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Planning and Development Services

Director: Dale Pernula
 

 

 

Comments Received From Draft Recommendation

Envision Skagit 2060 team,

I have reviewed the draft recommendations of the Envision Skagit 2060 partnership. I also attended the May 23 presentation by Kirk Johnson to the Anacortes City Council on Envision Skagit. My response? Wow! And well-done! As a life-long resident of Puget Sound but a new Skagitonian, I am impressed by the recognition of the participants in this process that many of the special attributes of Skagit County will be lost without an ambitious, coordinated effort to plan for population growth and development.

I strongly support the elements that:

  • Concentrate growth in cities to reduce cost of service delivery, promote a strong sense of community, and reduce per capita environmental impacts. Small city living will also reduce the energy/transportation costs in a world with ever more expensive -- both in terms of dollars and environmental impact -- fossil fuels. Here in Anacortes, I see plenty of potential for in-fill without damaging the sense of community.
  • Protect the viability of our agricultural lands. Sometimes the bumperstickers do get it right: "No farms, no food." In 2060, we'll be glad that we have farmland close by -- although by then we'll want them to produce a lot more food and a lot fewer tulip bulbs.
  • Restore our salmon runs. Healthy watersheds that support salmon also provide a wealth of ecosystem goods and services that support the human economy. We do face challenging tradeoffs in the Skagit flats/estuary and I think you've done the best you can in balancing our need to preserve rich alluvial farm land with meeting the critical estuarine habitat needs of salmonids.

I've read the critical comments in the Skagit Valley Herald on the proposed merger of Burlington and Mt. Vernon. The arguments against unification that I've seen are based largely on the affection residents have for their own city rather than on substantive obstacles to a successful merger. I suspect that 10 years after the eventual merger, people will recognize the value of working together as one municipality and 20 years after the merger, just about everyone will say "I always said they should have merged the two cities 50 years ago!"

The only change I would recommend would be to be more forceful against new so-called "fully-contained communities." Is there any plausible model of a functioning fully-contained community that could be replicated here? Moreover, even if there were, where could such an FCC possibly be located without significantly adversely impacting ag or forest lands?

Fifty years from now, students of history will look at this document and say either "Our ancestors viewed clearly the choices before them and they made the right choices" or "Our ancestors viewed clearly the choices before them and -- despite a clear and thoughtful roadmap presented by an engaged community -- made the wrong choices." Your good work has created these two possible futures. Our local elected leadership will determine which future will be ours.

In sum, excellent job and many thanks to all who worked on this seminal document.

Dennis Clark
1107 4th St.
Anacortes, WA 98221

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First of all, thank you for the comprehensive analysis. My wife and I moved to NW Skagit County in 2005 and were lucky to find a house for sale in a rural community. I currently commute to Blaine and teach High School there. Basically, I drive 90 miles round trip so I can enjoy the quality of life in rural Skagit. The protected open spaces make islands of nature that are pristine and reminiscent of the older, undeveloped natural land that once filled this state. My chief concern is that your proposal for the 90/10 ratio of population density for urban/rural growth lacks the teeth of enforcement. I would like to see citizen advisory groups that have the authority to evaluate permit applications. Also, an enormous amount of projects are already in the permit system, and a means to implement this more stringent standard needs to be able to be retroactively enforced on all pending projects. Additionally, the effort to protect the floodplain is admirable. I hope that Envision Skagit will consider recommending that development in Burlington's flood plain should be phased out completely, in particular, because it is the most vulnerable to damage from the river. Finally, the purchasing of people's development rights ought to be coupled with a concrete plan to phase out any new building in the flood zone.

Sincerely,
Mike Stevens
Alger

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Mount Burlington-LIKE-Rail/Traffic-BAD-Solution from my former town-acta.org this will replace our aging Skagit River Bridge and take down old hwy 99 wooden bridge Creating jobs North to South-After I-5 frwy x-over the main line heighten RR track and add a hwy 99 underpass as track turns bridging over Cook Road continue elevation all the way to the river and over underpassing Hoag and College Way-then under Riverside and closing Fir x-over as tracks rise up to station level at Kincaid St. Artist rendering to follow....

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I would love to see Skagit turning toward a more pedestrian/bicycle rider friendly county. It's clean tourism as well as providing an alternative safe way to get thru or to town.Please promote this wonderful transportation in our future. Thanks, Rosann Wuebbels and George Reeves
11134 O Ave. Anacortes, Wa 98221
360-293-3417

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To whom it may concern:

Envision Skagit 2060 is a farce. Thoughtful ideas and opinions from the
general public have been neutralized by the short-sighted "vision" of
planning department staff and out-of-state "architects" of growth. A
disgraceful waste of public funds!

Below is our recently published letter-to-the editor on this topic.

Diane Freethy, President

SKAGIT CITIZENS ALLIANCE for RURAL PRESERVATION

PO Box 762, Sedro-Woolley WA 98284

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From the Skagit Valley Herald | June 07, 2011 - 07:42 AM

The Envision Skagit 2060 Project - despite its $1.8 million price tag - has
little chance of meeting federal EPA grant provisions because the key to
shaping successful resource and land management policies for Skagit County's
future has been given short shrift.

Local input has apparently yielded to a narrowly focused discussion
orchestrated by "experts" affiliated with self-directed planning
organizations and supported by the building and ecosystem services
industries. Growth and development is their bread and butter.

The project coordinator, John Lombard, who hired the out-of-state speakers
and authors featured at local venues in recent months, is an outsider
himself. Lombard recently promoted a market-based mitigation scheme
developed solely to accommodate new shopping malls and highway projects by
allowing destruction of natural Skagit Valley wetlands.

The unfounded prediction that the county's population will double in 50
years continues to echo from one public meeting to the next. "There is no
getting around it," they tell us. We will simply have to suck it up and deal
with the consequences.

