This was originally posted to: Guemes Island Planning Advisory Committee

GIPAC Appeals Hearing Examiner’s Approval of Young’s Park

GIPAC Appeals Skagit County Hearing Examiner’s Approval of Young’s Park Project

On July 28, 2023, the Skagit County Hearing Examiner issued the following summary of decision:

“The request for a Special Use Permit to construct a public overflow parking area for seven vehicles, a public hiking trailhead, and a lot for the stockpiling of materials related to road improvement and maintenance, all on the 12.79 acre parcel of Young’s Park on the northeast side of Guemes Island, is APPROVED.”

A year earlier, starting in April, 2022, Skagit County Public Works cleared more than 2/3rds of an acre of forest on Young’s Park upper land off of the private Forest Lane road and completed movement of road material which had been historically stored at the School House Park in the middle of the island to this new site.  Residents of North Beach asked some of the drivers of the parade of large diesel dump trucks hauling gravel what was up.  All the driver’s knew was that a request had come down to move the gravel to clear the area for parking at School House Park.  No preliminary announcement or permit applications had been made by the County for this project. The materials were moved in time for the opening day ceremony in May for the stage project completed by the Guemes Island Community Center Association (GICCA).  GICCA had been granted a Special Use Permit in 2021 which required increased parking for Schoolhouse Park.  As a result, there was no longer room for the material stockpile at Schoolhouse Park. With completion of movement of the gravel, the site at Young’s Park was left with a cable blocking its entrance.

In late December, 2022, the County Planning and Development Services Department issued the first public description of the project when, as required by State law, it performed a preliminary State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) review.  The deadline for public comment was February 10, 2023.  The public learned that in addition to materials storage, ditch spoils could be temporarily stored at the site.  Seven parking places would be created and the site was designated as a “trail head” for the trails leading into Young’s Park- of which there were none.  Despite numerous written public comments received expressing a range of concerns about the project, including the environmental hazards of ditch spoil run off  and the routing of large diesel dump trucks through densely populated neighborhoods, the County issued a Mitigated Determination of Non-Significance (MDNS) on March 21, 2023.  This meant that the project did not pose an environmental disturbance that would necessitate a full State SEPA review.  The appeal deadline for this MDNS was April 6, 2023.  (In the subsequent filing for a Special Use Permit for this project, the County noted that no one appealed the MDNS in the required time.)

With the project exonerated from full State SEPA review, the County next filed a Special Use Permit for the already completed project.  Permits for projects in Skagit County are normally required before construction begins.  The Young’s Park Access and Material Stockpiling Special Use Permit, PL22-0603, was the subject of a public hearing before the Hearing Examiner on June 28, 2023.  By this time the County had received 17 written letters or email comments pointing out the major problems with the site including the cost of storing material at the extremity of the island from the Guemes Island ferry landing to opposing the project’s run-off from ditch spoils.  GIPAC had written a letter before the February 10 deadline opposing the project but especially noting that the County had followed none of its own permitting procedures prior to its physical completion.  

At the June 28th hearing, after hours of waiting as the Hearing Examiner took testimony regarding another permit application, Yadi Young pointed out that Young’s Park had been set up in honor of her husband Gerald Young, a medal of honor recipient, as a park.  Changing the designation to Public Use to allow material storage violated the original intent in setting the land aside as a “park.” She pointed out that the land had been deeded in her husband’s name to the City of Anacortes as a park.  Her husband, who suffered from what is now known as PTSD, enjoyed going to this quiet area with fellow vets. His friend who owned the 12.79 acre parcel favored by Young, donated it to the City of Anacortes Parks.  In 1978, the City of Anacortes deeded the property as a park to Skagit County for $1.00.  Despite this legal point and the testimony of 6 other islanders against the project at the June 28th hearing, the Hearing Examiner as quoted above, approved the Special Use Permit on July 28, 2023.

On August 9, 2023, GIPAC filed its appeal of the Hearing Examiner’s approval of the Young’s Park Special Use Permit within the 14 day deadline for such action.   Appeals of Hearing Examiners decisions follow a specific procedure.  An appeal first goes to the Board of County Commissioners.  After the disappointing hearing of June 28th, the GIPAC Board concurred that the Hearing Examiner would likely grant the Special Use Permit. The GIPAC Board voted to appeal the decision and released its attorney to draft the appeal. 

The GIPAC appeal argues for the reversal of the Hearing Examiner’s Decision.  It sites numerous errors made in the approval process including the fact that the Anacortes Park’s deed to the County states its use “solely for public park purposes”. Changing the designation of the property to Public Use to allow material storage is specifically not a “park purpose.”  The project also claims a trail head to trails that do not exist.  The site is accessed from a private road, Forest Lane.  This site for material storage is as far from the Guemes Ferry landing as can be reached by road.  County Public Works will spend more to move material to and from this site at a time when that department is complaining bitterly that Guemes Island is costing too much money. The appeal notes a series of other major issues including safety and health due to large diesel dump trucks moving through heavily populated neighborhoods on narrow roads with no shoulders.  

GIPAC is a Washington nonprofit corporation charted in relation to the 1990 Growth Management Act.  GIPAC’s mission is to sustain Guemes Island’s rural character and natural environment.  The County fees to file this appeal came to $916.89.  The costs for the legal services to draft the appeal are yet to be determined.  If the Board of County Commissioners supports the findings of the County Hearing Examiner, the next step is to appeal the case to the Superior Court of Skagit County.  GIPAC will appreciate tax deductible donations to sustain this legal action relative to the disposition of Young’s Park.   Please mail funds to: 

7549 H Guemes Island Road
Anacortes WA 98221

You may also donate online to GIPAC.

 -Steve Orsini