Opinion

SOUNDOFF: Ugly's not zoned, it just happened

I would like to commend Gary Piazzon on his column (Whidbey News-Times, June 8) supporting Island County Design Review. I was raised in Montana where, “You can’t tell me what I can do with my land.” I then lived in Santa Rosa, Calif., where their city was awarded for its city design review. Two opposing sides, 180 degrees. Which is best one may ask?

Montana, which I believe has not even adopted the Uniform Building Code, is losing their quality of life and landscape bit by bit. The Ted Turners and corporations of the world have been buying out the large ranches and locking their gates from the old days of accessing lands for hunting, fishing and hiking. Public lands are the main access for recreation now.

Santa Rosa, on the other hand, has zoned their most public common areas for design review. Their design review board was made of five people, two architects, a landscape architect and two citizens. Design professionals were the majority.

My daughter and I visited El Salvador last August. El Salvador is the most populated country in the Americas. To understand this, the United States has approximately 30 people per square mile; El Salvador has 300 people per square mile! A significant population increase is simply a matter of time for us.

Whidbey Island has a desirable environment and some economy and water to support us today as we know and appreciate it. How does the future look? If we could come back in 100 years we may not appreciate it as much. There is a saying that dead people have more to say about the state of our built environment than we do. People know how to build — just drive through Oak Harbor. Unless we are forward looking and responsible enough to define why we build, we will pass on more remodel work then the future can repair. We don’t zone ugly, it happens.

Design review when required or given an option, insures the property owner that his/her investment will not have something of lesser quality be built next door. Given 100 years, ugly gets too valuable, and it gets remodeled or replaced.

A down side of the assurance of development investment is property values go up so much in the design review zones that kids who grew up in the community cannot afford to live in their own community. For this reason, zones need to be established for the starter business and affordable housing.

We, the people, should support an Island County Design Review process. Change is not a matter of if, but when. Preserve the common space that you love by establishing guidelines that encourages (not guarantees) better design.

Terry LeDesky is a local architect who chairs Island County Historic Preservation Committee which reviews changes in Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve.

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