Commissioners dine, dish with League of Women voters

County commissioners voiced approval of early adoption of integrated mental health services and doubts about the Wrights Crossing proposal at a special session meeting with the League of Women Voters Thursday.

Commissioners Jill Johnson, Helen Price Johnson and Rick Hannold met with the league at the Whidbey Golf Club.

One significant topic of discussion was the state’s requirement that all counties integrate mental and physical health care by 2020.

The state is offering financial incentives to regions that decide to do so early, or become what’s called a mid-adopter.

Every county in the North Sound region, composed of Island, San Juan, Skagit, Snohomish and Whatcom counties, must agree to become mid-adopters to move forward.

The commissioners told the meeting they are in favor of taking this step, and so are all but San Juan and Skagit counties.

Johnson encouraged the league to contact commissioners and members of the league chapters in those counties to express support for mid-adoption.

The region has until Oct. 6 to decide.

Price Johnson talked about the need for pressure on the state to keep counties involved in the implementation.

“We’ve been fighting very hard…to advocate for an elected voice,” she said.

Later she added, “I think, should we move forward with the mid-adopter status, one of my conditions for that is that county commissioners retain a seat at the table and some authority in overseeing those funds.”

There was also a question about the proposed Wrights Crossing development in Oak Harbor.

The county recently received an application for development of 1,500 houses that would require significant zoning changes to complete.

This topic elicited visible frustration from the commissioners.

“There’s a lot of misconception about how the board feels about that project, or, at least, how I feel about that project,” said Johnson.

“I don’t have an opinion about that project at all, because there’s no point.”

The city recently ratified a buildable lands analysis, which showed that Oak Harbor had enough capacity within in its city limits to sustain projected population growth, she said.

This proposal would require the proposed land be annexed into the city in order to get the zoning required for the density needed to develop, she said.

“It’s very simple —- there’s enough buildable land inside the city limits,” said Hannold.

He also said the development would more be under the label of workforce housing than affordable housing.

Price Johnson disapproved of the application because she wants to preserve agriculture and the rural landscape of the county.

Johnson expressed frustration at the lack of public hearings held by Oak Harbor regarding this topic.

“That city and their leadership needs to step up and say what they want, and they need to tell their citizens what they want,” said Johnson.

During the meeting the commissioners also discussed completed projects, such as the critical areas update and plans for future projects, such as a larger solid waste facility.

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