Across the state and in Island County, we are experiencing pressure from increased population. Planning for growth is a mandate to local jurisdictions by the state’s Growth Management Act.

The Municipal Service and Research Center explains “The Growth Management Act (GMA) is a series of state statutes, first adopted in 1990, that requires fast-growing cities and counties to develop a comprehensive plan to manage their population growth.”  

While population growth in Island County has been slightly less than the state average, regional growth has exceeded that average. The growth trends affecting Camano Island include the numbers of retirees moving to Camano permanently and the impact of growth in neighboring counties.  Increasingly, people are moving into north Snohomish County and overflowing onto Camano Island.

The GMA mandates Island County to plan for that growth. Unplanned growth, as seen in prior decades, often leads to poor outcomes for communities. GMA goals address concerns about sprawl, transportation planning and affordable housing to name a few. The concerns shared with me from this community about water quality and availability, protecting our beaches, preserving open space and forests, traffic and quality of life are all concerns I share.

As I listened to the community, I decided to address those concerns through a series of articles and Town Hall-style meetings that allow for a deeper conversation.

Last fall, we discussed affordable housing and items that may be coming before the Board of Island County Commissioners. It first became clear that we needed to have some shared definitions on housing. 

Last year, I convened a housing workgroup as there had not been strong representation from our island in the prior workgroup that advised the required Housing Element plan for the county. Our group considered demographics, capacity and need for economic sustainability. The focus on affordable housing was for two groups: seniors who may be aging out of their current homes but want to remain in this community, and working families who live, work and play in our community. 

Many hear the term “affordable housing” and think of subsidized or low-income housing, usually more appropriately located nearer to urban centers where transportation and services are more robust. Our focus on senior and workforce housing is important and helps Island County meet the mandate of GMA to “encourage the availability of affordable housing to all economic segments of the population of this state, promote a variety of residential densities and housing types, and encourage preservation of existing housing stock.”

For 2020, I invite you to join in conversations about growth, development and protecting our existing housing and rural areas.

At the next at Town Hall meeting from 5:30 to 7 p.m. on March 26 at the blue multipurpose center at 141 East Camano Drive, Island County hydrogeologist Doug Kelly will be to discuss water resources. 

In April, as part of the celebration of the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day, we will discuss how Island County protects our forests, shores and open land and what we can do better.

Later months will focus on multimodal transportation planning and how we plan with Stanwood and Snohomish County. Finally, we will do a deeper dive into the GMA with our Planning and Community Development team. Locations will generally be at the blue Camano Multi-Purpose Building. 

Janet St. Clair represents District 3, which includes Camano Island, on the Island County Board of Commissioners. Contact her at or 360-679-7354.                  

— Janet St. Clair represents District 3, which includes Camano Island, on the Island County Board of Commissioners. Contact her at or 360-679-7354.      

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