Wright’s Crossing loses third appeal of county’s decision

Wright’s Crossing LLC lost a third appeal of an Island County commissioners’ decision blocking a proposed urban growth area expansion and large housing development on North Whidbey.

On Friday, a judge in Thurston County Superior Court ruled in favor of Island County and the group Whidbey Environmental Action Network, or WEAN, which was an intervener in the case. The development group, however, can still appeal to the state Court of Appeals.

Wright’s Crossing was seeking to have a proposed expansion of the city of Oak Harbor’s urban growth area, or UGA, considered on the county planning commission’s comprehensive plan docket in 2017. The county has jurisdiction over UGAs and the proposed expansion would have been necessary for a large-scale residential development south of the city to move ahead.

“It’s an example of classic urban sprawl,” said Steve Erickson of WEAN.

The planning commission recommended against adding the UGA expansion to its docket, a necessary first step.

The commissioners voted to exclude the proposal from the docket. Its inclusion would have required the county to do a buildable lands analysis; one completed in 2016 found there was enough vacant property within Oak Harbor’s UGA to allow for 20 years worth of growth.

Wright’s Crossing argued that new data showing an increase in population requires the county commissioners to open the docket to a UGA expansion and complete a new buildable lands analysis.

Wright’s Crossing appealed to the Growth Management Hearings Board, which ruled in favor of Island County. Wright’s Crossing asked the hearings board to reconsider, but it declined.

The development group then appealed the hearings board decision to Skagit County Superior Court, where a judge dismissed the case. The judge ruled that the court has no jurisdiction over the matter and that the complaint failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.

Wright’s Crossing then appealed to Thurston County Superior Court, where the judge ruled that Island County had no duty to accept the UGA expansion proposal.

Erickson said a ruling in favor of Wright’s Crossing would have caused a “sea change” in growth management planning in the county and across the state if any request for a UGA expansion would have to be docketed.

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