Development rules may dash Clinton builder’s dream

County codes may hinder a group of Clinton residents in their plan to establish an affordable, eco-friendly community.

Larry Dobson and a group of friends and associates have been working to establish a plan to develop a sustainable and affordable community on Dobson’s property in Clinton.

As reported by The Record article “Fundamental living: Clinton residents work to establish sustainable, affordable community,” the community envisioned would be similar to those on Orcas Island.

But according to David Wechner, director of Island County Planning and Community Development, some of the residents’ ideas may not be in compliance with county regulations.

In an email to The Record on Tuesday morning, Wechner said that Dobson was sent a letter on Feb. 11 informing him of code violations and advising him to “cease all un-permitted activity on the property” and apply for a site plan review for a campground and home industry.

Wechner said associates of Dobson’s had come by the county office to ask questions regarding the matter, but said he had received little response from Dobson himself.

Wechner noted that Dobson was sent a final notice letter May 5 which reiterated the need for land use and health permits for the property.

Dobson had an appointment to meet with Island County code enforcement on Tuesday.

Wechner clarified that no fines have yet been assessed, though the fees for the necessary permits will exceed $2,000.

In regard to Dobson’s future plans for the property, Wechner said he had not seen any details thus far and is therefore unable to comment at this time as to whether the plan complies with county code.

However, Wechner specified that the group’s hope to establish a land trust in order to remove the property from the speculative market would likely not be feasible.

“What is taking place on Mr. Dobson’s property does not fit the generally-accepted definition of a ‘land trust,’ ” Wechner wrote.

In a telephone conversation, Dobson confirmed that he had received a citation for Duran Laframboise’s camping on the property. Dobson said that Laframboise had spoken with the person responsible for issuing the order and had tried to resolve the matter. Dobson said that he has tried to contact a code compliance officer at Island County but had been unable to reach anyone as of Thursday, May 28.

“I’ve telephoned him several times and never got a reply,” Dobson said.

Dobson said that Laframboise is no longer living on the property. He is now residing in Seattle.

Dobson acknowledged that it is against county code to store or live in motor homes on residential property, but said that he suspects there are hundreds of people doing so.

After the initial story’s publication in May, a concerned neighbor contacted The Record to voice several concerns. In addition to the above-mentioned issues, the neighbor claimed that Dobson’s building of a tiny house was not legal.

Wechner said that the tiny house issue was not brought to his attention until after the May 5 letter had been sent. Wechner said that Dobson had been notified about the concern over the phone.

“We need to see details on it to make the code call,” Wechner wrote. “Guest houses are allowed in the county — remains to be seen if the ‘tiny house’ qualifies.”