South Fidalgo Island residents voice concerns about proposed rezoning
Some residents of south Fidalgo Island have voiced concerns that proposed rezoning could dash their dreams of breeding dogs, sharing their land with family or aging in place.
About 50 spoke Tuesday at a Skagit County Planning Commission hearing about proposed rezoning of the area.
The new zone would be called South Fidalgo Rural Residential and would encompass about 4,000 acres previously zoned as Rural Reserve, Planning Commissioner Tim Raschko said at the hearing.
A number of opponents of the rezoning — who made up the majority of speakers — said the rezone is a solution looking for a problem.
They said the changes could threaten their future plans by removing 16 or more special land uses. The result could negatively impact housing, retirement and local business plans, and could encourage growth on the shorelines of the island.
They also said there is a lack of evidence to support the need for a change and that current zoning already protects the area from intensive commercial and industrial uses.
Kathy Pittis, a resident of the area subject to the rezoning and a Port of Anacortes commissioner, said the changes undermine property rights and exacerbate the social divide by limiting the availability of property and opportunities for hard-working property owners.
“I want to ensure to the best of my ability all my children’s chances to grow their family here if they so choose, and not be regulated and zoned out,” she said.
Supporters of the rezoning said it removes special uses with potential commercial applications and prevents developments that could cause increased traffic, noise and negative impacts to aquifer resources on south Fidalgo Island.
It does not change home-based or existing businesses, resident Tom Conroy said.
“The creation of the South Fidalgo Rural Residential zone acknowledges that a new zoning designation is needed to properly address the problematic realities that are unique to islands,” Conroy said.
Supporter Konrad Kurp said the new zone doesn’t change what people are doing already.
“It prevents things which we were threatened with in the past,” Kurp said.
But for many, the problem is what a rezone will do to their future plans.
Bryce Nickel said some of his family members would like to start a greenhouse, but may not be able to if the zone removed wholesale greenhouses and nurseries as a special use.
Residents Bill and Pam Doddridge said they would like to raise and show Bernese mountain dogs, but that could be restricted, too. The new code would not allow kennels, which by definition includes keeping one or more dogs for a commercial purpose such as training or breeding.
The draft code could also restrict Conservation and Reserve Developments density bonuses, which allow people with enough acreage to build additional structures on their property.
Property owner Bill Redding said two of his sons planned on sharing his land in the rezone area, but the change might eliminate the possibility of having three homes there.
“We’ve been working on it together for years, and to have that swept out from under me at my age is immoral,” Redding said.
His son, Jason Redding, said part of the reason he wants to move there is to help care for his parents as they age.
A couple of those in favor of the rezone said they sympathize with some of the concerns of those who oppose it.
Resident Laurie Sherman said while she agrees with some of the concerns, she wants to ensure clean air and water for future generations.
“I feel like together we could probably create a better solution than we have right here, but I know there has to be constraints that we agree to,” she said.