“Rural” sewer lines continue to frustrate UGA compliance

  • Wed Nov 5th, 2008 8:00am
  • News

Oct. 30 was the “final” extension date for the County to make its case to the Growth Management Hearings Board (GMHB) that it had met the requirements for Eastsound’s Urban Growth Area (UGA).

But he GMHB struggled with the impasse on the extension of sewer lines beyond the UGA boundaries that has placed the sewer district and the county at odds for the past two years.

Before adjourning the meeting, the GMHB asked the County for more information, most of it concerning the process by which the Eastsound Sewer and Water District (ESWD) provides sewer service.

Oct. 30 was the deadline for the County to present its case to the GMHB that San Juan County had met the elements of compliance with the GMHB’s 2006 ruling on the Eastsound Urban Growth Area (UGA). Eastsound UGA compliance is an essential factor for the County to comply with the state’s Growth Management Act (GMA). Compliance is necessary for funding and continued building, county officials have contended.

During the hearing at the Eastsound Fire Hall, the three-member GMHB panel, led by Examiner Holly Gadbaw, considered whether the ESWD’s plans expanded urban services outside the boundaries of the UGA. They also considered the adequacy of the land-use analysis for the UGA.

Petitioners opposing the county’s case were Dorothy Austin, John Campbell and Fred Klein.

They first challenged the land use analysis for the Eastound UGA, stating the county had allowed “substantial” allowing commercial and institutional growth within the Eastsound Village Residential Zone in the last 10 years.

Campbell questioned whether the analysis had “adequate provision for affordable housing in the UGA.” He said, “The county would benefit from a wake-up call to find affordable housing for all segments of the population … Only a finding of invalidity would get the county’s attention.”

Klein quoted from county correspondence with the GMHB, which said that the County’s greatest hurdle in complying with the UGA – the requirement for an adequate capital facilities plan – was “due to ESWD’s attempts to extend services outside the UGA.”

A condition of UGA compliance is that no new urban-level services, connections or contracts may be made outside the UGA, said Klein, again quoting county correspondence. ESWD sewer lines east of the UGA boundaries provides this “urban level” of services, in violation of the GMA’s “anti-sprawl” directives.

While Klein allowed that ESWD’s plans were “proactive, in view of health, safety and environmental” concerns, he said, “The county brushed aside ESWD’s concerns and adopted the capital facilities plan.”

The ESWD plan shows that extension of sewer connections beyond the UGA boundaries is scheduled.

“The clear implication is that the UGA is too small,” Klein argued. He also said that the land-use analysis was flawed in that it overstates the land-use capacity, and gave examples of facilities already in existence on what is defined as undeveloped land.

Dorothy Austin said that the issues of Eastsound UGA compliance “conflict 100 percent with the San Juan County Vision Statement,” resulting in a “mismatch of rural, maritime, archipelago [attributes of San Juan County] and fiscal realities.” She urged that Limited Areas of More Intensive Rural Development (LAMIRDs) be considered to change UGA policy.

Assistant County Prosecutor Jon Cain addressed the land supply analysis first in his comments to the GMHB. He said that, based on population growth, the county projects that 449 additional residential units are required within the Eastsound UGA to provide adequate growth.

An additional 25 percent or 112 units were added into the analysis so that land that may not be developed fro residential uses is accounted for. Another 112 units were added to consider the “seasonal homes” factor.

Adding in those factors, Cain said, meant that 673 units were needed “to make sure there is enough land for 449 units,” adding in non-residential and seasonal home factors. He said that the analysis shows that there are 687 units available.

In sizing the UGA and providing the Land Supply Analysis, Cain noted that “The County is not an oracle or required to define what use is designated for what land. The purpose [of the land supply analysis] is to accommodate projected demand.”

Regarding the extension of sewer service beyond UGA boundaries, Cain said that it is was not a compliance issue addressed by the GMHB in its 2006 compliance order. He added that the county won’t issue sewer permits in areas outside the UGA.

Hearing examiner Gadbaw state that sewer service planned or financed before 2001 would be allowed but “nothing else.”

She asked if the county had permitted development outside of the UGA. Cain said that county policy was to permit only septic tank service outside the UGA boundaries, but Klein noted that connections to sewer lines outside the UGA had been allowed in 2007.

Gadbaw questioned whether the ESWD is required to get permits from the county, and Cain said that ESWD’s plans and permits are submitted to the Department of Health. GMA doesn’t give the county authority over sewer district actions, Cain asserted.

Gadbaw argued that the ESWD has to comply with county land use plans, and that outside the UGA, the County has authority in permit approval to look at how sewage is disposed of.

“It looks like the sewer district has plans to extend lines well beyond the UGA,” Gadbaw said,

“Outside of granting a [right-of-way] franchise [which allows installation of sewer lines on county roads] I’m not sure there’s anything the county can do,” Cain said.

The hearing examiners asked for the county to report the number of permits outside the UGA that have been issued to the sewer district in the last five years.

It also requested information on the number of existing lots, originally permitted for septic service, that have been connected to sewer lines since the ordinance establishing UGA boundaries.

A further answer is sought on what county permits are needed for sewer lines, and previous agreements that allowed the ESWD public right-of-way franchises, and the percentage of existing lots in residential zones devoted to institutional and commercial uses.

The information is to be provided by Nov. 20.