social event, March 7 at 5:30pm, at the Capitol Playhouse (612 E 4th Ave , Olympia WA , 98501).

This will be a strategy session and social hour on managing growth in Thurston County. According to organizers, “With over 65% of Thurston County voting down Initiative 933, me must now turn and use this collective voice at the county level. Find out what challenges and opportunities exist after I-933 in Thurston County.”

  • Jeff Kingsbury , Olympia City Council Member and theater owner will welcome us and share his wit and wisdom
  • Kaleen Cottingham , Futurewise lobbyist will speak on the post-933 legislative agenda and other current land-use legislation of major importance to our state
  • Sue Danver with the Black Hills Audubon Society will talk about current projects being considered and their potential impacts
  • Rhenda Strub of the Thurston County Planning Commission will address the importance of the County’s pending rezone decision
  • Lisa Remlinger, President of Thurston Conservation Voters, will unveil a consensus list of Priorities for a Livable and Healthy Thurston County.

The program will include music, refreshments, and socializing.

Please RSVP (email april@futurewise.org), so they can plan accordingly with snacks and drinks.

South Sound Stewardship Training

What is a Sound Steward?

Sound Stewards are trained citizen volunteers committed to restoring, maintaining and monitoring Puget Sound habitat.

Become a Sound Steward

Join the restoration community and be part of the solution! You will have a great time working with other Stewards to bring back our ailing Sound. Activities include planting, invasive plant control, monitoring and other restoration tasks. You can watch the change your efforts make.

Training is free and open to the community. In return, Sound Stewards commit to 40 volunteer hours over the next year on restoration sites initiated by People for Puget Sound and their partners. Participants must attend all classes!

Tuesday, March 6

6:30pm-9pm, Lacey Community Center

Thursday, March 8

6:30pm-9pm, Lacey Community Center

Saturday, March 10

10am-3pm, Field Trip

Training includes
• Program overview
• Ecosystem overview
• Restoration ecology
• Plant identification
• Invasive species control
• Maintenance and monitoring

For questions, registration and directions, contact Dan Grosboll at (360) 754-9177 or dgrosboll@pugetsound.org.

GNA Board Elects Officers

Members of the Griffin Neighborhood Association who attended our Annual Meeting, on January 31st, voted in a new Board. At a special Board Meeting, this last Tuesday night, the Board elected its officers. The Board Members, officers and committee heads are:

Gayle Broadbent-Ferris, Community Outreach Committee Head
Matt Coyle
Fred Finn
Gary Goodwin, Chair
Jerry Handfield
Steve Lundin
Mark Messinger, Secretary & Webmaster
Eric Moll, Treasurer
Kathleen O’Shaunessy
Joyce Roper
Dave Schuett-Hames, Vice Chair
Velma Rogers, Habitat Committee Head
Jack Sisco
Bob Whitener
Chris Wickham

Contact information for the Board is online at http://www.griffinneighbors.org/ Just click the “Contact Us” link.

Not yet a member of the GNA? Members need only live or work within the boundaries of the Griffin School District. Join us online at https://steamboatisland.org/joinus/

Commissioners Vote Split 2-to-1 Against GNA Appeal

On Tuesday, County Commissioners faced a standing room only crowd of Steamboat Peninsula residents, wearing “No Conference Center” stickers, to vote 2-to-1 against the Griffin Neighborhood Association appeal to declare the conference center application to be expired. While the Commissioners admitted county staff made errors in the handling of the timelines associated with the application, Diane Oberquell and Cathy Wolfe voted to allow the application to go forward. Bob Macleod expressed concerns that this or any developer could, as reported in The Olympian, tie up projects for years by “banking development rights” only to “have them be reviewed later under archaic guidelines.” Macleod voted with the GNA.

You may want to read that again. The commissioners agreed that our county staff should have monitored the approval process deadlines better. But, county staff didn’t, so the application to build a large, commercial conference center, on residential property, can move forward. Incredible.

In related news, the Thurston County League of Women Voters has officially come out against the conference center. In an email to commissioners, E.L. Johnson, president of the League, wrote, “The availability of water, sewer, roads and other utilities cannot sustain a large development on that small tract of land. We join [the] Griffin Neighborhood Association in opposing this effort to put a totally inappropriate ‘community center’ in an area designated rural.” The Olympian is reporting that Johnson said, at Tuesday’s meeting, “The cost of that project will be borne by everyone from Tenino on up to Lacey.” “A variance is not called for.”

