27. January 2016 · Comments Off on Why Jim Appealed an Environmental Impact Statement · Categories: Farm Thoughts · Tags:

In the last few e-mails we have been recounting the dramatic events of our fall. It was about mid-October, as we decompressed from the summer season, that we thought we heard the other shoe dropping on the plan to convert our neighborhood dairy farm to an industrial park. After a couple months of relative quiet, we received a notice that the deadline for comments on the draft EIS would be due in two weeks.

We had been busy farming for the last several months, so we felt very unprepared for the sudden announcement and the short turn around period. Jim took a few days off from preparing for the Winter Share to try to absorb enough bureaucratic verbiage to comment intelligently. Finding the important points and critical gaps in the study was like searching for a needle (or the absence of a needle) in a hay stack.

In reading the announcement of a deadline, we noticed that in order to appeal the EIS, one had to file the appeal within a few more days, and before even the Planning Commission would hold a hearing on the proposal. Also peculiar, was that the planning department was holding another open house regarding the proposal after the comment deadline.

So Jim submitted comments. Jim is commenter #8 so keep scrolling through the letters.

The open house clarified some of the seeming peculiarities. Apparently commenting on the EIS is one process, and commenting on the proposal itself is another process. So the deadline wasn’t the final deadline. Likewise, appealing the EIS is separate from appealing the county’s decision on the proposal. When you appeal the EIS, you are challenging the study upon which the decision will be made, and not the decision itself. Appealing the EIS is challenging the work of the Planning Department, appealing the decision is appealing the judgement of the County Council.

So, to appeal or not appeal, that was the question.

From the beginning, Jim would have preferred not to be involved in all this political and legal wrangling. He felt he could be more effective working in the private sector, trying to find a consortium of investors who might buy the property for agricultural purposes, thus making the zone change a moot point. Some of the information he gathered suggested that there might be five to twenty years to put together such a consortium, before a sale for industrial development might occur. However, since he’d been farming all summer, he hadn’t had time to turn those “might”s into even “probably”s.

Given the stakes involved, and given the terrible uses he had imagined the land might be put to, Jim was not willing to close any doors to appeal, that might be open to him.

Now, when we think of appeals, we think of lawyers and courts and boards in Olympia, but when Jim read about this appeal, it only goes before the County Council, and it said that “citizens have a right to appeal.” So he went ahead and wrote a short simple appeal and e-mailed it to the council. What Jim has gotten us into, Lord only knows. Stay tuned.