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Town council members fill committee assignments

The newly formed La Conner Town Council began laying the foundation for 2022 by finalizing committee assignments and tightening up ordinance language related to hazardous buildings during its one-hour Zoom session last week.

New Councilmember Ivan Carlson, III flagged what he termed “broad” and “subjective” terminology in an ordinance section for abating structural dangers, questioning non-tangible references to infringements upon aesthetic and sensory standards.

“They’re too broad,” said Carlson. “I feel there would be unintended consequences. It might cause undue economic hardships on the working-class people of La Conner.”

Town Administrator Scott Thomas agreed in principle, noting that the vague language could be eliminated without weakening it, that other sections more clearly define enforceable nuisance conditions.

“Our preference,” Thomas said, “is for buildings to be maintained without the Town needing to go to the ordinance. At the end of the day, we need to make sure properties are safe.”

Thomas said addressing overgrown grassy lots or garishly painted homes and buildings in the historic preservation district were not the primary purpose of the ordinance. “Excluding the language to which Ivan objects would be okay,” he said, that nuisance situations have over time been defined by code and in common law.

The council unanimously moved to do just that.

Members were also in a consensus-building mood in accepting committee assignments. Prior to the meeting, all had responded to a sign-up list in the prior two weeks to determine their preferred committees.

Only one minor shuffle was required when three – Carlson, Rick Dole and MaryLee Chamberlain – signed up for the two-member Streets & Safety committee.

Carlson volunteered to break the logjam.

“I’m really interested in the streets and safety committee,” said Carlson, “but I’m confident Rick and MaryLee will do well there, so I’ll shift to the park and port committee since I’m really interested in that, too.”

The rest of the Jan. 25 agenda and discussion were a potpourri.

Mayor Ramon Hayes, responding to Dole, said he would facilitate council tours of the Town Public Works Department and wastewater treatment plant.

“It’s a great first-hand learning experience into what’s going on,” said Hayes.

Hayes also said he had received an email from Dr. Brandon Atkinson, one of the principals of the investment group that has applied to develop an apartment complex behind The Slider Café. In that email, said Hayes, Atkinson refuted a letter in the Jan. 19 Weekly News stating that he and his partners were requesting a rezone of the property.

“He said that he hadn’t asked for a rezone,” Hayes said. “He said there is no interest in a rezone.”

Thomas said the Town is looking for a code enforcement officer and will purchase a vehicle in the $25,000 range for the position.

Dole commented on an increased Skagit County Sheriff’s Office presence in town. That, said Hayes, is reflective of the new five-year expanded services contract the Town has signed.

Resident Jim Matthews asked about the status of both a proposed study designed to identify necessary upgrades at the treatment plant and plans by developer Greg Ellis to build homes behind Pioneer Market.

The Town is reaching out to engineering firms seeking proposals to conduct the treatment plant review. “The study will probably begin in the second quarter (of 2022),” Thomas said.

On the proposed housing development, Town Planner Michael Davolio said he is still awaiting a completed project application from Ellis. “He did submit some more information last week,” Davolio said.


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