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Carlsborg GMA decision overturned

The Carlsborg urban growth area doesn't need a sewer system in the near future after all, Clallam County Superior Court Judge Ken Williams ruled on Friday.

The ruling reverses a decision by the Western Washington Growth Management Hearings Board regarding the unincorporated area west of Sequim.

Williams ruled that the challenge to the Carlsborg UGA by the Seattle-based group Futurewise came years too late and that the growth management board had no jurisdiction to order the county to plan and finance a sewer system for Carlsborg.

He also ruled the board's "one-size-fits-all" approach to rural zoning failed to acknowledge local circumstances and the county's discretion in defining and preserving its rural character.

County Commissioner Steve Tharinger, D-Dungeness, said Monday he hadn't read the decision yet to see the reasoning but that he liked the outcome.

"Well, good for us," said Tharinger, whose District 1 includes Carlsborg.

"Obviously we're appreciative that the court understands what we've been trying to do. The highlights of the decision are the highlights of the points that we made.

"We've tried to support (the Growth Management Act). Our idea was to support land use going forward and not go back to pre-1995 conditions. The court supported that.

"I think it also shows local jurisdictions have done quite well against Futurewise (a nonprofit anti-sprawl watchdog group) not just here but across western Washington."

Futurewise, formerly 1,000 Friends of Washington, has filed numerous lawsuits challenging Growth Management Act decisions.

Tim Trohimovich, the group's planning director, said, "We just received the decision and we're weighing our options. We still feel that designating an urban growth area but not providing urban services is contrary to GMA."

Court County Prosecuting Attorney Deb Kelly said in a statement that the decision was "more than just a war of words... .

"This was a fight for local control over the county's future under GMA."

Sequim City Councilor Paul McHugh, a Carlsborg property owner, said he was very pleased to hear the decision.

"Well, how interesting," he said.

"There's been a history of urban types of residential and commercial land uses in Carlsborg prior to the GMA of 1990.

"It's not like they were created post-1990. Erickson Mill came there in 1900."

McHugh had been one of more than 100 people who attended a June 18 meeting about a sewer/water reuse system proposed for the Carlsborg UGA.

The system's estimated construction cost is almost $15 million with a projected $5 million coming from state and federal grants and the remainder from an estimated 120 parcels, possibly over a 20-year period.

Estimated assessments ran as high as $22,000 for a home and $75,000 for a small business.

The crowd was told the sewer system was being required by the Growth Management Hearings Board with the threat of removing Carlsborg's urban growth area designation. That would halt any growth, development or expansion in the area.

However, Carlsborg eventually will need a sewer system, said Hugh Haffner, one of three commissioners of the Clallam County Public Utility District that would operate it.

"It's a temporary win," he said of Willliams' decision, "but I think we still need to do what's right. If we want (urban) densities in Carlsborg, we still need a sewer. This decision gives us time to do this thing and do it right.

"I think people realize if there's going to be any additional growth in Carlsborg, it's going to have to have sewers. The residents can't bear the whole cost. We need additional funding to make this affordable."



Reach Brian Gawley at bgawley@sequimgazette.com.

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