Demand for locally grown, wholesome food products and affordable building
materials will undoubtedly accelerate in the coming decades. Skagit Valley's
capacity for producing these commodities depends largely upon its rich soils
that are among the finest on earth. Subjecting this unique treasure to the
pollution generated by 120,000 additional commuters crowded into low-rent
districts is unconscionable. Oh, and by the way, do the outsiders have a
plan for modernizing the county's transportation system?

If local citizens decide a 50-year ban on growth is required to sustain
their farms, their forests, their economy and their rural lifestyle, so be
it. To do anything less would suggest an unwillingness to adequately secure
Skagit Valley's vital resources for future generations.

Diane Freethy, President

Skagit Citizens Alliance for Rural Preservation

Sedro-Woolley

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Envision Skagit "A grass roots citizen Committee" was the description given at the start of the June 16th meeting. The next sentence talked about the Grant. So we have our tax dollars granted back to us so we can form a grass roots committee to take away our individual liberties. I got it. How about scrap the whole idea and let the people elect the leaders they believe have the desired vision for their community. This is the same crap going on in all areas of our nation. Look at what we have become so far. It is the government bureaucratic machine that dictates what rights I have not the leaders I elect. I can''t believe you elected leaders would subject our local freedoms to this process. I own property and live in Skagit County and what you are doing to me and all other property owners is a shame. Why are you selling out our rights?

This envision crap will be an election issue for me and for the people I know. We want our rights back.

Dave Heenan
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The indicators which were selected to include in the Envision model scenarios does not appear to include agricultural value, as it is in the shaded area of the indicators chart (number 32).
The indicators do appear to include forest products value and other indicators that reflect that resource industry more accurately.

We request that the county modify the indicators to include this indicator as agriculture is the largest economic driver in Skagit County. Leaving it out of any current or future depiction of the County is completely inaccurate and misleads the public into thinking that agriculture has been considered.

Thanks for the opportunity to comment.

Ellen Bynum
Friends of Skagit County

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I question the composition of the group that is deciding how agricultural land use will proceed in this county. I question their ability to successfully facilitate the success of our agricultural industry, based on their lack of background and previous experience. In lieu of the comments from the agricultural community, I suggest that they should be leading this effort. Efforts to preserve working farmland are being mutated to fit a "green" agenda.

The Envision Skagit agenda will make farming harder and more expensive. It will not protect farmers and working farmland, better.

It isn't farmland without farmers. Do the project engineers understand this and do they understand that farming is a business and that business must see a profit to sustain it? Do they understand that continually forcing business to comply with nebulous global warming-related recommendations inhibits business? Do they understand that inhibiting business reduces the tax base? Do they understand that without a tax base, communities will die a natural and just death?

If Mount Vernon's current predicament is any indication, they do not. Stop letting the same groups that sunk Mount Vernon, dictate that economic death to the rest of us, for the sake of an unsubstantiated agenda imported from somewhere else, via Futurewise.

Farmers do not need:

  • Regional coordination, collaboration & cooperation through a group of outsiders. "Smartgrowth" is a Futurewise concept that aims to control land.
  • An "industrial tax basket" that forces industry to accept "smartgrowth principles" before gaining access. These include funding the Smartgrowth Alliance. This is extortion!
  • Consolidation - this rewards Mount Vernon's failure to plan adequately and punishes Burlington, while redistributing wealth.
  • An unrealistic goal of "no net loss".
  • "Encourage local/regional effort to support Natural resource industries and the ecosystem forged by those with the greatest on-the-ground knowledge of how to meet the needs of both" - this effectively puts the future of agriculture in the hands of environmentalists and is a betrayal of what we citizens asserted in the 1996 "Survey of Skagit Co. Voters" regarding farmland preservation in our county.
  • "State, federal or international designation for Skagit Valley as a cultural and National heritage site" will invite new regulations and further constrict farming activities. Turning our farmers over to other agencies for money, to enforce new regulations and support more bureaucratic oversight, is fiscally unwise.
  • We don't need another conservation "overlay" of existing protections and expensive "green infrastructure". This is about extracting funds and control from us. It also burdens County government with budget and mgmt. expense.
  • Riparian/critical area protection that co-opts agricultural conservation easements and applies "corridor (green infrastructure)". This pushes an environmental agenda through government, by providing grant money to do so. This is an alarming trend in Skagit County and one that should be questioned.
  • LID proposals that encourage coercive/discriminatory code change.
  • Compact communities, conservation development and sustainable transportation. This is a watered down version of "The Livable Communities Act" written by retired Senator Chris Dodd. It is more of the Futurewise
  • land control" agenda, designed to force "smartgrowth". One size does not actually, fit all.
  • Redistribution of "affordable housing" throughout the community will lower the property values of other landowners. This will be expensive and unfair to non-low income citizen landowners and forces an agenda on the building industry.
  • Global warming science that has been called into question, allowed into local land-use planning.

Just because the EPA offers the County money, to tie itself into knots, does not mean that results will enhance our working farmland. Who else, besides the EPA & Skagit County, are " partners" in this project & who contributed, financially? Who is ECONorthwest and why won't the "Economic Vitality" portion of the webpage load?

I suggest that this process will not lead to "economic vitality" but to more "net loss" of working farmlands due to a lack of willing farmers. Our farmers are already struggling to maintain a profit margin under the heavy burden of existing regulations. Don't push more of them over the edge, while handing us a warm and fuzzy song and dance. Instead, strive to preserve private property rights and reduce intrusive government regulation and bureaucratic growth, thereby preserving and protecting what we have and cherish, now.

Ellen Cooley
Bow, WA

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Subject: Further Comments re Envision 2060

A recent Skagit Valley Herald newspaper account noted that the Envision Skagit 2060 committee thought there should be 1600 acres here for industry. The article further stated that the county needed to double the acreage for industry (no acreage, per se, mentioned here). What justifications and studies were done to substantiate 1600 acres or a "doubling" of acreage? Where would these acres be? Would the Port property be enhanced? Would the current cities infill? What land would be re-zoned to meet this need? With industry continuing to decline nationally, where would the "increased industry" come from…overseas, with overseas ownership? As we continue to run out of industries and local jobs, will people become more desperate? Will this desperation lead to agreements or sales of resources that are now for the common or public good of the citizenry here?

