Futurewise Tries to Making Sense of the Rural Rezoning Proposals

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.

Where do you stand on the three proposals currently before the Commissioners?

Here’s what Futurewise has to say on the matter.

In 2004, Futurewise appealed the Thurston County Comprehensive Plan because Futurewise beleived the Plan promoted urban sprawl. On July 20, 2005 the Western Washington Growth Management Hearings Board held there were inadequacies in the county’s Plan which violate the Growth Management Act and those must be corrected; Thurston County appealed this decision. On April 3, 2007 the Court of Appeals decided almost entirely in Futurewise’s favor. According to Futurewise:

The Court of Appeals upheld the Board’s determination that Thurston County’s urban growth areas were too large by 7,000 acres and that the County must provide for a variety of rural densities, which must be less dense than 1 housing unit per 5 acres. We are now working to encourage the County to stop wasting taxpayer money and to start protecting our drinking water and rural character.

The Planning Commission sent not one, but three rural rezone proposals to the County Commissioners for their review.

According to Futurewise:

Each of the proposals should be improved so that they better protect rural character, water quality and quantity, and reduce sprawl – all of which are the reasons that the County is being asked to rezone its rural lands in the first place. Here’s a quick look at each proposal in turn:

  • The majority report was presented to the County Commissioners as what the county could “get away with.” Critical groundwater areas and at risk geographic areas are zoned 1 unit every 20 acres; nearly everything else is zoned 1:5. For our recommendations for improvements to this proposal, please click here.
  • The minority report more closely mirrors the public comment received during the open houses and hearings. This plan rezones 39.6% and better protects rural character and habitat lands. This proposal should be expanded to include a larger percent of the rural lands so that it complies with state law.
  • The third option before the Commissioners is a proposal which puts all zoning on the back of critical areas protections. As a stand alone option, this “innovative technique” will not protect Thurston’s water quality or rural character because it will not create a variety of rural densities. To read a more in depth view of this proposal, please click here.

A Public Hearing will be held on July 2nd at 6:00 p.m. at the Worthington Center.

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: John Sonnen
2000 Lakeridge Drive SW
Building #1, 2nd Floor
Olympia, WA 98502-6045

Click here for Thurston County’s Growth Management Act compliance page.

Calls Increase for Reform in the County’s Development Services Office

We have seen it time and again. The County’s Development Services Department fails to meet its regulatory requirements with respect to review of development applications, notification of parties concerned, application of the Critical Area Ordinance, use of the Shorelines Master Program, adherence to timelines. . . the list goes on and on.

Are resident Mary Skelton is right, when she said, “The county Department of Development Services isn’t doing its job.”

Kaye V. Ladd, in a recent Letter the Editor, wrote:

In my neighborhood, they [County Development Services] approved a single family residence on a rural waterfront lot with about half of the dry land area required by the SMP [Shorelines Master Program]. Using an erroneous calculation and without a hearing, the county planner reduced the 50-foot required setback to 37 feet. She did not notify adjacent property owners of this decision or of the appeal period.

In the end, Ladd paid her money, spent her time to do the work the County staff had failed to do, and succeeded in an appeal to the County Commissioners. Wouldn’t it have been better if the County had done their work correctly, in the first place?

In our own neighborhood, we’re accumulating an increasing list of examples of not just poor judgment, but outright ineptitude, on the part of County staff in Development Services.

The problem is not limited to the performance of the County staff, either. The Seattle attorney with whom the county contracts, for services as a Hearing Examiner, has passed on applications and set precedent which ought to be very troubling to residents on the Steamboat Island Peninsula.

Most recently, for example, the Hearing Examiner dismissed any concerns regarding suitability with respect to the rural setting, when he approved the application for a Tennis Club. While there was support for an athletic facility at the corner of Steamboat Island Road and Sexton, the Hearing Examiner ruled essentially that, provided only that no more than 60% of the property were impervious surface, a building of any size is just fine out here.

Think about the implications. If you are on residential land, and your neighbor owns 40 acres, she can build a 24-acre building right next door. The Tennis Club is nearly 3-stories in height, so let’s make that 24-acre building about 3-stories tall, too. All your neighbor needs to do is qualify for a Special Use Permit, and she can convert her residentially-zoned property to commercial use. The county’s Hearing Examiner will give no weight to an argument that a building of that size is urban in nature, and not rural.

