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Friday Harbor's new Sunrise neighborhood aims to be green | Part 1 of 2
On Jan. 19, the Town of Friday Harbor issued a building permit for Sunrise, the San Juan Community Home Trust's newest neighborhood. This is part one of a two-part series on the emerging neighborhood.
Standing on what is becoming the Sunrise neighborhood, it’s hard to believe that this once-rural land of cedars, firs, grasses and ponds is now within the town limits of busy Friday Harbor.
It’s harder still to imagine that by this time next year, these once-mellow 5.12 acres of the former Buck/Boreen property will be an active community of 14 homes and a trail connecting town to Jackson’s Beach.
And that is just the first phase.
The next 20 years will yield completion of a three-phase development consisting of 46 mixed-income and multi-family units on 15 acres. This will be the second neighborhood developed by the San Juan Community Home Trust, a non-profit 501c3 whose mission is to “create permanently affordable housing for low- and moderate-income island residents and support a sustainable island community while practicing responsible stewardship or our rural environment.”
Sunrise (named for its copious amounts of sun exposure) will employ solar for electricity and to heat water, and will feature rainwater catchment systems and an on-site sewage system which will utilize the site’s sandy soil to filter and reclaim wastewater. Combined, these water systems could mean a reduction of Sunrise’s water use by as much as 75 percent. All these green measures could allow for Sunrise to achieve “net zero energy” status.
For Home Trust Treasurer Laura Tuttle, being green is “a way to honor the land and put it to its best possible use — and its most ecological use.”
While the homes themselves demonstrate innovative green thinking, some worry that the biological impact involved with such a large-scale development is not being fully considered. An example of this is the marked concern by some local and regional environmental groups for the welfare of the Island Marble Butterfly.
This invertebrate has only ever been found on Gabriola, Lopez, San Juan and Vancouver islands. Today, however, it exists only on Lopez and San Juan, and has been found in appreciable numbers only at San Juan Island Historical Park. It’s also been found in smaller pockets on the Buck/Boreen property.
(The Buck/Boreen property constitutes the 46 acres that were annexed into Friday Harbor in 2009; 15 of those acres are scheduled to be developed for affordable housing by the Home Trust.)
In a letter to town Land Use Administrator Michael Bertrand, the Xerces Society urged those involved with the development of Sunrise to “work with the Department of Fish and Wildlife to identify habitat and modify the final plan to ensure that areas that are important be protected from development.”
The letter states that Xerces is considering suing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to compel an endangered species listing for “this imperiled animal.” Fish and Wildlife declined to add the butterfly to the endangered species list in 2006.
Despite refusing to list the butterfly as an endangered species, the Department of Fish and Wildlife Service also seems to be concerned for its welfare. In a letter to the Town of Friday Harbor, Fish and Wildlife Department Manager Ken Berg said that although the department refused to add the butterfly as an endangered species, “at that time we committed to continued conservation efforts including coordinating with landowners to protect the species and manage the occupied habitat.”
Berg added, “the Service believes the IMB could be conserved by carefully planning an open space that is free from trampling and that is set aside for the purposes of conserving the IMB.” He said the Service looks forward to working with the town “to address the conservation needs of this rare butterfly before and after the development breaks ground.”
Home Trust Executive Director Nancy DeVaux said the butterflies were found present in one small area at the bottom of the property and could be easily conserved.
“We are working on a butterfly mitigation plan that involves not disturbing them when they are active between March and June,” she said. “We want to fully cooperate with the Department of Fish and Wildlife ... (We) want to save the butterfly too.”
Though Sunrise is a large-scale development, DeVaux said it will be “a model of low-impact development. It’s ushering in a new type of development” others will emulate.