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Planning and Development Services

2016 Seasonal Farmworker Housing at Raspberry Ridge — updated 5/11/2017

Skagit County, the City of Burlington, and the Housing Authority of Skagit County have agreed (County contract C20160375) to the Raspberry Ridge third-phase housing proposal, sewer extension and retrofit, and expansion of the Urban Growth Area.

The Housing Authority of Skagit County (an independent government agency that provides, facilitates, and finances housing for a diverse population of low-income and medium-income residents of Skagit and San Juan counties) is proposing a new 7-duplex seasonal farmworker housing development on Lafayette Road just outside of Burlington. The Housing Authority has obtained grant funding from USDA for the housing project and is working with the Office of Rural and Farmworker Housing to design and develop the project.


The new project is proposed on the same site as the Raspberry Ridge I (RR1) and Raspberry Ridge II (RR2) housing developments, also owned by the Housing Authority. RR1 has 51 units (50 affordable units and one manager’s unit) and sits on elevated ground near the south end of the property. RR2 has 30 units and sits above ground level parking at the north end.

Housing Cooperation Law
The Housing Authority property is zoned Agricultural-Natural Resource Land ("Ag-NRL"), which does not allow multifamily dwellings. RR1 was permitted in 2000 after the Board of County Commissioners adopted Resolution 18081 invoking the State Housing Cooperation Law (RCW Chapter 35.83) to waive the zoning restrictions on the development. RR2 was permitted in 2005 through Resolution R20050358 that waived the zoning restrictions for development of up to 75 additional units on eight specified parcels.

Septic Failures
Under RCW Chapter 70.118B, large on-site sewage systems are regulated by the State Department of Health rather than the County Health Department. State Health issued permits for the Raspberry Ridge septic systems, but soon after construction the systems started showing signs of failure. The State Department of Health issued a notice of violation in 2011, and in January 2012, sent a letter to the Housing Authority expressing its determination that the repeated failures of the septic systems and the poor soil conditions made it unlikely the systems could be permanently repaired and declaring it "necessary for RR1 and RR2 to connect to the Burlington sanitary sewer system to protect basic public health and safety and the environment." City officials have also expressed concern that river floods could sweep effluent outside the property boundaries.

The State Department of Health issued an updated letter on November 3, 2015, noting a continued high risk of future failure.

Current Agreement

Phase III Housing
The Housing Authority's current proposal for the Seasonal Farmworker Housing Project is for seven new buildings with two units per building (duplexes with a total of 14 dwelling units) would also be permitted under the 2005 resolution. As shown in this preliminary site plan, the buildings would be elevated above flood level, but would be designed to fit into the community character. The parking lots and driveway would be constructed with pervious pavement with stormwater management beneath the development, eliminating the need for a stormwater detention pond.

Sewer Extension
As part of the project, the Housing Authority has agreed to extend sewer service from the City of Burlington’s connection on Gardner Road down Lafayette to the access road for the new project and connect RR1 and RR2 to the new sewer connection. The City of Burlington must agree to extend sewer to the new project.

The Housing Authority has secured an appropriation of $625,000 from the State Legislature to extend sewer to these three projects. The money includes a budget of nearly $340,000 in connection fees to be paid to the City of Burlington, as well as the money for design and construction of the sewer extension. The Housing Authority would also construct a pedestrian pathway along the south side of Lafayette Road as part of restoration of the road after the sewer construction. The sewer appropriation requires construction of new housing and cannot be spent to connect RR1 and RR2 without construction of RR3.

Urban Growth Area
The County has extended the City of Burlington’s urban growth area to encompass the Raspberry Ridge area, as well as redesignate the City's entire urban growth area to city zoning. Once the area is included within the City’s UGA, the City could apply its own zoning and city standards to shape future development there, and the County could collect Burlington impact fees for future development there. The County has included a placeholder for such changes, pending City of Burlington approval, in its docket proposal for the 2016 Comprehensive Plan Update. On the graphic below, the proposed UGA expansion is in yellow; Housing Authority parcels are identified with a red outline.