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Friday, July 15th

SJI School District on Ball Fields & Road Access



A primary mission of the San Juan Island School District is to provide excellence in teaching and learning, and to provide outstanding co-curricular experiences for our students. We have written several articles outlining the District's current choices and challenges relative to shrinking operational budgets, and other budget challenges such as high cost special education placements. We have acted responsibly to make the difficult program cuts necessary to ensure a balanced operating budget for the 2005-06 school year.

A secondary mission of the District has been to provide the only public athletic field facilities available to this community. In fact, the School District is the primary provider of such facilities as described in the Town's comprehensive plan. The voters generously approved the capital bond in 1997 providing the 30 acres at Carter/Larson for a future school building, and for the developing of additional community athletic fields. We continue to be committed to making this land available for community field development.

Some have raised the possibility of selling the property to solve the District's financial challenges. No real solution here by state law capital assets cannot be used to support operational budgets. And frankly, it would be imprudent to sell off the District's only capital asset for future growth or expansion. School enrollment rises and falls. We've only owned the land for 8 years and could never replace it once sold.

At our school board forum on June 16th two clear messages were heard from those in attendance. The first message was a broad consensus that the fields are needed and should be developed. The second was deep concern on the part of each neighborhood that could be impacted by traffic, noise, drainage, etc. Many suggested possible access to the property through neighborhoods other than their own. Several pointed to the possibility of access through the Town and Country Trailer Park that may never be realized (it is private property and access is subject to continuing negotiations with the owner).

These are the facts: Access can be available through Carter Avenue that dead ends at the property. Access can be available through Beaverton Valley/Larson entering the property near Fox Hall. An emergency access can be located at Coho Street in the Village Grove neighborhood. And, at some future date, there may be a possibility of access through the trailer park subject to negotiations with the owner. There are no other current options for access.

Accessing the property through the available options above will impact one or more neighborhoods. It is most likely that the board will submit a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) application with multiple access points to the property. Clearly, concerns about street improvements, drainage, noise, etc. must be addressed through the CUP process. The CUP process provides for public hearing(s) and opportunities for the Town administration and Town Council to address concerns related to the development. It is the desire of the School Board and District Administration to use this public process to deal with the issues raised by the neighborhoods potentially impacted by the project.

In the meantime, there is some urgency to begin the project by authorizing some clearing, grading, and accessing of fill material for the parking lots and roads to be located on the property. The fill material, a donation from LaFarge, will only be available for a few more months. It would be incredibly short sighted to not take advantage of this donation. A clearing and grading permit, authorized by the Town, would provide temporary access to the property for the purposes of clearing the fields, and hauling in material to develop the parking lot and roads.

At our school board meeting on June 29th, a discussion item on the agenda was the feasibility of proceeding with a clearing and grading permit prior to obtaining the CUP. It is clear that even temporary access for clearing and grading prior to public hearings and approval of a CUP is considered by the neighborhoods to be a threat. Consequently the board has delayed taking any action on the clearing and grading permit to allow time for community consensus about temporary access and/or CUP approval.

The Board is open to recommendations from Mr. Penwell's committee or any other person(s) working constructively toward resolving concerns, but cautions that any recommendations must have the consensus of the stakeholders involved. Moving forward on this project has, in part, been inhibited by the confrontation of strong personalities and their positions on all sides of the issue. If the consensus is that the "fields should be developed," we hope that all will work cooperatively together to resolve issues and keep the end in mind.

The School Board is appreciative of Don Galt's leadership in securing donations of money, time and materials to develop the fields. While the school district is delighted to make the land available, we have no funds to add to this project. The Board is also appreciative of Island Rec's offer to administer the use and ongoing maintenance of the fields "pending appropriate financing." The community must be aware that Island Rec. will need additional financial support to operate these fields. This project can be successful through the vision and cooperation of this community. We understand the potential impacts the field development will have upon the neighborhoods and will continue to work cooperatively to mitigate these impacts. The School District will continue to be a supportive partner to make this project possible and will use the appropriate public processes to acquire permits for the project.

Boyd Pratt, School Board Chair
Michael Soltman, Superintendent

[more..]


Thursday, July 7th

On Building A Sports Complex and Fields



ig_Don_Galt-2 (9k image)
Where are we today? After many meetings with local neighborhood groups concerning the future fields, a public meeting was held to determine:

Do we want fields?
Can we provide a solution to the access problem?

It was approved by 100% of the people who attended this meeting that the fields, as presented, were accepted, answering the question "Do we want these sports fields for the kids?"