At least one County Commissioner with whom we spoke, regarding the performance of the Hearing Examiner told us that no complaints – not one – about the Hearing Examiner has ever reached the ears of the Commissioners.

How long will the County Commissioners continue to issue toothless admonishments to County staff to “do better” and overrule staff decisions that ought never to have been made, in the first place?

How long much longer will the Commissioners continue to renew the contract with the Seattle law firm that provides this county’s Hearing Examiner?

We’re seeing these kinds of problems with the Conference Center application. The performance of county staff has affected development along fragile shorelines, and it’s getting harder and harder to ignore (see “Development projects require better scrutiny,” at the bottom of this page).

How many more Aloha Lumber projects will we see on our peninsula? In that instance, Aloha Lumber was allowed to clear every stick of wood from a 30+ acre parcel, behind the Main Fire Station, for development. They application stipulated reforestation. When they didn’t re-plant, the County staff responded that was fine with them; the County failed to stipulate that Aloha Lumber do what the company said it would, in the original forestry application.

That’s just dumb and it’s just not right.

When will our elected County Commissioners take action to bring these bumbling bureaucrats to heel? When will we get a Development Services Department that doesn’t shoot itself in the foot, so often? We’re losing fragile habitat, jeopardizing the value of our property, and our quality of life is being lost, through the inept actions of these poorly-trained paper-pushers.

Thieves Break In to Steamboat Island Espresso – Information Sought

The Olympian is reporting that thieves broke into the Steamboat Coffee Shop this last Wednesday night. They broke a window and, after all that damage, came away with $5 in change.

This is a local business, run by our neighbors. If you know anything about this break-in, please contact the Thurston County Crime Stoppers at 360-493-2222.

And, if you’re in the mood for a beverage, please stop by Steamboat Island Coffee Shop. They do a fine job and we’ve every reason to want to see this local business thrive.

Here’s how the incident was reported in The Olympian:

Thieves broke a $75 window to gain access to an espresso stand on Steamboat Island Road near Sexton Drive N.W. Wednesday [June 27] morning and made off with about $5 in change from the stand’s money box, Lt. Chris Mealy of the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office said today.

The burglary took place sometime between 1 a.m. and 4 a.m. Wednesday at Steamboat Espresso located at 3403 Steamboat Island Road N.W.

Anyone with information about this incident is asked to contact Thurston County Crime Stoppers at 360-493-2222.

Peninsula People Business Directory Now Available as Part of the New Resident “Welcome Basket”

GNA Board member and longtime local resident Velma Rogers has completed the Peninsula People Business Directory. The Directory is part of the GNA’s new “Welcome Basket,” now available to residents new to the area. The Directory includes contact information for businesses on or around the Steamboat Island Peninsula. Click here for your copy of the Peninsula People Business Directory.

Why create a Welcome Basket? Those in attendance at our Annual Meeting, earlier this year, heard it best from Jerry Handfield, outgoing President of the GNA, who said, simply, “Because we care.” In addition to the Peninsula People Business Directory, the Welcome Basket contains samples, flyers and business cards from local businesses. It also contains materials from the County and elsewhere to help homeowners to become more informed users and conservers of local water and other natural resources.

The Welcome Basket and its Peninsula People Business Directory is an important part of the commitment of the Griffin Neighborhood Association to the life and resources we share on and around the Steamboat Island Peninsula.

County Releases a “Growth Management Act Compliance Update”

The GNA received a “GMA Compliance Update,” from the County:

On June 18, 2007 the Board of County Commissioners adopted new higher density residential zoning districts now referred to as limited areas of more intensive rural development or “LAMIRD” zoning districts. A map displaying which areas are rezoned and which areas are designated as residential LAMIRDs is attached to this email and available at the County Permit Center and on-line at:

Changes to the geodata layers and official county zoning map will not be ready until late next week. An email will be sent when those changes are complete. In the meantime, you can zoom in on the PDF to view parcel specific zoning changes.

Please note: Adoption of these land use changes, does not remove properties from the subdivision moratorium. That will occur at a later date when compliance is approved.

The county analyzed all areas zoned RR 1/1, RR ½, RR 2/1, SR 4/1, and MDR 1-6/1 (21,939 acres in 55 study areas) to determine which areas met the LAMIRD criteria found in the Growth Management Act (GMA). The analysis was in response to the July 20, 2005 Western Washington Growth Management Hearings Board ruling that Thurston County’s higher density residential zoning districts fail to comply with the GMA.