What This Means – When the Application is Complete

At any time convenient to them, the Willis Family Trust will file the Environmental Impact Statement required by the County to complete the application. There will then be a public hearing on whether to grant the Special Use Permit required to allow this commercial facility to be built on land zoned for residential use.

Public testimony will be taken, at the hearing, and you had better believe that your neighbors and the Griffin Neighborhood Association will be there.

When will that happen? The County has given this developer carte blanche to take however long they want.

What This Means – Possible Legal Action

Meanwhile, legal counsel for the GNA is awaiting the Commissioner’s vote on whether to issue a formal written decision on this appeal. The Board and its lawyer will review that decision and will need to choose whether to appeal the county’s ruling to the Thurston County Superior Court or abandon a challenge in the courts.

A decision to challenge the conference center in court cannot be made without the financial support of the community. Click here to contribute to the GNA legal fund.

If we succeed, in Superior Court, we will not only squash this application, but we will set an important precedent which can be used by others seeking to ensure that development applications are handled by the County in a timely manner.

A case before the Superior Court will also put us in an excellent position if we need to appeal a decision by the County to grant the Special Use Permit, or if we need to defend an appeal by the Willis Family Trust, should the County deny their application.

What You Can Do

Do you feel that developers should not be able to grab residential land for their commercial use? Do you think large, commercial developments are out of place in our rural community? What do you think about the county’s decision to let this building go up along a two-lane road, sending traffic through the interchange with US-101 (to say nothing of that underpass heading south with the intersection of WA-8)? Does your idea of a “community center” include a for-profit facility which competes with the Little Creek Casino, St. Martin’s University, and the Greater Tacoma Convention and Trade Center?

Make your opinion known.

Tell your neighbors. Ask them to visit our web site to learn more about this development.

Click here to write a letter to the Editor of The Olympian. Stuck on some of the details? Click here for plenty of information about this development.

Join the Griffin Neighborhood Association. If you’re not yet a member, we need your support. We don’t want the Willis Family Trust and their plans to keep us from our other projects on the peninsula, such as our partnership with the Griffin Fire Department and Griffin School District to prepare for major disasters. Join us online at https://steamboatisland.org/joinus/

Together, we can work to ensure that large, commercial facilities that don’t serve our community won’t get built near our school, our homes, or our shorelines.

Commissioners to Announce Conference Center Decision Tuesday, Feb 20 at 4PM

On Tuesday, February 20 at 4PM, the County Commissioners will announce their decision regarding an appeal made by the Griffin Neighborhood Association against the Conference Center.

No public testimony will be taken.

The GNA Board is asking all opponents of the Conference Center to turn out and demonstrate their opposition to this project.

Last year, the GNA asked the county to declare the application to build the Center had expired. When the county refused to do so, the GNA went to a Hearing Examiner for the County. The Hearing Examiner found the developer of the Conference Center was under no deadline to complete the Environmental Impact Study requested by the county more than a year ago. The EIS is required for the county to consider the application for approval.

The GNA appealed the decision of the hearing examiner and filed legal arguments with the County Commissioners. This Tuesday we will hear the decision of the Commissioners on that appeal.

If the Commissioners rule against the Conference Center, any new application to build would be filed under more restrictive rules for facilities of this kind. Even the representative of the conference center developer has admitted an application made under the current regulations is unlikely to pass.

If the Commissioners rule against the GNA, we will have to decide whether to take our appeal to the courts. We could only do that with the continued financial support of those in the community who don’t want to see residential property converted for commercial use in the way necessary to grant the Special Use Permit.

Join the GNA for the Commissioner’s meeting this Tuesday afternoon. We will have stickers to wear, so the Commissioners will know where we stand on the project, even if we cannot speak at the meeting.

Meeting of the County Commissioners
Tuesday, February 20
4PM
Thurston County Courthouse
2000 Lakeridge Road, Building 1
Click here for a map.

To download a poster you can put in your car, click here

To contribute to our legal fund, click here

For more information on this project, see our web site here