Planning and Development Services

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Planning and Development Services

Conservation Subdivisions

Code development process

In 2010, Skagit County briefly considered 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 2010, 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.


County staff held two collaborative meetings at the Commissioners' Administrative Building to 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.