“Death to Scotch Broom!”

Every year, around this time, all those yellow flags – those scotch broom flowers – come out to wave. Next will come the seeds and, next year, more scotch broom. There are noxious weeds and then there’s scotch broom. Now is an excellent time of year to get serious about reducing the amount of scotch broom on your property.

So, responsible rural property owners want to know: What makes scotch broom so bad?

Scotch broom is a prodigious seed producer. The seeds have hard coats enabling them to survive in the environment for up to 80 years. Once established, scotch broom forms dense brush fields over six feet tall. The brush fields diminish habitat for grazing animals, such as livestock and native animals. Areas of dense brush shade out and kill native grassland plants in invaded areas, and favor invasion by other woody, non-grassland plant species.

Scotch broom prevents reforestation, creates a high fire hazard, renders rangeland worthless and greatly increases the cost of maintenance of roads, ditches, power and telephone lines. Wildlife suffers as the growth becomes too dense for even quail and other ground birds to thrive. Being slightly toxic and unpalatable it is browsed very little by livestock.

If you cut your trees, so that a lot of sunlight reaches the ground, you’ve probably now got scotch broom to cut.

How do you eradicate scotch broom?

There are two schools of thought, those who say pull out the whole plant and those who will tell you, if you’re clever and your timing is right, all you need are a pair of lopping shears.

From the School of Pulling Out the Plant, we get these instructions:

Pull out the entire plant, including roots. When the soil is moist, small plants can be pulled easily by hand. Winter and spring are good seasons to do this.

Larger plants must be removed with a tool such as a Weed Wrench. Be sure to remove the entire plant. Broken stems re-sprout and are much harder to remove for the next person. Plants can be left where pulled.

One of the benefits of being a member of the Griffin Neighborhood Association is members can rent our Weed Wrench.

Not yet a member of the GNA? Dang, what are you waiting for?! Click here to join online.

From the School of Cutting Broom in Bloom, we get these instructions:

First, cut broom in bloom. Use loppers or small saws and cut broom right at ground level.

Broom puts all of its energy into making flowers. If you cut it while in bloom, it will most likely die in the summer’s dry heat.

If you have to make a choice, go after single plants and small infestation to prevent its spread.

If the broom is huge, cut off as many of the branches as you can. If the broom is small and not blooming, you can return and cut it next year when it blooms.

It is most important to not let the broom go to seed! Cut before June 17 (this date is from Vancouver Island’s “BroomBusters” web site, so it’s probably earlier, down here in the South Sound).

CUT DOWN ALL YELLOW FLOWERS so that they can not turn into seeds. Each scotch broom plant can produce 2,000 to 3,500 seed pods – which burst open, shooting seeds into the adjacent soil. If you cut them while in bloom – no seeds!

HERBICIDES applied in the spring when new leaves are present are another effective control tool, but always remember to read the labels carefully and exercise extreme care when applying chemicals, especially near waterways.

DO NOT BURN SCOTCH BROOM! When exposed to fire, its seeds burst from their seedpods. Also, the smoke from burning scotch broom is actually toxic and may seriously irritate the respiratory tracts of you, your family, or your neighbors.

TAKE SCOTCH BROOM TO THE DUMP. The best way to get rid of scotch broom, once it is cut, is to take it to Thurston County Waste and Recovery Center.

The Thurston County Noxious Weed Control Agency offers the following information and services to the public: Educational presentations, plant identification especially those that may be noxious weeds, consults on your property, prescriptions for specific noxious weed problems and what the county approves for its own use, free disposal of designated noxious weeds at the Thurston County Waste and Recovery centers, and limited use of a manual removal tool called the wrench. Also available are many informational brochures and pamphlets as well as several videos.

So, responsible homeowner, get out there and cut your scotch broom!

County to Hold Open House on Rural Rezoning Project – Tuesday, May 29

An Open House will be held on May 29th at 5:30 p.m. at the Worthington Center, 5300 Pacific Ave SE, Lacey WA, regarding the Rural Rezoning project. Members of the public can submit written comments regarding the Planning Commission’s two rezoning proposals and a new innovative technique proposal.

Click here for a map to the Worthington Center.

Public Hearing July 2

A Public Hearing will be held on July 2nd at 6:00 p.m. at the Worthington Center, for the Rural Rezoning project. Members of the public will have the opportunity to testify and provide written comment at the public hearing.

Written comments can be submitted in advance of the public hearing. Please address them as follows:

The Board of County Commissioners
ATTN: Celinda Adair
2000 Lakeridge Drive SW
Building #1, 2nd Floor
Olympia, WA 98502-6045

What is the Rural Rezoning Project?

