Coalition, CSD merger gives activists a single voice

A citizens' lobbying group with an environmental bent will inherit a lengthy lineage and one of the oldest alternative voices in Island County planning and development politics next month.

On April 7, Citizens for Sensible Development, a group that formed in 1988 to oppose a plan to expand the Porter Field airport, will turn over its assets to the Island County Smart Growth Coalition and disband.

According to Rob Lewis, president of the Smart Growth Coalition, these two actions are the final, formal acknowledgement of a merging of the two groups that has been going on for several years. With more than 100 members, the coalition has been active in Island County planning issues since 1997, when it formed as the Citizens Growth Management Coalition to push the development of the county's comprehensive plan. In working with the county on the plan, the coalition pushed for tighter environmental regulations than the Island County Planning Commission in a number of areas.

Lewis said having citizen activists under one organization gives the Smart Growth Coalition a stronger voice in county politics.

"We have a big tent," he said.

At present, the coalition has its attention on creating design review standards for commercial areas in Island County. Lewis said the group is working on a design manual and is working with the county's planning department on developing a design review proposal. Such a proposal would require the approval of the Island County Planning Board and the board of commissioners to become regulatory law.

John Graham, a co-founder of CSD, said Monday the merging of the two groups is a natural move. He and other CSD directors will continue as members of the Smart Growth coalition board of directors.

Island County Commissioner Mike Shelton learned of the merger of the two groups this week. He said he will listen to the coalition's viewpoint in the future.

"I think they're a reasonable group of people," he said.

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