The voters have continually agreed upon this conclusion since 1997 when they approved a Bond by 86%, to purchase the land for a future school site and provide immediate fields for the community.

This approval by the voters should be considered a commitment for the school board and its superintendent and should be fulfilled.

The latest comment that has been made by the superintendent, Michael Sultman, is that they may sell this property to satisfy their present financial woes.

This comment is not financially responsible to our community in its long-range needs. This land is not replaceable and fulfills the present and future needs of our community, and will provide within its boundaries a site for a future school.

The recent comments that have been made pertaining to the declining enrollment of students in our present system, does not address the future needs. In reality kids will not disappear from our community in the future, but in fact grow to only larger numbers.

I have had the opportunity to discuss this subject with four different superintendents of the school district, who have all proven to have no solid intent of remaining in this community for the long haul!

It is time the school board listens to the voters and proceeds with the community playing fields and park as promised.

It is quite apparent, even after the latest meeting, that certain groups of people have had the ability to influence our school board and its superintendent! This is affecting our ability as a community to move forward in the process of clearing and grading for our future fields.

After all was said and done a public meeting held June 23rd at the Friday Harbor High School Library again was conclusive that we need and approve of the fields. Access is still an issue and continues to be resolved.

Due to the availability of fill material from the Lafarge Gravel Pit, we should move forward with the clearing and grading permit. I was very happy that Lee Sturdivant stood up and approved this, realizing the cost of this material to the community project would be forfeited if the school board continued to delay this process.

After our superintendent sent out his letter to "specific" individuals, saying that we were actively applying for a clearing and grading permit, Previous Story an email was sent to the Town of Friday Harbor Planning Department. This memo, from Lee Sturdivant, asked the Planning Dept. if she needed an attorney to prevent the hauling of the material from the Gravel Pit to the community facility.

Sturdivant's letter, as well as the reply sent by the Planning Director, read as follows:


-----Original Message----
From: Lee Sturdivant [mailto:naturals@rockisland.com]
Sent: Thursday, June 30, 2005 7:29 AM
To: Mike Bertrand
Subject: What are the rules, please

Dear Mike,

Some of us attended a school board meeting last night to learn, to our astonishment, that the school board believes they now have your permission to now start bringing in one or two hundred truck loads of fill through a Carter St. entrance and road that Mr. Galt will now build... "as there is no other way in." Please confirm this so that I may let the neighborhood know that you have given this permission without a CUP. We all know that once this road is built it will become the "only possible entrance."

Mr. Galt had previously agreed to let this material in through his
property off Beaverton. Now, M. Soltman said, "Don's neighborhood
doesn't want him to do that."

Do we need to get an attorney on this?
WE assumed the town would offer this neighborhood some protection - before the fact - not after - when we cannot fight this. I look forward to your response. Our neighborhood will meet this weekend on this very serious issue.

The way things stand, can they begin this immediately, with no notice whatsoever to us?
Regards, Lee Sturdivant

On Jul 1, 2005, at 9:09 AM, Mike Bertrand responded:

Good Morning Lee,
A permit for clearing, grading and filling is available for anyone who owns property in Town. The permit in question was to put in an internal road and parking lot. This is not associated with any fields of any kind. I am not aware of any agreements to allow access off of Beaverton Valley via Larson at this time. The only current legal access to these lots, where roads currently exist, are off of Carter Avenue and also the emergency access off of Coho Drive. I hope this answers your questions on this matter. I am surprised that you are opposed to going ahead with the clearing and grading permit since at the public meeting two weeks back you stood up and stated that you would not oppose the hauling of material from the gravel pit to this site. In fact the application that the school submitted to the town was far less than what was being discussed as far as volume of material to hauled in. The application was only for material to be used for the construction of the internal road and parking area. Not materials for the future fields. If you have any further questions please feel free to give me a call.

Sincerely,
Michael Bertrand
Land Use Administrator
Town of Friday Harbor



The above emails show where we are today, and your suggestion Lee, of buying an access through the Trailer Court was not your idea. It has been an alternate solution and has been in the works for a long period of time, and is still pending!

The solution to the access problem will be made at the conditional use public meeting, not at the time of the clearing and grading permit.

Our kids excel in the academic and athletic sport programs that are provide by our school district and our community supported programs.

The Friday Harbor Athletic Association is providing the school district the ability to fulfill their commitment at no cost to them. The F.H.A.A. is a non-profit organization with an approved 501c tax status.

I ask this community to step up to the plate and assist this community project to its conclusion.

Don Galt
Concerned Volunteer

[more..]


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