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Planning and Development Services

Conservation Subdivisions
code development process

Skagit County is currently developing a proposal to amend provisions in our land use code that affect property purchases for environmental conservation and restoration. We understand foresters and farmers feel pressure from habitat acquisitions that also include resource lands, and conservation groups are constrained by regulations that force them to purchase more resource land than theyd prefer.

PDS has encountered situations where the owner of a parcel wishes to sell a portion of his property for conservation or restoration, but faces several barriers to completing a transaction that would sufficiently compensate the property owner. For example:

  • The property owner does not want to sell a conservation easement because the price offered for an easement is lower than that for a purchase in fee, and selling an easement would require the property owner to continue to pay property taxes on the parcel.
  • The seller wants to retain a portion of the property for their existing or future house, but a subdivision would result in a lot smaller than the minimum lot size, and therefore is prohibited under current code.
  • Even if a subdivision would result in lots at or bigger than the minimum lot size, both parties want to avoid the subdivision process because of the significant expense involved (approaching $30,000) for certifications (e.g. water availability) that serve no purpose for a lot to be used in perpetuity for conservation.

Staff are conscious of potential impacts from changes to the minimum lot size requirements in various natural resource zones, and are considering designing performance standards to avoid negative impacts.

Code Development

In March, as part of the initial outreach associated with developing our proposal, County staff took a short draft code amendment to the forestry and agricultural advisory boards and other stakeholders. Although staff had initially envisioned proposing the code amendment as an interim ordinance, we have accepted requests to not propose code changes through an interim process that might prevent us from fully vetting the idea before adoption.


County staff has scheduled two collaborative meetings for May 6 and May 20 from 8-10am at the Commissioners' Administrative Building, 1800 Continental Place in Mount Vernon, to

  • explain the needs that generated our proposal, and identify similar needs participants have,
  • discuss the intricacies and requirements of our current subdivision code, and
  • explore solutions to these problems that won't endanger our natural resource industries.

We expect a comprehensive workshop on this topic will help us generate a proposal that we all can support and ensure a well-developed proposal that fixes existing problems without creating new ones.

For More Information

Betsy Stevenson
Natural Resources Team Supervisor
Planning & Development Services

Dan Berentson
Natural Resources Division Manager
Skagit County Public Works

Ryan Walters
Civil Deputy Prosecuting Attorney
Skagit County Prosecutors Office