Keep the Exchange at transfer station | Guest column

by Kyle Carver

We’re all ready for the new Exchange.  It’s a vital part of our community, moving toward a zero waste goal.  But the current relocation plan doesn’t add up.  The Exchange should remain where it is.  The transfer station is zoned “Rural Industrial” for a reason – you don’t put a recycling center in the middle of an existing neighborhood.   Also, why create a situation where people have to make two stops to get rid of their waste?  Then a possible third stop if The Exchange refuses to accept an item.  That was the beauty of the old Exchange, one-stop shopping (and dumping).

We live across from the proposed site.  Our property is one of four 30-acre parcels that have land bank easements.  We were not looking for land bank property, but we understood the importance of protecting our farmlands.  The parcels can never be divided and the fields will always be preserved for agriculture.  Allowing a retail business, that involves so much industry and traffic, sets a bad precedence.  This would create the largest commercial impact this area has ever experienced.

Current zoning lists the site as “Agricultural Resource.”  Contrary to the ORS website, the proposed property is not grandfathered.  The previous covenant for this property expired in 2001.  Relocating The Exchange would change this section of the island forever.  Traffic would vastly increase, as well as the noise and light pollution from the day-to-day workings of the business.  This footprint will never get smaller, or quieter.  Next door to the site, the Old Trout Inn has been operating for almost 25 years.  Its website entices travelers to “Escape to tranquility.”  It’s hard to believe that more than 5,000 community users of The Exchange won’t disrupt this tranquility.

The environmental impact is also a huge concern.  The potential for pollutants alone should be enough to prevent this experiment.  The property sits across from three wetland ponds and the confluence of two streams that feed the pond between The Old Trout Inn and the proposed site.  The stream then travels through the West Sound Watershed that feeds the West Sound aquifer.  Let’s remember that the old Exchange created a huge amount of pollutants when it burned.

This is a big deal.  There are valid concerns about the current condition of the proposed property, but bringing in an island-wide service center is not the answer to cleaning up this site.  Over 5,000 local residents will be using this recycling and composting center, not to mention the tourists that stop by.  The Exchange should remain next to the transfer station, in the established “Rural Industrial” zone.  Why relocate something that has worked for years at the risk of changing our island forever?

We love The Exchange, in fact maybe a little too much.  It’s run by a great group of people that are a part of what keeps this community special.  We’re unconditional supporters of The Exchange (at the transfer station) and we’re excited for it to reopen.  Let’s keep Crow Valley agricultural and The Exchange in its current location!

 

Kyle Carver is a filmmaker on Orcas Island.