Water rights come to mind re the common good. These weren't mentioned by the committee, as I recall. If industry eventually trumps agriculture, what else fails? And, a new "industry," of course, is ecosystem services. These services have led and may lead toward contrived habitat restoration, when the "best" science is produced by those with the most money/grants. We could see the sale of water (such as with the proposed bottling plant in Anacortes). More onerous would be something akin to Spain's involvement with the rivers of Chile. Further, Puget Sound Energy has been purchased by an Australian company. Do we want to sell other resources, which we have used here for the common good, to more foreign investors or owners?

Congress passed the Targeted Watersheds Initiative, which directs the Dept. of the Interior to fund watershed projects. These public funds are being administered by the Environmental Protection Agency. Why then are there no members of the Skagit River Water Resources Advisory Committee on the Envision Skagit 2060 Committee?

There appears to be little importance given to agricultural (ag) value in this county in the Envision Skagit 2060 model, whereas forestry production value is included. Records have been kept for years re ag values. Does the committee or local government recognize the huge economic impact ag has in this county? To suggest increased industrial acreage and to overlook agriculture - even though the committee says ag should stay - might suggest that Skagit County is being primed for outside industrial influences over which we would have little control; which "paves the way" for the steady eradication of agriculture from this county's landscape.

The other indicators that do not appear to be included and affect resource lands are number 31 - Ag-NRL conversion risk, which notes it will "…likely be a model input rather than an indicator (indicators being Ag-NRL acres converted or at risk)" and number 44 - Conversion risk - more likely a model input than indicator; similar to #31. Do we not have a history of acres converted from which to project a probable risk for the future? If you add factors that increase the risk of conversion to the model - for example, available light rail or other commuter transit systems - don't you need to know what the risk was before the new factors are added?

A committee does not represent the thoughts of the county's citizenry. Only a county-wide survey followed by lengthy public education sessions and a county-wide advisory vote, would indicate preferences for what we appreciate and need. The survey and vote would have to include ALL aspects of what the county represents now, and should ask what people would like to see retained and/or deemed necessary.

Washington still has the Growth Management Act (GMA) and its rules covering planning. Would the Envision Skagit 2060 take precedence over GMA, or would it be the other way around? The county's 7-year plan update is due 2012, but I have heard no mention of when (or if) that process will begin, how Envision Skagit 2060 might be used in that process, or whether Envision Skagit 2060 takes the place of the update.

The combining of Mount Vernon and Burlington seems to be a diversionary tactic to draw attention away from the bigger issues, I think. It sounds good to say the governments could be combined to be more efficient, but each city has its own unique focus and challenges - and history. Combining services for efficiencies is different from combining jurisdictional authorities. A lot of time could be taken to argue the pros and cons of the idea; and meanwhile the big issues become obscured.

It's wonderful to plan for green belts, parks in and around the towns, etc., but
there is no assurance that this would happen in the face of dire "need" for development and industry. One only has to look at the proposed 400-plus acres of Wetland Mitigation Bank on farmland east of Mount Vernon, near Barney Lake. It was deemed "necessary" because developers "need" to fill in wetlands on speculative properties so they can develop yet more (empty) houses. I never knew housing development is "necessary," but the State Department of Ecology (DOE) thinks so. One might say that something for the public good would be necessary, such as a major highway or power line, but not development for housing. Where are the laws? (And, what about the county's over-supply of residences, discussed in a recent news headline?)

Committees such as Envision can become echo chambers for scripted ideas and results. Conclusions seem "pre-ordained." Consultants (leading the ideas), attorneys, and those who stand to gain financially are the big winners. "Somebody" wants control of this county and its resources. If not careful, Skagit County will be lost and unrecognizable in 2060. Thank you for the opportunity to comment further.

Andrea Xaver
Mount Vernon

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I wish to lend support to placing strong emphasis on non-motorized transportation for these reasons.

Paths, bike lanes, efficient public transit positively affect community and neighborhood cohesion and well-being. Where you have a sense of well-being and safety as a result of good neighborhood and street design, there is less crime and sense of isolation. Human nature requires healthy connections to each other.

The health benefits from walking and biking cannot be understated !! Actively moving reduces stress.

Our beautiful open spaces and agricultural base is ideal to the character of a strong non-motorized component within transportation planning.

As our population growns forcing us out of necessity to live closer together, well planned NM transportation lessens the cost and burden of more roads for personal vehicles.

Government agencies, community leaders, and planners MUST recognize active transportation for its long-term value. Examples clearly show that businesses and their employees chose communities that support non-motorized infrastructure.

Thank you,

Cindy McGuiness
Mount Vernon


Received Comments

What do you value most about the Skagit Valley? What is special and unique that needs to be retained? The wildlife needs to be protected. I love seeing the deer in my yard and knowing that they are in a safe place.

What is missing or lacking here? What do we need to work harder on in the future as a community? We need to improve the waters. The channel needs to be kept clean and the fish life could be helped. You said some of the five salmon species are wavering; that should be improved.

What are the greatest challenges facing Skagit Valley in the future - and what can we do to address them? Population growth seems like it will produce problems. Where will we put new houses and buildings without destroying some/all of our beautiful land? Smaller homes are practical and still very modern and livable in this day and age. Don't' supersize, conserve.

Ashley Norton, La Conner, Washington
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What is missing or lacking here? What do we need to work harder on in the future as a community? County zoning that considers special character of unincorporated areas, e.g., South Fidalgo. One size doesn't fit all. Strengthen tree ordinances; maintain existing valuable trees where development takes place.

Jan Hersey, Anacortes, Washington
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What is missing or lacking here? What do we need to work harder on in the future as a community? Need for cold shelter for homeless in Anacortes. Need to facilitate farm ownership by Hispanic families. Improve living accommodations for farm workers.

What are the greatest challenges facing Skagit Valley in the future - and what can we do to address them? We need more high density housing options, combined with intentional recruiting of senior adults who wish to live in such housing.

