MOUNT VERNON — County officials and residents gathered Tuesday to wrap up the long process of Envision Skagit 2060.

The grant funds have been spent, and the final discussion was held to look over what had been done and what the county wanted to designate as important to do in the future.

Envision Skagit 2060 was an effort to plan for the county’s growth over the next 50 years. Funded by grant money from the Environmental Protection Agency, a citizens group met for more than a year and came up with recommendations for the expected population growth.

The county commissioners acknowledged the passionate discussion and concerns raised by the process but also noted that the dialogue it created is crucial for determining the long-term direction of the Skagit Valley. They also cited the Oso landslide of an example of poor planning that underscores the seriousness of the issues.

“I believe in Envision Skagit 2060,” said County Commissioner Sharon Dillon.

She explained that it was a great tool for bringing groups, citizens, experts and officials together to talk.

Commissioner Ken Dahlstedt said that while he didn’t agree with all the report’s recommendations, he felt it was an excellent “report card” for the county. He said that because cities are looking at doing many of the recommendations, the outlook is promising.

“The process has been painful, but it’s been good,” he said.

Commissioner Ron Wesen emphasized that the report is a model, not a plan. Any recommendations must go through the proper channels before being implemented.

The commissioners thanked residents for being involved in the process and officials for overseeing the project.

Officials who worked on the project presented their findings and recommendations. The citizen committee recommendations encourage regional cooperation, protection of natural resource lands, sustainable transportation, housing affordability and compact communities, among others.

Perhaps the most controversial recommendation was that the cities of Mount Vernon and Burlington eventually merge.

Some recommendations have already been implemented, and others will be over time, said County Senior Planner Kirk Johnson.

The project partly funded the city of Burlington’s planning reports with the Urban Land Institute and the University of Washington’s Green Futures Lab.

The industrial lands inventory conducted by the Port of Skagit was another goal the committee embraced, as well as the county’s proposed transfer of development rights program.

The committee recommended against a large residential development at Bayview Ridge.

The planning project was sometimes challenged by a few community members who said the effort was part of the United Nation’s Agenda 21 accord. The U.N. says the accord provides principles to governments to lessen human impacts on the environment, but some believe Agenda 21 is a plan for governments to control land use and eliminate property rights.

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