The final changes adopted by the Board designate 12,876 acres as higher density residential zoning districts. The higher density districts have been renamed: Residential LAMIRD 1/1, Residential LAMIRD ½, and Residential LAMIRD 2/1. The zoning districts of SR 4/1 and MDR 1-6/1 have been repealed. The 9,063 acres of higher density zoning districts that did not qualify for LAMIRD designation has been rezoned rural residential 1 unit per 5 acres.

Thank you,

Katie Knight, Associate Planner
Thurston County Long Range Planning
2000 Lakeridge Dr. SW
Olympia, WA. 98502-6045
t: (360) 709-3005
f: (360) 754-2939

Public Hearing for the County Rural Rezoning Project – 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: John Sonnen
2000 Lakeridge Drive SW
Building #1, 2nd Floor
Olympia, WA 98502-6045

We have described this project’s hearings fairly thoroughly, in a previous post to this blog.

Green Power and Carbon Offsets – Homeowners Investing in a New Energy Future

Responsible homeowners usually are very interested to learn about ways to save energy and help convert ours to a more sustainable energy economy. I certainly am. Maybe you already recycle, maintain a worm bin, and have replaced single-paned windows with double-panes. You have beefed up the insulation in your home, are using compact fluorescent lighting, and you’ve purchased a car that gets better mileage. What next? I believe that purchasing Green Power, from my electrical utility, and carbon offsets, from any of several different organizations, can help to build the infrastructure that will move us to cleaner, sustainable sources of power.

Green Power

Green Power is one way that homeowners can help foster a market for sustainable energy. While the Federal Government continues to use tax subsidies and other kinds of corporate welfare to support dirty forms of energy which are polluting and not sustainable, many private and some public utilities are offering green power options to their customers. By purchasing green power, energy customers can help move our nation to more secure forms of energy production.

Puget Sound Energy offers Green Power to its customers. Wind, solar and biomass are the primary forms of energy production for this program. PSE customers can participate in the Green Power program for as little as $4 per month, which allows PSE to buy 320 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of renewable energy from sources here in the Pacific Northwest. Additional quantities of Green Power are available in increments of 160 kWh at $2 each.

My home is already heated with a highly-efficient geothermal heat pump. Although mine is an all-electric home, my electrical bills are typically well below a similarly-sized home. For this reason, it was easy for me to choose to purchase 100 percent of my energy from renewable sources. This added $0.0125 per kWh on top of my monthly electric charges.

PSE customer can learn more about Green Power at http://www.pse.com/solutions/GreenPower_SignupHome.aspx.

Carbon Offsets

Another important method of investing in a renewable energy future is to purchase carbon offsets.

Essentially, the idea behind carbon offset is that we all contribute to global warming. We all have a “carbon footprint,” the total carbon dioxide emissions we create when we drive or fly or use electricity. The first steps we can take to fight global warming is to reduce our carbon footprint through conservation. We drive less. Turn down the thermostat. Buy locally produced goods and automobiles which are more fuel-efficient.

With carbon offsets, we can reduce our carbon footprint all the way to zero.

By purchasing carbon offsets, your money funds renewable energy projects such as wind farms. These projects result in verified reductions in greenhouse gas pollution. And these reductions counterbalance your own emissions.

Carbon offsets can be purchased for your home, your car, and for travel. There are even new offsets for large events, such as weddings. Offsets are for home and car are typically purchased for a year at a time. Some travel agencies are now making carbon offset purchases available as part of the ticketing process.

Even Queen Elizabeth, during her recent trip to the U.S., purchased carbon offsets against the greenhouse gasses generated as a result of her aircraft travel.

Collected funds are used to finance projects which are independently verified to produce the carbon offset. Projects typically include clean energy such as wind and biodiesel; biomass such as dairy farm methane; and industrial efficiency.

Carbon offsets are cheaper and easier to purchase than you may think. For example, a 2004 Ford Taurus, driven about 12,000 miles per year, is estimated to produce 9,997 lbs of CO2 per year. An annual carbon offset for this amount of CO2 costs $49.95 or less.

Several entrepreneurs have created consumer-oriented program to make carbon offsets readily available.

