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January 17, 2023


Skagit County is seeking public comment on a proposed conversion of approximately 1.6 acres of land belonging to Marc Breckenridge, currently protected through a deed of conservation easement agreement executed with Skagit County in August 2016. The larger parcel of real estate encumbered in the total easement consists of 77.75 acres of agricultural land. This conversion request will result in the removal of one dwelling and 1.6 acres from the 77.75 acres protected in the original easement.

In compensation for the conversion of these 1.6 acres to a use incompatible with the farmland easement, the owner is offering to pay the appraised current market value for the partial release reimbursement of the 1.6 acres. The reimbursement amount will be paid in amounts proportionate to the easement grant funds provided by the Skagit County Conservation Futures Fund (47%) and the Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office (53%). This proposal will require approval from the Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office.

Comment period

Comments will be accepted from Wednesday, January 18, 2023 until Friday, February 16, 2023 at 4:30 p.m. Comments must be made in writing submitted via email to Sarah Stoner, Agricultural Lands Coordinator with Skagit County Public Works, at sstoner@co.skagit.wa.us, or submitted via mail to the following address:

Skagit County Public Works, Farmland Legacy Office
Attn: Sarah Stoner, Agricultural Lands Coordinator
1800 Continental Place
Mount Vernon, WA 98273

Description of original project

The Breckenridge conservation easement was among 11 farms and 1,069 acres of farmland protected via perpetual conservation easement within the Samish Basin and Skagit Delta in Skagit County, initially proposed for protection July 2015. The project was jointly funded by Skagit County Conservation Futures Fund and the Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office (RCO). The Breckenridge easement was acquired in August 2016 (AFN 201608020021).

Total compensation to the landowner totaled $155,000 with $72,950 funded by the Skagit County Conservation Futures and $82,050 funded by RCO. The value ratio listed in the easement is 21 percent. The easement eliminated one residential development right and imposed certain use restrictions pertaining to surface rights as described by the conservation easement document into perpetuity.

The purposes and intent of the conservation easement is outlined within the easement itself. Paragraph 5 states “the Purpose” as follows: (a) to ensure that the Protected Property will be retained forever for agricultural productivity and use; (b) to ensure no net loss of agricultural lands; (c) to protect prime and important agricultural soils; and (d) to prevent any use of, or activity on, the Protected Property that will significantly impair or interfere with its agricultural values, character, use or utility.

Description of proposed change creating the conversion

Skagit County is requesting a conversion of approximately 1.6 acres of the Breckenridge easement AFN 201608020021. This would result in the removal of the existing residential dwelling, driveway, outbuilding, and septic drain field from the remaining productive farmland. Approximately 76.15 acres of farmland would remain protected through the same easement terms to which Mr. Breckenridge committed in 2016.

The residential dwelling and related residential infrastructure contribute nothing to the purpose and intent outlined in the conservation easement. The conversion would allow Mr. Breckenridge to remain in his home and to sell off the remaining 76.15 acres of farmland. The removal of the residential dwelling from the easement will not impact the easement’s purpose nor the surrounding farmland.

In order to allow the exchange, the County requires the easement Grantor to reimburse the appraised market value of the proposed 1.6-acre conversion, at the 21% valuation rate. The property owners are willing to reimburse the cost of the conversion as well as all associated costs of the conversion, so it will not require any significant public expenditures. This is the preferred alternative because it has the smallest impact to the farming operation while it allows the landowner to retain their home.

Map of proposed conversion area

The map below indicates the proposed conversion area. The map shows the property with the boundary around the septic drain field and the dwelling infrastructure. Skagit County Planning and Development Services has reviewed and preliminarily approved the map showing the proposed boundary line adjustment.