The Western Washington Growth Management Hearings Board found that Thurston County’s land-use regulations do not provide a variety of rural densities, as required by the Growth Management Act (RCW 36.70A.070(5)). In response, Thurston County has begun a project to create a variety of densities by rezoning some of the rural lands in the County. This project is called the “Rural Rezoning” project.

To achieve a variety of densities on rural lands, Thurston County is proposing zoning changes for some areas currently zoned 1 house per 5 acres to lower zoning densities (1 house per 10 acres or 1 house per 20 acres.) Figuring out which lands to rezone is a complex process that involves establishing rezoning criteria based on the goals and needs of the local community. Benefits of rezoning may include avoidance of hazards that could harm public health and safety, protection of family farming and forestry industries, enhancement of wildlife habitat, storm water and flood control, drinking water protection, and shellfish protection.

For more information, visit the County’s web page on the Rural Rezoning Project, at http://www.co.thurston.wa.us/permitting/GMA/rural-rezoning.htm

County Backs Away from Plan to Require Permits for Geoduck Farming

The Olympian is reporting the County has dropped its plans to require geoduck harvesters to secure shoreline development permits for their operations. Many residents on the Steamboat Island peninsula either lease shoreline to harvesters or engage in geoduck harvesting themselves. In past posts to this blog, we have reported on activities in the State Legislature and have published a letter from APHETI (The Association for the Protection of Hammersley, Eld and Totten Inlets) regarding the importance of regulating harvesting activities.

According to The Olympian:

County deputy prosecuting attorney Jeff Fancher said: “We’re trying to work with the shellfish industry to have a review of new farms on a case-by-case basis. We are not just going to sit and wait for the legislative process to run its course.”

The legislative process to which Fancher refers apparently is a bill that orders the state Department of Ecology to develop new guidelines for siting and operating geoduck farms.

Recommendations from that process are due to the Legislature this December.

Earlier this year, the state attorney general issued an opinion that said geoduck farms need shoreline development permits only if they interfere with normal public use of the water.

Click here to read the entire article, in The Olympian.
Click here to visit the web site of Protect Our Shoreline.

Conference Center Proposed for Steamboat Island Road Does Not Qualify for Special Use Permit

The conference center proposed for Steamboat Island Road is no “community center,” as the applicant, Mr. Lance Willis, claims. It does not qualify for the special use permit required to convert this residential property to commercial use. The county has done an enormous disservice, both to Mr. Willis and to residents of the Steamboat Peninsula, by allowing the application to go forward since 2003.

County law permits residential property to be converted for commercial use under narrowly-defined circumstances. One of these is to build a “community club.” County code specifically defines what a community club is. This is no community club. This is a large for-profit conference center which cannot hope to compete against the full-scale convention and hotel facilities at Little Creek, 4 minutes up US-101.

If the county permits this application to go forward, no homeowner can rely upon a valuation of their property. At any time, a developer could claim a special use permit and convert the property next door for any urban density, commercial use. Apparently, in Thurston County, it doesn’t take much to call something a “community club.”

Call it what you will, it’s no community club that’s been proposed for Steamboat Island Road. No matter how you dress up that pig, it doesn’t qualify for a Special Use Permit. The Griffin Neighborhood Association, the League of Women Voters, and local residents are correct to oppose it.


Click here to join the GNA, and help oppose this development.
Click here to contribute to the GNA Legal Fund, to help fund our opposition.

Public Hearing on Land Use – May 7 – County to Appeal Ruling to State Supreme Court

Two pieces of news of interest to those of us watching the direction of land use in this county. First, the Thurston County Board of Commissioners will hold a public hearing on May 7, 2007, at 6:00 p.m. at the Thurston Expo Center, located within Thurston County Fair Grounds, 3054 Carpenter Rd SE, Lacey, Washington. Click here for a map.

The hearing is on the following topics: Limited Areas of More Intensive Rural Development (LAMIRDs) and Designation Criteria for Agricultural Lands of Long-Term Commercial Significance.

An open house will precede the public hearing at 5:15 p.m., at the same location.

The County’s web page, at http://www.co.thurston.wa.us/permitting/GMA/index.htm, contains a wealth of information, both background and information specifically about this public hearing.

In related news, the County will appeal to the State Supreme Court the results of an Appeals Court ruling which was the topic of a previous posting to this blog. Click here for the previous post.

As reported by The Olympian in a story published May 1:

[County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Jeff Fancher] said the petition to the Supreme Court will be based on three key issues:

• The scope of the state’s current system of a seven-year review of county plans and 10-year reviews of urban growth areas. The question is whether parties should be able to object to parts of plans or regulations years after they are adopted.

• Whether long-term forest lands can be included for calculating rural densities.

• Issues regarding re-sizing Thurston County’s urban growth areas. The question is whether the growth board erred by imposing a burden on the county to justify the size of urban growth areas that were adopted years earlier.