Is this cheating? Some environmentalists argue the purchase of carbon offsets provides consumers with a way to buy their way out of the need to actual reduce their carbon footprint. That owner of the 2004 Ford Taurus ought to ride a bicycle and purchase a hybrid car, instead of purchasing carbon offsets and continuing to drive the Taurus. Some have gone so far as to compare carbon offsets to the sale of indulgences, by the Catholic Church, of the kind that led to the rise of Protestantism!

Supporters of carbon offsets argue that, at this point in the creation of our new energy infrastructure, economically viable projects can be funded with carbon offsets. They also argue that purchasers of carbon offsets are typically taking other steps in their lives, to reduce their footprint on the planet.

The purchase of carbon offsets is a legitimate market response to demands that we move away from dirty, non-sustainable energy sources, to cleaner and renewable ones.

In my own case, purchasing carbon offsets for my cars and my home is a useful first step, while I investigate methods of solar water heating and await the arrival of plug-in hybrid automobiles. I am confident the money I am paying in carbon offsets is being used to fund projects which will generate renewable energy far into the future. The purchase of carbon offsets is an important component in my investment in the world my children will inherit.

For more information on purchasing carbon offsets:
On Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbon_offset
A Consumer’s Guide to Retail Carbon Offset Providers (PDF file) from Clean Air – Cool Planet: http://www.cleanair-coolplanet.org/ConsumersGuidetoCarbonOffsets.pdf
TerraPass: http://www.terrapass.com/
The Climate Trust: http://www.climatetrust.org/
DriveNeutral: http://www.driveneutral.org/home
NativeEnergy: http://www.nativeenergy.com/
Zero Footprint: http://www.zerofootprint.net/
“How to Buy a Carbon Offset” from wikiHow: http://www.wikihow.com/Buy-a-Carbon-Offset


Add Your Business or Organization to the Peninsula People Business Directory – Part of the GNA “Welcome” Basket

The Griffin Neighborhood Association is assembling a “welcome basket” for new residents of our area. Velma Rogers, GNA Board member and virtually a “committee of one” assembling this basket of goodies, is asking local residents for their help. Velma wants to include in the basket complete information about local businesses, associations, organizations, and tips of use to new neighbors. An important part of the welcome basket Velma is putting together is the “Peninsula People Business Directory.”

Do you know a local business, organization, association, school or church which you would like to see listed in the first issue of the Peninsula People Business Directory? Ask them to contact Velma directly at 866-0244 or vrogrs8455@aol.com.

Businesses are encouraged to make a donation to the welcome baskets. Flyers, discounts, merchandise samples and so forth are already being included in these baskets. If you are local businessperson, these baskets are a great way to place your business foremost in the minds of new residents and homeowners.

The front cover of the Peninsula People’s Business Directory will feature a photo from the Old Homestead Inn (“Where the simplicity of the farmhouse extends its restful welcome”). This vacation spot, on Hunters Point, was run by Mr. and Mrs. F.A. Schmidt.

For more information regarding the welcome basket, or to get your local business or organization into the Peninsula People Business Directory, contact Velma Rodgers at 866-0244 or vrogrs8455@aol.com.

Water Quality and Shellfish Seminar: Bacteria Tracking in Oakland Bay – June 14

Washington Sea Grant is offering a free Sound Science Seminar that will explore the relationship between shellfish and microorganisms in South Puget Sound. At the seminar, Dr. Scott Meschke (University of Washington) will present “A Microbilogical Toolbox: Application of Environmental Microbiology to the Management of Shellfish-Growing Waters.”

John Konovsky of the Squaxin Island Tribe will talk about tracking bacteria sources in Oakland Bay.

Admission is free but advance registration is required by contacting Teri King, Washington Sea Grant, at 360-432-3054 or guatemal@u.washington.edu.

This presentation is part of a series of Sound Science seminars highlighting University of Washington research affecting the resources, economy and lifestyle of the Puget Sound region. The series is sponsored by the UW Earth Initiative and Washington Sea Grant.

Click here to download the PDF flyer (828 KB) of the event.

Washington Sea Grant Program serves communities, industries and the people of Washington state, the Pacific Northwest and the nation through research, education and outreach by:

  • identifying and addressing important marine issues;
  • providing better tools for management of the marine environment and use of its resources; and
  • initiating and supporting strategic partnerships within the marine community.