WL Malcomson, La Conner, Washington
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What are the greatest challenges facing Skagit Valley in the future - and what can we do to address them? Develop an educated youth population, possibly through civic classes, in regard to how city and county government is run and how one takes part. Good leaders are needed to carry out good ideas.

Louise Cheney, Mount Vernon, Washington
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I believe it would be interesting and worthwhile to talk with high school appropriate club members or leaders on the same issues. High school principals with superintendent support would suggest the appropriate groups. You could probably mix several school districts at one event. These young people are the future population and it may encourage them to stay in the Skagit Valley or return after extended education.

Pat Grenfell, Sedro-Woolley
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What do you value most about the Skagit Valley? What is special and unique that needs to be retained? Wildlife habitat, fertile farmland, rich estuaries, riparian corridor with 5 species of salmon, over 100 species of birds using that corridor. Open semi-wild and wild public lands with plant and animal diversity spread from mountains to the sea. Shellfish industry with potential to clean it up (or lose it). Diversity of people and lifestyles from urban/cultural amenities, to rural lifestyles.

What is missing or lacking here? What do we need to work harder on in the future as a community? Linking wild areas to each other for wildlife corridors. Lack of teeth in land - use planning. Farmlands keep shrinking to car lots and industry and urban growth. Same farmlands are vulnerable to flooding, sea level rise and tsunami damage. Get people and industry off the deltas. Stay away from streams and tributaries and restore functioning of rivers' movement and wetlands. Safe bike trails and routes off the main streets and out of traffic. Attractive downtown housing. Move people, schools, industry off the flood plain and delta.

What are the greatest challenges facing Skagit Valley in the future - and what can we do to address them? We have a need to create livable, viable, high density living options with shared usable green-space: shared community gardens, shared play areas, activity centers for youth, satellite business centers where food can be bought (farmers markets in season), trails and fitness centers, bicycle lanes for transportation, community gathering centers so we don't have to drive so much when gas is expensive and rare. Natural beauty of landscape should be integral in planning. Public transit that's viable for all.

Libby Mills, Bay View, Washington
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What do you value most about the Skagit Valley? What is special and unique that needs to be retained? Scenery wildlife - eagles above us - herons in front of me - Snow geese - Trumpeter Swans in the fields! Many different places to hike - great trails. Diversity - Native Americans - Hispanics - small ind(ependent) shops - locally owned - being able to park close to businesses! Driving up Chuckanut Drive! Wow! Growing things - small farmers markets - great produce.

What is missing or lacking here? What do we need to work harder on in the future as a community? Wrapping our arms around diversity - taking time & patience to discover what diversity groups can do for us and what do they need and want, i.e. migrant workers and below poverty level families. I'm afraid that La Conner is losing its reputation as an artist gathering place. We need to work harder on that because it draws good people to the Valley!

What are the greatest challenges facing Skagit Valley in the future - and what can we do to address them? Being able to involve all levels of people in planning. You would need lots of volunteers willing to do small groups and get people interested. We must provide for children - we do pretty well already. We need a swim center like Fidalgo pool. The YMCA just doesn't make it! We must keep big box stores off the I-5 corridor. We need to be as clean and pretty as possibly. Keep the trees and the farmland!!!

Marilyn Gibbs, La Conner & Burlington

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I would hope that the valley honors it's roots in being a farming community as in follow the mandated growth management act!!!
I would love to have a bicycling, pedestrian friendly county. County roads providing shoulders wide enough to safely ride a bike, be it commuting to work,the grocery store or out for recreation.
Thanks,
Rosann Wuebbels
Anacortes

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We have 1375 watts solar power, hot water solar power, a small 100+ year old house restored and insulated with hot water heat. We have been driving a 30+ mpg car for more than 25 years.

We have another 30+ mpg car and plan to replace the two for an electric when the time comes. We believe that good maintenance is the best energy saving option and supports the local economy. We have an organic garden with fruit trees, make are own soap, use virtually no packaged foods, and put away foods for the winter from our garden and fresh foods that are in season. We try to shop local as much as possible. That has been our vision. If everybody does that, we will have a strong local economy.

Where will the new people live? Infill, rethink zoning will more mixed use, ease up on the handicap regulations for difficult terrain (to allow more rental and multifamily options). Create housing over the wasteland of parking areas and or provide solar roofs or rooftop gardens wherever possible. Discourage one story construction, as above. Tax excessive energy use (to stimulate smaller housing and alternative energy applications).
OK?

Robert Pare
Edison

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Hello,
Thank you for making this available online.

The things I see as valuable and worth fighting to keep in Skagit County:
The beauty of the area, with the openness provided by the flat farmlands so the tree covered hills and mountains aren’t blocked from view.
Our agricultural identity from dairy farms, berry farms, flower growers, food crops, seed crops, nurseries, orchards, and vineyards in the area.
The access to great outdoor activities such as hiking, fishing, hunting, boating, biking, and so forth.
The arts communities in the area – theater, music, and visual art.
Our commitment to ‘greener’ living, supporting local business, and creating a healthy sense of community.


What we lack or need improvement on:
Bridges and roads to move traffic around more efficiently.
Further means to go green, such as ordinances that allow the use of ‘’grey water systems” or roof run-off for flushing toilets.
Restriction of urban sprawl. We don’t want to become part of Everett and Bellingham.
Public transportation.
Recycling in more areas.
Bike paths.
Law enforcement to keep gangs/drugs from becoming a major problem.
Small mills and processing plants for the goods produced here. We seem to have a lot of alpacas around here, but no place to process the wool.
Jobs that pay above minimum wage.
Flood control

Challenges:
Bringing the two sides of the coin together in an affordable, sustainable way.

Suggestions or ideas to research further:
Encourage simple living for everyone. Our whole society would be better off if we all used less, spent less, drove less, created less, consumed less. Our beautiful area cannot keep its allure and livability if we continue to be so gluttonous.
Slow down new construction. Limit how many homes can be built. Renovate old structures, or replace them, rather than building new ones. Get businesses to move into existing structures.
Allow more flexibility in zoning laws, such as allowing mini-houses (mother-in-law houses) in yards, for extended family or such. This will cut down on sprawl. Encourage multi-generational living, and NOT just for the poor.
Encourage and allow for backyard gardens and limited amounts of livestock, even in multi unit housing. This can be a rewarding way to provide healthy food and recreation for people.

