Clinton residents struggle with their future

"Jeannie Lanigan, center, and Carol Mosier, right, were among the audience of nearly 100 that listened intently to Clinton planning issues.Jim Larsen, staff photoWhat's the difference?Here are some differences between a RAID and an NMUGA and how each would affect Clinton, according to the Island County Planning Department.RAID (Rural Area of Intense Development)* Defined by drawing a boundary around existing development.* Infill and redevelopment allowed within the RAID boundary.* Standards for landscaping, lighting, signage, design, etc. will be the same as those already in place in the rest of Island County.* No mandated growth allocation.* Sewer, water and stormwater service neither prohibited nor required.* Would require the county to modify its Comprehensive Plan and allocate projected population growth to other areas of South Whidbey.NMUGA (Non-Municipal Urban Growth Area)* Defined by drawing a boundary large enough to accommodate a specified growth target (about 1,100 new Clinton residents over the next 20 years.)* The Growth Management Act mandates a growth allocation.* Infill and redevelopment allowed within the MNUGA boundary.* NMUGA will have customized commercial and residential zoning designations with varying allowed densities and uses that are unique in Clinton.* NMUGA will have customized standards for landscaping, lighting, signage, design, etc.* A plan must be in place to provide sewer, water and stormwater service to the entire NMUGA within the next 20 years.* An essential component of achieving the goals of the county's Comprehensive Plan and GMA compliance.About 100 people showed up Tuesday night to usher the Clinton planning effort into its next phase.According to members of the Clinton Subarea Planning committee, the audience was about 98 more than the prior record. The Island County Planning Department billed the meeting as an open house to update people on the committee's two years of work and what will come next.A stack of copies of the draft Clinton Subarea Plan was handed out. Planning Director Phil Bakke said after the meeting that another open house will be held in February, by which time people will likely be ready to comment on the land use designations proposed in the draft plan. It'll be about boundaries and zones, he said of the next meeting's purpose.Phil Moore, vice-chair of the subarea committee, warned the crowd early about the unwieldly term NMUGA. That's an acronym you're going to hear all night long, the said.The acronym stands for Non Municipal Urban Growth Area, which is one of Clinton's possible futures living under the edicts of the state Growth Management Act. It could also remain a RAID (Rural Area of Intense Development) as it was designated in 1998 by the Island County Commissioners, who have ultimate authority over land use in Clinton.Audience members struggled to understand the difference between an NMUGA and RAID. Some warned that an NMUGA could attract more growth. Others argued that the growth is coming anyway, and could be better managed through an NMUGA.Island County expects Clinton to welcome some 1,100 people in the next 20 years, and NMUGA backers say the community must plan carefully. We're in a position to get the community we'd like to have 20 years from now, said Alan Vautier, a subarea committee member.Bakke, the planning director, made it clear that with the NMUGA designation comes a requirement to plan seriously for infrastructure such as sewers and drainage. The possible cost worried some people.We're being asked to become magnanimous individuals and accept growth, said citizen Bob Rosenberry, wondering if the subarea committee had become advocates for the NMUGA.Committee members denied they have made an NMUGA decision, emphasizing that as volunteers, they're just part of the community. It's your decision, said vice-chairman Moore. Chairman Patrick Normile could not attend the meeting.Answering another Rosenberry question, Bakke acknowledged that denser zoning allowable under an NMUGA could have property tax impacts. The tax assessor looks at the zoning maps for 'best use,' he said.County Commissioner Mike Shelton was in the audience and said there would be more local control in Clinton as an NMUGA. Areas designated RAIDS are government entirely from the county seat. However, any NMUGA planning board would have only advisory powers. The final decisions would still rest with the county commissioners.Marianne Edain, a longtime county critic in planning matters, warned that Clinton, and Freeland, are being targeted for growth because of high population targets in the county's comprehensive plan. They've got to cram those people somewhere, she said. Clinton and Freeland have become a great big target.Edain said there are enough lots already platted to accommodate growth. But Shelton countered that many lots in the county are not buildable.Dean Enell, also active in the environmental community, said Clinton should be designated an NMUGA. Two years ago I'd have said RAID in a minute, he told the crowd. But the goal is to reduce sprawl in the county. Go UGA -- they're going to come anyway.Bakke said after the meeting that the decision on whether Clinton will become an NMUGA or stay a RAID will ultimately be made by the county commissioners, after input from the subarea committee and the county Planning Commission.But first, the opinion of the people of Clinton will be sought. Bakke said there will not be an election, but there will be a survey in which residents will be asked if they would be willing to pay for infrastructure. We can't designate an NMUGA unless there are realistic plans for urban services, he said. There will be some sort of vote to determine if people are willing to tax themselves.The Clinton Subarea Committee will meet again Monday, Jan. 29, at 7 p.m. in the Progressive Hall. Co-chairman Moore said members will digest what was said at the open house, and begin the next phase of planning, which includes writing papers on various issues. "

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