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Clinton development raises concerns

"Environmental groups are asking the Department of Natural Resources to take a closer look at a development planned between Glendale and Humphrey roads in Clinton.Island County has already given its approval by issuing a grading permit on 76 acres of land. Landowners Tom Crabtree and Ernie Lieseke plan to cut 65 percent of the timber once they receive a Forest Practice permit from the DNR.The property is located north of the controversial reconstruction of Glendale Road that is now under way, above the Marshall Road drainage area. Island County Commissioner Mike Shelton had justified that reconstruction, in part, by pointing out the danger of landslides on Humphrey Road, the only other access to the Glendale community.The possible irony of the county allowing development in the slide-prone area isn't lost on the Whidbey Island Land Use Coalition, whose president, Tom Fisher, said the development may be a hazard to Humphrey Road. It's very unstable.Marianne Edain of the Whidbey Environmental Action Network joined Fisher in voicing concern about the project. She also worried about possible runoff into Glendale Creek should the project go ahead as planned. That hillside's just permeated with springs, she said. Shelton stated Humphrey Road is unstable, so obviously this is going to make it 100 percent worse.Plans for the project include constructing 2,500 feet of road over slopes up to 10 percent, reconstructing 1,000 feet of existing road, and abandoning 800 feet of existing road.Landowner Crabtree said he and his partner Lieseke spent four years in the process of purchasing the land from the Shults family. The sale finally went through in March. He said the land is already in eight or nine tax parcels, and they have no plans to further divide it. They want to clear the land, build access roads and sell it for homes. They received the county grading permit last month.We'll cut trees when we get the permit, hopefully soon, Crabtree said.The Forest Practice application calls for cutting only 65 percent of the trees, taking out 225,000 board feet. But Edain claimed the remaining trees will largely be left in a riparian management zone or stream buffer.The rest will be effectively clearcut, she said.The environmental groups hurried to meet an Aug. 16 deadline for public comment on the Forest Practice permit. Edain and Fisher asked the DNR to bring in an interdisciplinary team to visit the site.Earlier this week, Nancy Joseph, DNR's assistant regional manager for resource protection, said the agency had received no comments during two comments periods, one for grading and one for forestry. As of Wednesday she expected the permit to be granted in just a few days, but that was before she heard from the environmental groups. Loren Wheeler, the DNR manager in charge of the application, was out fighting forest fires this week.Commissioner Shelton on Thursday said he had seen a development plan for the project, but he was unaware they were going to cut the significant amount they're going to cut.Shelton said he would not object if the DNR decided to send in a team to study the site conditions in more detail.Edain said, There are enormous ramifications. This needs a whole lot closer look. "

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