Thank you,
Danita Smead

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Thank you for the opportunity to share our comments and thoughts about the Envision Skagit 2060 project at the recent meeting held at the WSU Research Station in Mount Vernon. We are writing in follow up to the meeting to further express our interest in the issues presented by the project.

As you heard at the meeting most of those attending were farmers. I am a fourth generation farmer, and am also the current president of the Western Washington Agricultural Association. We are a grower based organization with over 80 commercial agricultural producers in the Skagit Valley as members. At the meeting those speaking to the project were very direct in communicating a basic theme .... It's all about protecting our remaining precious agricultural land for future food production, and that is why no more of it should be paved over, or turned into fish habitat. Our membership strongly echoes this message.

Skagit Valley agriculture is the last remaining exclusive and intact farmscape in western Washington. Lands farmed in the Skagit Valley are coveted for their renowned and highly productive soils and ability to support an amazing diversity of crops. Our agricultural area sustains enjoyable and livable rural villages and towns. Literally, Skagit Valley's agricultural families raise food crops that are important to and cherished by the local and regional communities of western Washington. Agricultural products grown in the Skagit Valley, such as vegetable seed crops and specialty potatoes, are also recognized as nationally and internationally significant.

Over the last twenty years Skagit County has promoted the strongest protections of anywhere else in western Washington for preserving agricultural lands. Yet, the farming footprint in the Skagit Valley continues to suffer decline from many instances of urbanization and development, and more recently by significant encroachment of habitat restoration projects. This death by 'a thousand cuts' of our farmland has to stop. Our hope is that the Envision 2060 process will recognize this discouraging trend and promote mechanisms to absolutely protect our remaining farmlands. As was said at the meeting, "If we could take a snapshot of our Skagit farmland today - let it be the same in 2060, continuing to provide food for the county, the region, and the world."

What may not have come through as clearly in the dialogue during this meeting, or at other meetings our members have attended, is the deep and sincere commitment conveyed by farmers in the Skagit Valley to the farming life. They often speak passionately of their commitment to stewardship of this land and responsibility for providing food for people. What also is worthy of taking note is the abiding respect and appreciation our urban neighbors frequently express for farmers, the food they provide, and this special land that they take care of. And finally, we should also better recognize the cultural exchange which our agricultural communities provide. The agricultural land provides a diversity and mix of cultural richness in the people who farm and work these lands growing food for all. These cultures come together on the land, work the fields and grow into our communities in many other wonderful ways. We hope our children and grandchildren, and many more generations who desire to farm, will still be able to look to the Skagit Valley for their lifestyle, rural quality of life and belonging to such a special community.

The future of the Skagit Valley should include farmers sharing abundant, healthy, and safe food grown here for all our families, the community and beyond. Let ENVISION Skagit 2060 reflect this vision!

Curtis Johnson
Western Washington Agricultural Association

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Please accept this letter of support for consideration and approval of a "fully contained community" within Skagit County.

It is important we address the needs of a growing population in a responsible manner. Consolidating services into one geographic area should be much preferred to ongoing urban sprawl. Through consolidation, we can better protect our waterways, farmland and the quality of life that has drawn all of us to Skagit Valley. Whether it is police, fire, school districts, roads, sewer, water, power or other developmental concerns, the benefit of addressing each of these concerns comprehensively, in a relatively small geographic area are obvious.

Having owned Avalon Golf Links on Butler Hill off Kelleher Road for the past 20 years, the vision fa "fully contained community" has long been contemplated. With the necessary acreage located above the Valley floor, remedies to mitigate impacts on our waterways, fisheries and agricultural industries are obtainable. With sewer services nearby, construction materials available on site, surrounded by a substantial road system including nearby access to Interstate 5, agreeable property owners and Avalon Golf Links representing an existing recreational amenity in the middle of Butler Hill, I encourage your consideration of a "fully contained community" at this location.

I appreciate the challenges faced by Envision 2060. Accepting the projected population growth as inevitable and accommodating the lifestyle demands of both existing and future residents requires comprehensive planning. With every community competing to accomplish economic stability and accommodate responsible growth, now is the time to move forward with a recommendation to our County Commissioners to allow the development of a well designed, adequately funded "fully contained community".

Thank you for providing me the opportunity to comment.

Respectfully submitted,
Ron Hass Avalon Links

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I'm finally replying to your request for comments on Dr. Lang's presentation. Thank you for asking. (I was glad to read too that Libby's presentation went well, as I was sure it would. She was a good choice!)

You mentioned that some people felt that Lang, and maybe Envision Skagit, are promoting population growth. That's not my impression at all. I thought Dr. Lang's theme was quite clear - - that population growth is coming, as it has come to other places, now megalopolises, around the U.S., and that we had better plan accordingly. While I wish large population growth weren't in the future, it was no surprise to hear the prediction when we we've been able to see it happening around us for some time now. From the time I first heard of Envision Skagit, under its earlier name, I've taken it as a foresighted recognition that growth is fast upon us and we need to be proactive about this reality.

What did strike me in the Lincoln presentation was Dr. Lang's apparent assumption that the future will be much like the present, simply more of it. What I mean, for example, is that he assumed that the factors driving the economy of the Seattle area will continue in force; that Boeing will continue to be a major and growing factor, for example (he must know about headquarters moving to Chicago, the 787 plant being built in S. Carolina, other movement away from Boeing's traditional home area) and that other companies and institutions with highly paid employees will be expanding and those people will be commuting from places such as Skagit County. A biochemist friend who lost his job when one of the larger biotech companies was bought and then eliminated in Seattle tells me that other Seattle biotech firms with hundreds of employees have also disappeared in recent years. Because there are so many unprecedented uncertainties now about the U.S. economy, I think it's quite a leap to assume a continuation of usual conditions and that patterns that have played out elsewhere in the U.S. will play out similarly here. The U.S. economy and financial sector seem clearly unsustainable and unlikely to recover to their former state and then surge onward and upward. On the other hand, planners don't have a crystal ball so maybe have no option but to make these kinds of assumptions.