From the County’s web page announcing the May 7th public hearing, we read:

After being briefed on the Court of Appeals decision the Board of County Commissioners has decided to proceed to public hearing (please see the notice posted at the top of this page for details) with the LAMIRD (Limited Areas of More Intensive Rural Development) and the Long Term Agricultural Lands Designation Criteria projects. Staff is continuing work on the Urban Growth Area evaluation and potential resizing project. The Board has not yet decided what action they will take regarding the Planning Commission’s recommended rural rezoning proposals and the associated moratorium. These matters will be addressed in the future.

In a related article, also published on May 1st, The Olympian reported that “Planning Commission members were enthusiastic about using different land-use options.”

The State Appeals Court acknowledged that the County could address some of its growth management issues through so-called “innovative techniques.” The Olympian cited these techniques, in particular:

• Cluster zoning: grouping higher density housing developments together to allow for larger open space areas.

• Transfer of development rights: allowing people who don’t want to use all of their allotted zoning development rights to sell the extra rights to other residents to use elsewhere.

• Eliminating critical areas from zoning density calculations: not counting wetlands or other critical areas when determining the densities for the rest of a property.

Many of us already believe the County has fallen far short of the mark, both at defining such “innovative techniques” and in the application and enforcement of those approaches the County does choose to adopt. A court may give Thurston County credit for these steps, but residents on the Steamboat Island Peninsula can point to several examples of utter failure in the application of the County’s cluster zoning regulations and in the recognition of critical areas.

Let’s admit it: Thurston County has, historically, given largely lip service to the sort of “innovative techniques” it now hopes the courts will permit in the county’s growth management planning. While the county will continue to spend taxpayer’s money in court, in the end, it will be up to the county to prove it’s sincerely ready to get down to business, when it comes to growth management. For way too many years, Thurston County believed it could avoid anything remotely approximating responsible planning.

Now, at last, maybe the chickens have indeed come home to roost.

Resolve Not to Allow Mr. Willis’ Conference Center to Waste Our Community’s Resources

As a member of the Board of the GNA, I have to say there’s one thing that particularly angers me about the conference center being proposed by Lance Willis of the Willis Family Trust. It’s not so much that this is a large commercial enterprise that is being proposed for residential property. It’s not that the project was never intended to be a “community center” – Mr. Willis calls it that only to fit the requirements of the county’s Special Use Permit. It doesn’t especially make me mad that the County’s own staff appears to be doing whatever it can to make sure the project succeeds, even though there are big, full-service conference facilities 4 minutes up US-101, at the Little Creek Casino.

None of that especially angers me.

I expect developers to feel they sometimes need to lie about their projects, in order to get them approved. I have observed the county staff sometimes acts as if they don’t know the law and as if it were someone else’s job, not theirs, to responsibly execute the people’s business and handle the people’s money. I understand that this County government feels it must tax us and then turn around and force us to have to pay, in time and money, to fight the County over its failure to responsibly enforce its own laws.

What really makes me mad is how many community resources are being squandered in this fight.

Mr. Willis once claimed he wouldn’t build his facility, if the community didn’t want it. Although the GNA has repeatedly turned out crowds of local people – evenings, during work days – who have voiced their opposition, Lance Willis continues with his plans. In doing so, he is demonstrating only contempt for those of us who live here. There are so many far more worthwhile efforts we should be undertaking, instead of battling with this out-of-state, and utterly out of touch, developer.

We have a plan and, with your help, we’ll never see the conference center break ground on Steamboat Island Road.

The good news is, with your help, the GNA can continue its efforts in several areas entirely separate from opposing Mr. Willis’ project.

Emergency preparedness planning is continuing. We are working closely with the fire and school districts, and offices of the County and State governments, on emergency preparedness. We need to have a plan for the natural disaster, the avian flu, or whatever might cut off our electricity, block our road access to Olympia, or might damage or demolish some our homes.

Members of the GNA are planning improvements to the Blueberry Farm and others are working to secure the liability insurance necessary to open the Blueberry Farm up to public picking. This is turning into a real success story, after years of seeking a formal arrangement to secure access and maintenance rights to the Blueberry Farm.

There is so much more that could be done, though, and we need your help to do it.

We could be helping one another to identify special habitat, to take advantage of the significant – and temporary – tax advantages presently available for conservation easements. We could be developing a bridge fund, to purchase and preserve habitat on our peninsula.

We ought to be working with the county to help it to reform is laws so we can, as homeowners, both enjoy the use of our property and retain the rural qualities of this area.

Join us. Please contribute your time and your money to support our efforts. By doing so, you can help us to encourage responsible development which will benefit local residents, while preserving some of the characteristics that attracted us to this area, in the first place. Join us, because together we can make a difference.