Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Breaking news...

Aug. 29, 2011: updates below ...
Industrial zoning near homes returns
   The La Conner Town Council on Tuesday reversed itself on a vote to deny the Upper Skagit Tribe a zone change to industrial use on land it purchased adjacent to a residential neighborhood.
   The Council voted 3-2 to not adopt a resolution that would have made final a decision it made in June to deny the zone change. 
   In June residents from the affected neighborhood, which is on the south end of town along Caledonia Street, turned out at public hearings and objected to the zone change. Now the zone change is back on the table.

Councilman Stuart Welch weighs in…
Last night’s council meeting was a lesson from the current Administration in how to overcome the message of the Towns Citizens. The recent decision of the Planning commission and the Town Council to not give a carte blanch  Industrial rezone to The Upper Skagit Tribal community property was overturned.  I opposed this decision based on the numerous public comments and large number of people that attended hearing that clearly outlined town residents concern about the impact on Maple Ave and the South end of Town. The Administration argues that living wage jobs could be created and that the impact on the adjacent property would somehow mitigated.
 The only proposed project mentioned by the Upper Skagit Tribe was fish processing. For those of you in the fishing business this is not news, gutting and cleaning fish currently is a living wage job for people from the Philippines or the Ukraine who serve as the contractors for the fish processing industry. This type of industry is seasonal and operates around the clock during peak fishing times. Residents spoke strongly against increased truck traffic and idling trucks in an area that has become family friendly. It was also pointed out that property values, already depressed would suffer even more.
The adjacent La Conner Associates property {Moore Clark} represents many years of community input that finally led to a decision to allow Residential Commercial development.  There was a recent presentation to the Town Council, by a group that proposed the development of a time share complex complete with a spa and restaurant.  Most town residents I speak to would love to see that end of town cleaned up and become an attractive and productive part of our Town. Locating an industrial facility adjacent to this property would make it difficult at best to realize this hope.
I was elected to represent the people of La Conner, which I respect when making decisions. Listening to what people have to say is my job. Siding with a new found developing interest to the extent of changing the Comprehensive Town Plan indicates some are not listening. I would ask that all those who spoke out on this matter to attend the next meeting and speak louder.
Stuart Welch

And the plot thickens ....
From Councilwoman Cindy Tracey:
The Mayor and the Administrator did a sleight-of-hand trick last night with the Town Council agenda, when they had the Town Council vote again on the rezoning of the property at the south end of La Conner, stating that the Town’s Attorney needed to create legalese and the council needed to approve the wording. 
There was not any discussion on the wording of the Resolution.  Instead, the Mayor presented to the council as adopting the Resolution (That had already been adopted on June 14, 2011).   This was done with the community being unaware that the La Conner Town Council was going to be forced to vote again on this topic. 
What happened was that the council reversed the decision that we made on June 14th 2011.  This occurred as a result of a private meeting between the Mayor and the Administrator, yesterday, with Councilwoman Hubbard, to encourage her to change her vote, and thus reversing her previous vote.   Using fear tactics and political wrangling, it worked.   I was told by John Doyle the Administrator that I was not allowed or invited to attend this meeting. 
 In June a Public Hearing was called to discuss this change.  Nearly 40 residents from the town were at that meeting and all but one spoke out against making any changes to the zoning.  This had also been discussed at several Public Hearings held by the Planning Commission.  The Planning Commission had rejected the zoning change in a four to one vote. 
The Mayor and the Administrator spoke out in support of the change by listing many reasons, like that the Skagit Tribe is a valuable partner, good neighbor, creates economic diversity, creates living wage jobs, and that they would be a dredging partner for the channel.    I directly asked the Attorneys for the Skagit Tribe, why they had spent 6 Million Dollars on a property that was zoned commercial, when they planned all along to have it changed to industrial? The Mayor interrupted my questioning and I never did get an answer to that question. 
But I still want an answer!   And yet, several industrial buildings lay empty at the north end of town, where there is no rapprochement to a residential area.  
However clearly the residents in the area were and have been vehemently opposed to the change.  They not only were out in numbers, but several wrote letters and signed petitions in opposition, The vote was taken and the council voted three to two to agree with the Planning Commission’s recommendation. 
I volunteered and ran to be a member of the council to listen to the requests of the citizens of the community and vote in defense of their requests and needs.  Most of the homes at the south end of town were built well after a fish plant existed at the south end of town.  Their concerns of increased truck traffic and reduced home values as a result of the zoning change were at the heart of my decision and vote to not approve the change.  Only five years previous I listened to many residents request that the zoning be changed from industrial to commercial as a part of our comprehensive plan and the vision for our town. 
Last night I made a motion to have another Planning Hearing, to get additional community comments.  This motion was passed by the council three to two.  However the Mayor said it was not legal and he would have to ask the Town Attorney.
Why even ask the community what they want?  Are Public Hearings just more of the Mayor and the Administers, political staging?  Councilman Jacques Brunisholtz stated last night this is not a democracy and you, the community, get no vote.  Really?  Is it a dictatorship?  Well you do have a vote and you can cast your ballot on November 8th 2011.  I encourage you to utilize your right and make your vote for democracy count!
Cindy Tracey
Councilwoman #3