During the question and answer session, someone asked about climate change, and Lang said, "Well, in case of global warming, all bets are off," which I took as an acknowledgement of the ultimate weakness of his predictions. I don't imagine he's aware of what the disappearance of the North Cascades glaciers will mean for fish and many human enterprises in Skagit County some decades hence when the Skagit River is dewatered in summer (I hope Jon Riedel had a happier prediction). And of the many possible bumps in the road ahead, that's one of the few that we can almost see. Planners have a challenging job!

I guess this is to say that common sense dictates having a vision & plan to address large population increase but making the plan flexible enough to deal with a range of potential surprises and possible drastically different social, economic, and physical conditions - - all while preserving the things we value about Skagit County. A tall order! For me, a good part of those values involves the presence of wild places and wild creatures, in some cases existing alongside our homes and agricultural activity, in working forests and on protected lands, etc. While only a portion of the county is currently urban or likely to become so, I was intrigued by a KUOW interview a few weeks ago with someone involved in the Urban Green Spaces Institute at Portland State University (http://www.urbangreenspaces.org/index.htm). I like the statement on this website and would wish it to be true of the heavily populated areas of a future Skagit County: "The Urban Greenspaces Institute works to create great cities - cities where the built and natural environments are interwoven, not set apart. We promote the integration of urban green infrastructure - parks, trails, streams and wetlands, fish and wildlife habitat, urban forest canopy, and greenspaces-with the built environment. Our motto, In Livable Cities is Preservation of the Wild, reflects our philosophy that well-designed, nature-rich cities are beautiful, equitable, compact, and ecologically sustainable places to live, thereby reducing urban sprawl across the rural landscape." - - - I heard a Barn Owl screech above my South 11th Street house just last night, and Trumpeter Swans pass by now each morning and evening. May it ever be so!

Thank you for all that you're doing with Envision Skagit. It's such an important project, and the turn out at the Lincoln showed that many others believe that too.

Tim

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A. What I most value about Skagit Valley is its unique juxtaposition of farmland, river, foothills, and marine shoreline. Apart from scenic beauty it's blessed with four roughly comparable small towns and a couple of smaller towns; no one urban entity dominates. We have a reasonably well-educated populace, generally good schools, and some measure of tolerance toward ethnic and racial minorities. We are becoming more diverse and that's a good thing.

(I found it difficult to tease apart what I am calling questions B and C so I am treating them as one).

B and C. We need to work harder on the preservation of agricultural land and the associated infastructure so that decades from now we have a viable farming community. We need to ensure local processing and marketing of our agricultural products. We must contain sprawl and accept more concentrated urban development. If that means smaller lots and a denser population, in-filling, and mixed-use neighborhoods, it also means more urban parks, walkable neighborhoods, trails connectings towns and towns with the countryside, and less dependence on the automobille. We need to look again at everything from the sanctity of private property on dikes to encouraging more frequent passenger rail service to the north and south. Just as we need initiatives to promote local agricultural processing, we need to encourage locally owned small businesses. And just as we work to foster these things, we need to work to encourage small scale family forestry and resist the conversion of commercial forests to residential development and as with farm produce, we need to encourage local milling and value-added processing. If all this promotion of local goods means carefully targeted incentives and outright subsidies direct and indirect, so be it.

Along with all this planning and management we also need wildness in the Valley and not just to the east in the National Forest and the Park, and so beginning with the Nookachamps and Harts Slough and heading east from there, we need to keep intact the meanders, former channels, sloughs, and wetlands associated with the Skagit and Samish Rivers. They may appear to be wasteland, but these "wild areas" are a valuable resource rich with songbirds and amphibians. They provide rearing habit and refugia for young salmon as well as vital and inexpensive floodwater storage. Threats to these habitats may seem distant, but here we need to remember to resist the temptation to straighten and drain and otherwise improve.

And speaking of salmon, we need to work to reestablish the historic runs of wild salmon and steelhead that once made the Skagit famous. A viable commercial, Native-American, and sports fishery is a worthy goal even when we have no control over oceanic conditions. This means preserving the riparian habitat mentioned above and should also include dike setbacks on the lower Skagit River. These would provide important habitat as well as floodwater storage, but ought to be arrived at only after negotiation with the farming community.

I've touched on traditional industries: farming, forestry, and fishing. Turns out they aren't nearly as glamorous as hi-tech or global enterprises and likely not as volatile, but properly done, they are compatible and hold out the promise of meaningful employment, economic stability, and the beauty for which nearly all of us cherich Skagit Valley.

D. I missed the opportunity to contribute at the outreah meeting in Sedro-Woolley and so am thankful for the chance to offer a written comment.


James L. Johnson
Sedro-Woolley


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1. Protect all farms. Do NOT allow development. No homes on farm soil please.

2. Where possible, including "vacation" areas, along roads, around fields in proper places, PLANT TREES and native plants which have food for birds. Berries, seeds, Ribes for hummers: all should be included. We need habitat corridors. What has been lost must be re-established. This is important.
Establish perches for birds.
Establish platforms for nests, like for example, Ospreys.
Establish proper pull out areas along roads like the I 90 road, and some bird blinds for birders who come here from all over the nation to see our birds and are therefore a source of revenue. Birders are responsible, clean, non polluting, green people and therefore worth attracting here.

3. Protect salmon habitat and proper shading of water ways for all fish eggs to be spawned in both salt and fresh waters.

Phyllis Dolph
Anacortes, WA

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What do you value most about Skagit Valley?

