Opinion

'This annexation, and its companion as proposed by the county, is long overdue' | John M. Campbell

An open letter to the Friday Harbor Town Council,

This annexation, and its companion as proposed by the county, is long overdue.

In evaluating this proposal, it is necessary to review closely both the staff report by Mr. Bertrand and an earlier report by county Planning Director Ron Henrickson dated Aug 24, 2007. The latter report projects San Juan Island population growth, as mandated by GMA, that can only be accommodated in the Town of Friday Harbor.

How this growth will be accomplished is, or should have been (RCW 36.70A.210), determined in Countywide Planning Policies in 1991 to address:

— Policies for promotion of orderly development and provision of urban services.

— Policies that consider the need for affordable housing.

— Analysis of the fiscal impact.

The issue is not whether to annex both the Buck property and Phase II as described in the attachment, but when and on what terms. Unfortunately, the Countywide Planning Policies provide little specificity on those terms.

By 2027, the county projects that the town will have grown by 2,928 people — growth of 130 percent, or 1,355 dwellings. The vast majority will be low- and moderate-income, requiring some form of assisted housing in this high-cost market. Unfortunately missing in both reports is an analysis in accordance with WAC 365-195-310 which includes:

— “Evaluation of the extent to which the existing and projected market can provide housing at various costs and for various income levels.

— “Estimation of the present and future extent of populations in the planning area which require assistance to obtain housing they can afford.

— “Incorporation of county-wide planning policies on affordable housing and parameters for the distribution of such housing. This should include identification of the share of affordable housing to be provided by the planning jurisdiction and how it will be achieved. In some cases, it may be appropriate for a jurisdiction to provide assistance for the location of affordable housing elsewhere.”

Also missing is evidence of any discussion of the type of housing the town wants to encourage, i.e. houses, cottages, apartments, mobile homes, etc.

Town Housing Goal HO-4 states:

“Assure that the town of Friday Harbor retains its residential character by maintaining the current ratio of 70% single-family detached homes and 30% multi-family apartments."

This is a reasonable and worthy goal. It should be noted that the county analysis assumes a ratio of 70 percent multifamily and 30 percent single-family detached, exactly the opposite of HO-4.

One affordable-housing developer, Homes for Islanders, much prefers to build single-family detached homes but available land is exclusively zoned multi-family. Under GMA, counties must allocate population but towns have the discretion to determine the character and densities they will adopt.

The proposal before you proposes a 48-acre annexation that will include 120 affordable units and 120 market units for an average overall density of 5 units per acre, entirely consistent with the residential character described by HO-4.

The Town Staff Report does not analyze proposed growth by income or need but the Town Housing Element (page 9) anticipates that 64 percent will be low-income. This annexation should reflect that distribution. Further, market rate sales should be limited to achieving the affordable housing growth targets as the county does with PUD affordable housing density bonuses.

The proposed Development Agreement (Section A, page 3 and 4) proposes that the affordable housing be “perpetually affordable” for a minimum of 198 years to households earning up to 120 percent of median. I hope our low-income households will not be forgotten here. Perpetual is a long time. The Home Trust plans to be perpetual and we hope they succeed.

Needs, conditions and people change, however. To restrict the land beyond the useful life of affordable housing, probably 50 years, is unrealistic public policy, a discouraging precedent and future trouble when present needs and funding sources are history. A time bomb.

In conclusion, I urge you to:

— Proceed with annexation of the Buck property and Phase II.

— Establish a Capital Facilities financing plan that will allocate costs so as not to burden the (largely low-income) residents of the town, nor the prospective low-income residents unduly, by insuring county participation.

As a consequence of Growth Management, the county working population has seen the extinction of the American Dream of a house on a small lot. At the same time, county property owners have enjoyed extraordinary property appreciation as the supply of both rural and urban land has been sharply limited. Those gains should help support the costs to our increasingly disenfranchised working families.

— Encourage the Home Trust to pursue perpetual affordability but limit any town affordable restriction to the useful economic life of affordable housing, which is not more than 50 years.

Yours truly,

John M. Campbell, AIA
Orcas

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