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Home » Archives » September 2006 » In Contrast To Steve Ludwig, Urban Growth Areas Favored

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09/12/2006: "In Contrast To Steve Ludwig, Urban Growth Areas Favored"


I count myself as an environmentalist and I favor many of the positions on the environment that the Green Party espouses. However, I disagree with some of the statements made in a "Guest Editorial" in The Island Guardian, ("SJC's Great Planning Disaster") in August 25, then as a "Guest Opinion" in the Sounder and the Journal on August 30, by Steve Ludwig (the Fall, 2005 Green Party candidate for County Commissioner) condemning the plans for Lopez Village and Eastsound as UGAs (urban growth areas).

Mr. Ludwig does make some good points about water and water table concerns when increasing density in an island community. So whatever growth occurs must be very sensitive to this resource issue. But by not allowing some growth to occur in a more dense and focused area (UGAs), sprawl and its attendant ramifications result. Orcas and Lopez Islands would be populated primarily by rural "ranchettes," which from my perspective is one of the worst land-use policies. This type of development has many varied and idiosyncratic water and sewage treatment systems that are commonly not well managed. Many roads and driveways have to be built to access these remote homes, lots of traffic is generated by daily trips to employment, the market and other resources. If part of our population increases can be housed in a denser village atmosphere, walking and bike riding can be used for routine trips, road building and traffic can be minimized and state-of-the-art sewage treatment and water facilities can be developed. Accommodating increased growth by simply perpetuating large lot rural ranchettes has many negative environmental consequences.

Mr. Ludwig also states that allowing more dwelling units per land parcel, increases the costs for those needing affordable housing. His assumption is correct that a large parcel of land will increase in value as more density is permitted. But here is where I disagree with Ludwig's argument. If a developer were permitted to put more dwelling units on their land in the UGAs, the cost of each new smaller parcel will be less than the original large lot. It is a simple supply and demand issue. If you increase the supply of land for housing by allowing more density in the UGAs, the price of housing will come down. Admittedly, in an expensive "resort" environment the market place may not fully accommodate all the needs for affordable housing. Zoning may have to permit further density bonuses to developers providing affordable housing in the UGAs.

My final disagreement with Mr. Ludwig relates to his comments on the low costs to those needing affordable housing of living in a rural environment. We all pay the costs of poorly managed "on-site" water and sewage treatment facilities, garbage disposal and traffic generated pollution and energy consumption common to many rural settings. Further, those that could least afford it; pay more for commuting longer distances to employment and shopping. His comment about the advantage of letting ones "old cars rust by your house" is unconscionable. As an environmentalist, I'm aware of and concerned about many kinds of pollution and the visual pollution of rusty derelict vehicles in our beautiful environment should certainly be one of our pollution concerns. Additionally, old unused vehicles leach battery and oil contamination into our soil.

I agree with Ludwig's point that we must manage growth so that we avoid the "Greater Puget Sound urban nightmare." But then we differ. In fact, one might say that the problems of Puget Sound land planning in the past have been the prevalence of large rural and suburban lots apparently exactly what Mr. Ludwig wants for the Islands. More density in the UGAs will help us avoid some of the mainland problems. However the UGAs must be managed very carefully so they are developed within the boundaries of our fragile water resources.

Peter Everett
Lopez Island



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