What is special and unique that we need to retain?
Skagit Valley is a beautiful area. The diversity of farming, birds, wildlife, marine shorelines, shellfish and people make it an amazing place to live. It is no wonder the population is growing! It appears that by-in-large, Skagit County has done a pretty good job preserving natural resource lands and focusing the bulk of growth in the urban areas. There has been creep of residential development into ag and forest lands which is hard to stop. As with many rural counties the rural living is a draw for to people move here. There needs to be a real concerted effort not to let the rural creep get out of hand. Tools like TDRs, conservation easements etc. need to be encouraged and utilized to the fullest extent possible to reduce resource land conversions. In addition, the urban areas need to be attractive places to live as well with green space and other features that make them appealing places to live.
One thing that concerns me reading the materials on the Envision Skagit 2060 website is the lack of recognition of shellfish farming as one of the natural resource industries in Skagit County. Shellfish are a significant part of Skagit County's heritage and history. Shellfish have been cultured in Samish, Similk, Padilla and Fidalgo Bays for many years going back to the early 1900s in some cases. Of those, Samish is the only one currently still being actively cultivated for shellfish. There are some great photos of these early activities posted at http://picasaweb.google.com/BlanchardCommunityClub/BlanchardHistoricPhotos# .
Samish Bay is where the birth of Pacific oyster farming started. This is where the first commercial plantings of Japanese (Pacific) oyster seed were made in 1921. Today it is the main oyster farmed on the west coast. We have restaurants and markets who rely on local shellfish for menus and customers and their names (Oyster Bar, Oyster Creek Inn). The shellfish farm retail stores (Blau and Taylor) are destination locations for tourists from outside the county as well as residents. The northwest's famous Oyster Run motorcycle rally occurs because of the oysters. The Samish Bay Bivalve Bash and Low Tide Mud Run has become a significant tourist draw. Recreational and tribal shellfish harvest are also part of Skagit County's heritage and history. The fact that Skagit County's waters are clean enough to support a shellfish culture industry speaks to the cleanliness of the environment and the quality of life in Skagit County.
What is missing in Skagit Valley? What do we need to work harder on in the future as a community?
To preserve the historic shellfish industry, recreational and tribal shellfishing opportunities Skagit County needs to double down on efforts to address water quality problems. The commitment to create and fund a Clean Water Program is a huge step in the right direction. This dedicated local fund source is absolutely crucial as well as the county's efforts to secure additional grant funding to supplement the local funds. If the Pollution Identification and Correction program being implemented in the Samish is effective at turning water quality around there, it should be expanded to other priority areas in the county.
Demand for recreational opportunity increases with population. It is important as that demand and use increases to provide it and to ensure adequate support facilities (in particular, toilets) are provided to accommodate the need. Lack of adequate facilities can adversely impact adjoining shellfish resources.
Thanks for the opportunity to provide comments.

Bill Dewey

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Thank you for providing the opportunity for us all to share our thoughts on these issues.

I like most that Skagit County is still agricultural and very beautiful and scenic. I truly believe that the nature and beauty that you can observe in and driving around Skagit County goes a long way to keep people in balance, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. I believe that we need to preserve all of this , agriculture, open space, natural beauty and avoid over developing and heavy industry that pollutes not only the environment but our senses as well.

Jobs that pay enough to support a small family are missing from Skagit County. The one thing I think that Skagit County is missing is better employment opportunities and more jobs. I think we need to develop a broader base of employers and opportunities that compliment and protect the agriculture and natural beauty of the area. I also think that Skagit County needs some small areas of high density housing communities that contain small businesses that provide services and products to these neighborhoods. These neighborhoods need to be designed to house a good mix of people of varying income levels, and cultural backgrounds.

The greatest challenge facing Skagit County is preserving the Farm land. We may need to develop more areas as population increases, but need to locate these homes in communities that do not use up farm land. I see in the not too distant future increasing demands for more food production, and production of healthier food, as populations increase and people realize the need for less chemical laden food. To meet those needs, Skagit County must save the farmland, and encourage better and healthier farming methods. We need to make healthier food to make healthier people. Another major resource is water. We need to protect our water resources and promote and encourage better use of these resources. One way to move in that direction is to change building codes that restrict the use of rainwater for certain uses in the home. We also need to manage runoff more effectively with more permeable and semi permeable surfaces and less pavement and concrete. This will reduce local flooding and filter pollutants.
We also need to take the lead in promoting affordable ways to adapt residences and buildings to generate their own power with wind generators and solar devices. Remember that most jobs in Skagit County are low paying when you consider the cost of housing in this area. Codes should also allow more alternative building methods and materials to make housing more efficient and affordable.

Brian Smead
Sedro Woolley

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What I value most about Skagit Valley is the stunning and breathless beauty comprised of expansive green open spaces, spectacular snow covered mountains in the distance and life-giving water everywhere. This Valley is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. It would behoove the smart planners to keep sight of the above as one of the main reasons folks come here in the first place.

Keep the cities livable and attractive so most folks want to live there instead of encroach and spoil the farmland and wide open spaces. What I believe is missing in the Skagit Valley is twofold. This is the first place I have ever been that does not have a full-fledged Tourism Bureau, whose sole purpose is to attract tourists and their dollars thus spurring the local economy. Many groups claim this agenda and there is much duplication of jobs and services; look closely and it becomes obvious that they are missing the point. Secondly, a cooperative spirit is sorely lacking in this valley. If all could venture their visions beyond their own powerful fiefdoms, perhaps all could extend themselves to a much larger win-win vision for many decades to come.

Change is expansive and letting go of the securities of the past for the insecurities of the future. Positive change energizes the soul as well as the mind. What I believe we need to avoid in all this is over-regulation, over-taxation, over-controlling by a small group(s) of officials who are out of touch with how free markets seek their own balance. These changes should be about quality of life issues. Generally, my concerns about this process are potential loss of diversity and respectfulness in this Valley. A process such as this requires a positive and holistic approach and mindfulness.

Rose Merritt
Bow, WA

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* What do you value most about Skagit Valley?

