June 25, 2008 · Updated 9:44 PM
"County's credibility seriously threatenedIsland County government is in danger of losing its credibility.Two strong punches to the county's credibility were landed in Freeland. The controversial Exxon gas station complex went ahead entirely as planned despite a public outcry. Having learned nothing from the Exxon experience, county officials then approved a large storage shed complex above the highway that was accurately called an abomination in Saturday's South Whidbey Record Viewpoint column written by John Shevenell, chairman of Langley's design review board.Both the gas station and storage sheds received substantial input from a public concerned about their appearance and effect on the environment. The gas station exists only on paper, except for the massive amount of fill dirt upon which it will sit, but the storage sheds are now taking shape in all their ugliness. The sheds obliterate hundreds of feet of skyline, an insult to all the people of South Whidbey Island who moved here because of the island's rural character. Now they have the Great Wall of Freeland to look at.Island County government by all appearances is force-feeding us Highway 99. It's almost laughable that Highway 525 through Freeland is considered by the state to be a scenic corridor. Island County obviously differs. If vandals trashed the highway like the county has they'd have to answer to a judge.The third punch to Island County's credibility was delivered in Glendale. Same scenario: Large numbers of citizens organize and operated in good will, expecting their ideas and suggestions to be taken seriously. They wanted a one-way rebuild of Glendale Road to better protect salmon but would have settled for less. Instead, they get a two-lane road as planned from the beginning. It was as if the desires of hundreds of South Whidbey residents didn't matter.What have islanders learned from the Exxon, storage shed, and Glendale Road projects? The lesson for many can only be that Island County asks for public input because it's required, but gives no heed to what the public thinks. Priority goes to the developers, the builders, or the Road Department -- anyone, in short, who owns a bulldozer.Sad to say, the ultimate blame for this attitude must rest with Mike Shelton, South Whidbey's thrice-elected county commissioner who in many other ways has done a fine job. At one point it looked like he was growing in office, trying his best to give all sides a fair hearing and willing to compromise on sensitive issues. No longer. He appears to have shut his ears to all but his supporters in the building trades and development industry. If this isn't the case, Shelton owes the public a detailed explanation of how these three projects materialized over such strong local opposition.The rampant, insensitive development trend on South Whidbey is unsettling. We challenge Mike Shelton to show some leadership in helping turn things around. Island County's credibility and our way of life are both at stake. "