BURLINGTON — Skagit County cities and towns are demanding edits to the Skagit Council of Governments’ recent housing inventory report.

In a letter, Mount Vernon Mayor Jill Boudreau said many parts of the report, which is labeled as final, are incorrect and unacceptable.

The report, compiled by Seattle consultant ECONorthwest, provides countywide housing data and a series of recommendations to address the shortage of affordable housing.

Rebecca Lowell, senior planner with Mount Vernon, took issue with the suggestion that cities are not complying with state law by not coordinating with the county and other cities in the Comprehensive Plan process.

Further, the report suggests that cities should annex land outside their borders in order to build high-density multifamily housing. If this became county policy, it would subvert the authority of the cities, Lowell said.

“It’s really one of the few things that the county has no input in,” she said.

If the report is intended as policy, then Sedro-Woolley Mayor Keith Wagoner said the section on annexation would subvert the city’s authority and violate the state’s Growth Management Act. He said he wants to make sure the report was intended to provide recommendations.

Concrete Mayor Jason Miller agreed.

“If it’s attempting to bind the hands of cities and towns, that’s not OK,” he said.

Concrete sent its own letter to SCOG, raising many of the same concerns as Mount Vernon.

Gabe Phillips, SCOG transportation planner, said the report was intended as recommendations, not policy, and SCOG would have no authority to enforce policy anyway.

“These were recommendations that can be implemented collectively or individually,” he said.

Lowell and Wagoner both said the report is useful and contains many good recommendations, but that their concerns need to be addressed before the report as a whole is acceptable.

The letter from Concrete takes umbrage with the recommendation that cities and towns extend utilities to the outskirts of their urban growth areas to facilitate high-density multifamily development.

Concrete Planner Marianne Manville-Ailles said in the letter that extending utilities to the outskirts of UGAs is expensive and inefficient, which contradicts ECONorthwest’s characterization that the land can be easily developed.

The letter is dated Oct. 5, but did not appear in the packet of information give out ahead of the SCOG meeting.

SCOG Executive Director Kevin Murphy, who is heading up the project to put together the housing inventory report, is out of the office, and wasn’t present at Wednesday’s meeting.

Phillips said the consultant’s contract is closed, and any edits made to the report would need to be done in house.

Cities and towns were instructed to bring their suggestions to SCOG’s Nov. 15 meeting.

Lowell said Mount Vernon also takes issue with data on buildable land and housing supply. That data, she said, is inconsistent with the data the city is using or has collected on its own.

Wagoner said he’s confident his concerns with the report can be fixed with a little bit of clarification.

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— Reporter Brandon Stone: bstone@skagitpublishing.com, 360-416-2112, Twitter: @Brandon_SVH


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