What is special and unique that we need to retain? For me its the obvious. Its our agricultural base. Yes, it would be nice to keep the agricultural heritage but that's going to disappear just as the dinosaurs did. By ag heritage I mean those vast open fields of active ag land that everybody just loves to see as they drive through the valley. That type of farming is dead, here on the west side, the hand writing is on the wall, the reasons are too many to list but the reality is the only way we will keep those vast open spaces of ag land is if they are eventually subsidized in some way. Or

A much more sustainable approach would be just to go with the flow, to some extent, but keep that land zoned agriculture only! The key is to loosen up and allow marketing and processing to take place on these farm sites. We need to come up with new guide lines for zoning to cover farm small enterprises. The way it is now we are losing farms and farmers who are re-locating to other counties due to our ag zoning restrictions. They cannot open a business on their farm! That is ridiculous! Smaller, high density, high value farm activity's are what is going to keep SkagitCountyafloat in agriculture in the distant future. It most certainly WONT be a big field of vegetables or seed crops. * What is missing in Skagit Valley? What do we need to work harder on in the future as a community?

Lets not garbage up the valley, any more, with eye-sores like Walmart unless its confined to the I-5 corridor and no further north - south than present.

* How - and where - do you think the Skagit Valley should accommodate the next 50 years of projected population growth?

It always comes down to having to make the really tough decisions. How bad do you want to preserve farmland? Do you keep expanding the urban growth boundaries? I'd say learn from the examples set by other places. There are some pretty nice high density housing areas to the south of us, in eastern King County that would work very well here. We definitely don't need to re-invent the wheel.

Les J Price
Sedro Woolley

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Envision,
MAINTAIN OUR WORKING LANDS... Keep our agricultural lands as agricultural lands.... The most productive soils in the world to produce food. Keep our forest lands in forestry...

Again, some of the most productive soils in the world to produce wood, clean water, wildlife habitat, fish, recreation, beauty. Promote CONSERVATION - "the protection, improvement and use of natural resources according to the principles that will assure their highest economic and social benefit for humans and their environment now and in the future". Conservation implies wise use. Not none use.

The next generation will need these precious lands even more for food, clean water, fiber, lumber, oxygen, carbon storage from well managed lands. Forests are burning all over the west; because we did not manage. Forests managed for resistance to fire damage will also resist damage by insects,disease organisms, and extreme (and changing) weather conditions with the additional advantage of protecting fish, wildlife, watershed,and other public resources.

Al Craney
Sedro-Woolley

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I love the beauty of this place with open space and vistas across fields and water to forested hills and white capped mountains. It is special in that we still have functioning ecosystems that provide an abundance of salmon and wildlife so near the I-5 corridor.

It is missing strong environmental and land-use protections to keep it as it is. A good Indian Tandori Curry place would be nice too.

We need to work together on making this place sustainable for the future, to respond to changes in the climate and sea level and retain as much of its unique environment in spite of these pressures.

We need to avoid letting population influx overrun the Valley, despoil its beauty and fill the open spaces with pavement.

Scott Andrews
Mount Vernon

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ADD FREEWAY noise and pollution BARRIERS!

A person living near a freeway is 2x more likely to have a stroke or to have hardening of the arteries (which leads also to heart attacks) according to research by USC and UC Davis. Babies born to mothers living near a freeway are 2x more likely to be autistic and 2x more likely to be born preterm (< 30 weeks). In California laws are being put into place to prevent schools or daycare centers from being within a certain distance from the freeway. Heavy freeway pollution is commonly found one and one half miles away. Downtown Mount Vernon as well as some residential areas are right next to the freeway!

Did you know that freeway noise barriers can also protect against pollution? According to research by NOAA and the EPA freeway noise barriers can reduce pollution on the other side of these barriers by 50%.

Have you noticed that freeway barriers can also be aesthetically pleasing? Check out Bellevue and Redmond. Trees and vines line the barriers reducing this toxic threat to those communities. (Not only that, but you can be smack dab in the middle of Redmond and feel as if you are in a beautiful forest. They use native plants and trees to create a natural look).

PLEASE take a look at the research! Plan to add freeway barriers. Protect our health!

Sue Gatti RN

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To Whom This May Concern:
P 0 Box 14
Burlington, WA 98233
New Millennium F.C. is a co-ed, non-profit soccer club that consists of over 60 players ages 6-15. Most of these kids are from low income households Our mission is to provide skilJed, competitive training as well as a positive sports experience. Unlike other soccer clubs, all members of New Millenium are unpaid volunteers. My son previously played for Northwest United. The fees were $1,250 When I lost my job last year. we could no longer afford for htm to play My husband and I decided that with the money that we were paying for one child 'we could help many others. New' Millinium is now' entering its second season.
Right now, our biggest and most frustrating issue is the fact that we do not have a home field.
Although local high schools have synthetic fields, their availabtlity is limited to outside organizations. Also, their usage fees exceed our budget Public fields also require a usage fee, which means that many children cannot participate in our club due to lack of resources.
We need a synthetic (artificial turf) field to serve the Mount Vernon. Burlington, and Sedro Woolley area
1) This multipurpose field could be enjoyed by the entire community.
2) Players would be able to practice regardless of the weather.
3) We would be able to allow more players to JOIN our club.
We are hoping that you can help us with the installauon of a Synthetic field m our area and help protect small organizations such as ours survtve so that w'e can contmue to gtve back to the community ..
Thank you for your time. We look forward to hearing from you.

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April 28, 2011
Bill and I attended an "Envision Skagit 2060" presentation at Lincoln Theater and, after, shared a plate of clams at the local pub.
As a resident/citizen, gardener, and teacher in Skagit County and as an experienced participant in transportation, neighborhood, education, and environmental planning processes, Bill has a lot to offer "Envision", a project "to engage county residents in planning for the future".
I asked Bill why he used the word "footnote" in a letter expressing concerns about "Envision" (re-printed below). He replied, "I used "footnote" in the sense that, in the future, we would see a pivotal point in 2011 where citizens could have done something significant, but either by default or conscious choice, we wound up getting another Green/Duwamish River Valley in Skagit County". Our productive farms and farmland, our healthy salmon runs would be lost.

Bill McCord
Mount Vernon WA

 

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