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Growth board scolds Island County factions

"The Western Washington Growth Management Hearings Board listened politely to the ongoing disagreements between the county, environmentalists and property-rights advocates Wednesday afternoon. But first, they gave the litigants a good tongue-lashing.Speaking for the three-person panel, board member William Nielsen strongly reprimanded the county's hired legal consultant Keith Dearborn, Whidbey Environmental Action Network spokesman Steve Erickson and land-use planner Tom Roehl for dragging pettiness and personality conflicts into the process of growth planning.We are disheartened, disappointed and frankly mad about the proliferation of personal attacks that have pervaded both the public hearings on these matters and the briefings, Nielsen said. The three of you have set an all time standard for lowness in personal attacks.The state growth board was in Coupeville Wednesday to face another round of appeal and defense motions involving portions of the county's 20-year Comprehensive Plan. The board oversees county compliance with the state's 1990 Growth Management Act and makes judgements on legal appeals to plans.Nielsen said that in the board's eight years of hearing hundreds of cases throughout Western Washington they had never before felt the need to chastise the participants for what he called a lack of focus, niggling and a deluge of triviality.We have had briefs and briefs and briefs that have said the same thing over and over and over again, he told them. It is an insult to our intelligence and our experience.Throughout the last two years of the county's long planning process Roehl, Dearborn and Erickson have often been at odds over development issues. Now, as the Comprehensive Plan nears completion, some of the most contentious disagreements remain and a certain amount of frustration and nastiness is starting to show.It sometimes comes across as sarcastic verbal jabs during meetings and has also shown up in written documents. Nielsen said he had never seen such posturing by participants and announced that the board had seen and heard enough.It is not our place nor do we care about somebody's impure thoughts or improper motives. Did the county comply or did it not? That's the end of the question, he said.Nielsen did not play favorites. Mister Dearborn, we know your ability ... we know your reputation. We are disappointed, he said. Then he turned to Erickson.Your petulance and feeling that you are being attacked ... does not wear any better on you than it does on Ken Griffey Jr.Nielsen then addressed Roehl pointing out that the growth board had gone out of their way to allow him into the proceedings in the first place.All we see is ranting and personal attacks in briefs, he said. You do not represent the public with a capital P any more that Mr. Erickson and his group.Nielsen told the trio that if he saw any such behavior during the Wednesday hearing he would give one warning. After a second incident, the offending party would no longer be permitted to speak at the meeting.With that, the hearing proceeded without a problem. At the end, Nielsen thanked the participants for a good presentation."

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