WEAN sides with county against Oak Harbor
By JESSIE STENSLAND
Whidbey News Times Assistant editor
August 12, 2011 · Updated 2:25 PM
The Whidbey Environmental Action Network, commonly known as WEAN, is well known for bringing litigation against Island County over land-use policy and other environmental issues, having scored major victories on a number of occasions.
But now the environmental watchdog group is siding with the county in a case before the Western Washington Growth Management Hearings Board, the very board which ruled in favor of WEAN and against the county on several key comprehensive planning issues over the years.
Steve Erickson, founder of the South Whidbey organization, said the hearings board granted a motion last month that allows WEAN to intervene in the city of Oak Harbor’s challenge against Island County. Oak Harbor officials are appealing the county’s refusal to allow the city to expand its urban growth area by 180 acres to prepare for future population growth.
Members of WEAN are opposed to the proposed expansion of the city’s urban growth area, which would eventually lead to expansion of the city limits further into farmland.
“The city’s proposed expansion is a boondoggle,” Erickson said. “It is based on wildly inflated population projections that are out to lunch according to the U.S. Census. It would be bad for the environment and the economy, with the taxpayers left holding the bag.”
In another irony, WEAN and the county are going up against Oak Harbor City Attorney Margery Hite, who’s handling the appeal for the city. She used to be on the Western Washington Growth Management Hearings Board and previously ruled on litigation brought by WEAN.
“It’s very peculiar,” said Marianne Edain, a member of WEAN. “In our dealings with Margery Hite, she was always very measured, thoughtful and even-handed.”
Erickson characterized the city’s appeal as “very marginal.”
The city objected to WEAN’s inclusion as an intervening party, but the hearings board rejected the city’s opposition.
This week, Erickson said he asked the hearings board to throw out one of the city’s “primary issues” in its appeal; city officials alleged the county made 16 violations of the Growth Management Act. One of the alleged violations is that the county didn’t give “sufficient deference” to the city’s work.
“Nothing under GMA says that the county has to show deference to the city,” Erickson claimed.
Contact Whidbey News Times Assistant editor Jessie Stensland at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360.675.6611 ext. 5056.