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Camp Casey development plan on agenda

Island County commissioners will decide Monday whether or not they will amend the Island County Comprehensive Plan to establish a Special Review District for Seattle Pacific University’s proposed Camp Casey expansion.

Some citizens’ groups are concerned about the project, which calls for clearing part of the old-growth forest and selling 30 acres on the north end of Camp Casey to fund the expansion.

“It’s equivalent to a museum funding an expansion by selling off its paintings,” Steve Erickson of Whidbey Environmental Action Network (WEAN) said.

The private university seeks to expand Camp Casey’s facilities in order to make it “meet the economic viability objectives set by our Board of Trustees to ensure the Conference Center can be retained by the University,” according to a statement released by the university.

The Master Plan submitted for the Special Review District calls for the construction of an educational center/chapel, six retreat/seminar buildings, up to 50 cabins, additions to the Sea Lab and Mess Hall B, and an interpretive shelter near Crockett Lake.

The development would increase the total number of beds from 670 to 1,030, although “full occupancy” is considered to be 80 percent of capacity, or 535 versus 825 beds.

In November the county determined that an Environmental Impact Statement was not needed for the rezone, removing a significant hurdle for the project.

The Special Review District encompasses 270 acres, 81 on the west side of Engle road, and 189 on the east side.

Most of the development will be in the forested area north of the existing campground. The total area of the development is about 14 acres, with about five acres of the forest to be cleared for roads, parking and construction.

“Special Review” does not mean special treatment, according to Jeff Tate, Island County Planning and Community Development assistant director.

The property’s current Rural Zone designation would allow up to 122 residences on the 270 acres as well as non-residential uses such as mini-storage, golf courses and country inns.

“The current facility . . . could expand under existing code provisions in a very unpredictable and unchecked manner,” Tate said recently.

The Special Review District and accompanying Master Plan would eliminate those uses and “create a long-term management plan that places parameters on future expansion and establishes a predicable set of land use standards for SPU and the community,” Tate said. “It is important to understand that the Master Plan is not a development permit.”

It does not actually authorize construction of any structure or use, but rather establishes the list of structures and uses that may be allowed within the zone. All uses and structures would still require permits.

“What the Master Plan and rezone will do is create a zoning framework that enables SPU and the community to know what permits they may apply for and establishes parameters on what can be allowed.” Tate said.

In addition, Tate said if SPU can’t secure water or can’t demonstrate that they will not adversely impact the forest or can’t meet any of the other standards, the permit won’t be approved.

Plan goes to county Monday

The Camp Casey plan will be on the agenda at the Monday, Dec. 16 meeting of the Island County Commissioners. The Planning and Community Development portion of the commissioners’ meeting starts at 10:30 a.m., with a public comment period at 10 a.m. The meeting will be held at the Island County Law and Justice Facility, 101 NE 6th St., courtroom 3, Coupeville.

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