Updates from Cindy Tracey

I would like to post a correction to my previous note in reference to a private meeting between Councilwoman Hubbard, Town administrator John Doyle and Mayor Hayes. On Friday, in a personal discussion with Mayor Ramon Hayes he said “that he neither attended nor instigated the meeting with Councilwoman Hubbard.”  I apologize for this error in my previous post.  At the time, It was my understanding that he was in attendance at that meeting.

UPDATE, Aug. 29:
I am still attempting to sort things out on last week’s Council vote after reviewing our meeting minutes from June 14, 2011.
From the minutes:
There were about 35-40 people in attendance and twelve people spoke at that meeting.  9 spoke in keeping the zoning the same and 3 spoke to change it to Industrial.
Mayor Hayes said that he had received two letters opposed to the rezoning and several letters regarding mitigation of lighting and noise issues.
 Councilmember Hubbard read from the council minutes from September 26, 2006 that originally changed the zoning from industrial to commercial stating that Council member O’Donnell did approve of the change to commercial at that time.  (He was one of the 3 community members who spoke in favor of the rezoning, reversing his previous vote.)
Councilmember Hubbard then stated that the Upper Skagit Tribe knew the property was zoned commercial when they purchased the property.  She also stated she is to represent the residents of La Conner, and the majority does not want the zoning change.  Then councilmember Hubbard moved to reject the rezone requested by the Upper Skagit Tribe and to amend the zoning map of the Comprehensive Plan and put forward the Planning Commissions recommendation of retaining the commercial zoning and draft findings of fact.  It was seconded by Councilmember Welch.  Carried 3 to 2. 
What is missing from official minutes is a request by the Town’s Attorney Brad Furlong that he would be allowed to create wording of the rejection of the resolution that we “had just voted on” that would be presented at a later date.  This was the “legalese”  it appears we were to approve last Tuesday. 
This is where things got very confusing and why I am so upset. It appears we were asked to “again” vote on the zoning change, not simply the wording of the rejection of the zoning change. I am totally confused as to how the resolution could come back up for additional vote when it was rejected 3 to 2 on June 14. It was listed on the agenda August 23, as Resolution-Upper Skagit Rezone Decision (Action-Discussion/Approval). Again I state, when the resolution had already been rejected, shouldn’t the agenda item have been, To Review and Approve and Resolution (rejection) Language-Upper Skagit Rezone Decision?
 As an attempt to head off what appeared to be a reversal of our previous decision as a result of Councilwoman Hubbard reversing her position now approving the zoning request, I made a request for another Public Hearing which we were told may or may not be approved by the Administration or the Attorney.
As I stated before, this whole second vote seems to be and attempt by the administration and the mayor to do an end run around the previously failed vote. Can anyone who has served in Town government comment as to the legality of what took place last week? If you are as confused and upset as I am about what appears to be the first step in reversing the previous vote please take a moment to call town hall at 466-3125 and let them know how you feel and plan to attend our next Council meeting scheduled for Tuesday, September 13, 2011 at 6 p.m. in Upper Maple Hall.  
Also, for some reason, the only minutes that are missing from the Town website that lists all the agendas and council minutes, are the minutes from the June 14, 2011 meeting.

No comments:

Post a Comment