Opinion

SOUNDOFF: Why county can't buy Krueger Farm

Many letters have been written recently concerning the Island County Conservation Futures Fund (CFF), the ordinance requiring equalization among commissioner districts and the Krueger Farm. This year, the CFF has approximately $287,000 available and there were no applications from eligible Districts 2 or 3 requesting these funds. As such the funds will be carried over until next year so available funding will be more.

In preparing for their comprehensive plan update, the town of Coupeville proposed a development plan for the property within the town's Urban Growth Area known as the Krueger Farm. The reaction from local citizens was one of opposition to further development of the property. The Friends of Krueger Farm formed an organization and were successful in negotiating an option on the property with the owner to preserve it as a park. When you have a willing buyer and a willing seller, government has no part to play in that transaction. It is important to note that at no time did the town of Coupeville, in their plan, set this area aside for a park nor have they ever requested county assistance in bringing this to reality.

The major doctrine of the Growth Management Act is to promote development within urban growth areas and relieve the pressure in the rural areas. The county and Coupeville have an interlocal agreement wherein both parties have agreed that the existing city limits will comprise the town's urban growth area. Even though both parties recognize that to be compliant with GMA urban growth is to be directed to the town, we agreed there were available lands within town limits to accommodate population projections. Krueger Farm partially represents that available land. It has also been suggested that legislation passed in the last legislative session envisioned this very thing. The legislation was passed to accommodate some existing rural zoning within the town's Urban Growth Area. Coupeville has some limited amounts of land that were zoned, with the agreement of the property owner, at one dwelling unit per five acres around the fringes of the town's limits. If anyone challenged this zoning, and the legislation had not been approved, Coupeville would have had to change the zoning to urban densities.

In the early years of the CFF, the majority of the funds were spent in District 1. The two largest purchases were Greenbank Farm and Double Bluff. At the time of approval of purchase of Greenbank Farm, the split between District 1 was $5,510,440 (including the farm); North Whidbey $658,528 and Camano Island $0. District 2 and 3 Commissioners supported the purchase of Greenbank Farm, however, considering that 60 percent of the Conservation Futures money is generated on North Whidbey and Camano Island, they decided the tax expenditures had to be more geographically representative since the split was then at 89 percent South and Central Whidbey; 11 percent North Whidbey and 0 percent Camano. At the time of approval, I voted against the ordinance, however, I respect that it is the current law of Island County and cannot be simply set aside.

One aspect of the ordinance was that it would be reviewed on a 5-year basis. I have reviewed it annually in order to determine when parity would be achieved and projects could again be funded in my district.

The CFF is a competitive program and applications are judged on their merit and ranked against each other. We cannot simply allow one application to be funded in District 1 when there are other applicants that would have applied if they believed there was a funding possibility.

I wish Friends of Krueger Farm success but for the reasons I have explained, CFF cannot be the source of funding to complete the sale.

Mike Shelton represents District 1 (South and Central Whidbey) on the Board of Island County Commissioners.) This year, the CFF has approximately $287,000 available and there were no applications from eligible Districts 2 or 3 requesting these funds. As such the funds will be carried over until next year so available funding will be more.

In preparing for their comprehensive plan update, the town of Coupeville proposed a development plan for the property within the town's Urban Growth Area known as the Krueger Farm. The reaction from local citizens was one of opposition to further development of the property. The Friends of Krueger Farm formed an organization and were successful in negotiating an option on the property with the owner to preserve it as a park. When you have a willing buyer and a willing seller, government has no part to play in that transaction. It is important to note that at no time did the town of Coupeville, in their plan, set this area aside for a park nor have they ever requested county assistance in bringing this to reality.

The major doctrine of the Growth Management Act is to promote development within urban growth areas and relieve the pressure in the rural areas. The county and Coupeville have an interlocal agreement wherein both parties have agreed that the existing city limits will comprise the town's urban growth area. Even though both parties recognize that to be compliant with GMA urban growth is to be directed to the town, we agreed there were available lands within town limits to accommodate population projections. Krueger Farm partially represents that available land. It has also been suggested that legislation passed in the last legislative session envisioned this very thing. The legislation was passed to accommodate some existing rural zoning within the town's Urban Growth Area. Coupeville has some limited amounts of land that were zoned, with the agreement of the property owner, at one dwelling unit per five acres around the fringes of the town's limits. If anyone challenged this zoning, and the legislation had not been approved, Coupeville would have had to change the zoning to urban densities.

In the early years of the CFF, the majority of the funds were spent in District 1. The two largest purchases were Greenbank Farm and Double Bluff. At the time of approval of purchase of Greenbank Farm, the split between District 1 was $5,510,440 (including the farm); North Whidbey $658,528 and Camano Island $0. District 2 and 3 Commissioners supported the purchase of Greenbank Farm, however, considering that 60 percent of the Conservation Futures money is generated on North Whidbey and Camano Island, they decided the tax expenditures had to be more geographically representative since the split was then at 89 percent South and Central Whidbey; 11 percent North Whidbey and 0 percent Camano. At the time of approval, I voted against the ordinance, however, I respect that it is the current law of Island County and cannot be simply set aside.

One aspect of the ordinance was that it would be reviewed on a 5-year basis. I have reviewed it annually in order to determine when parity would be achieved and projects could again be funded in my district.

The CFF is a competitive program and applications are judged on their merit and ranked against each other. We cannot simply allow one application to be funded in District 1 when there are other applicants that would have applied if they believed there was a funding possibility.

I wish Friends of Krueger Farm success but for the reasons I have explained, CFF cannot be the source of funding to complete the sale.

Mike Shelton represents District 1 (South and Central Whidbey) on the Board of Island County Commissioners.)

We encourage an open exchange of ideas on this story's topic, but we ask you to follow our guidelines for respecting community standards. Personal attacks, inappropriate language, and off-topic comments may be removed, and comment privileges revoked, per our Terms of Use. Please see our FAQ if you have questions or concerns about using Facebook to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus

Read the latest Green Edition

Browse the print edition page by page, including stories and ads.

Nov 1 edition online now. Browse the archives.

Friends to Follow

View All Updates