Skagit Valley Herald
Skagit County, WA -
8/31/02 - A golf course under
construction by the Upper Skagit Tribe
is being challenged by an environmental
group that wants the development to be
subject to newer, stricter environmental
"Whether this is
a valid project under today's rules, we
have no idea," said Ranger
Kidwell-Ross, president of Habitat
Watch, the group challenging the course.
To Doreen Maloney,
general manager of the tribe, the
challenge is an insult. The tribe goes
out of its way to make all its projects
environmentally sound, she said.
Watch's legal complaints are against
Skagit County, which granted two permit
extensions illegally, the group says. If
the group wins its case, it could put a
hold on a project that tribal officials
say is vital to diversifying their
The 18-hole course is
to be called Chuckanut Crest and is
expected to open in June 2004.
The golf course,
located just north of the tribe's Bow
Hill Road casino on Interstate 5, was
proposed in 1993 by a development
company. A special-use permit was
granted, requiring construction to start
before June 14, 1995. Before that
deadline ran out, a two-year extension
was granted, taking the deadline to
In 1997 and then again
in 1998, extensions were requested by
Port Gardner Timber, which had bought
the property. Both extensions were
granted for two years, taking the
deadline to 1999 and then to 2001.
There were two
mistakes, though, both of which are
central to Habitat Watch's case.
First, the last two
extensions were granted without a public
hearing and without notice, which makes
them illegal, argued Jeff Eustis, the
Second, the 1998
written decision said the extension was
for two years, but also gave a deadline
of June 14, 2002 - effectively a
Those decisions were
made by Bob Schofield, who was the
county's hearing examiner at the time.
Schofield has since died, so county
staff can't ask him whether he meant the
extension to be two years or three.
The Upper Skagit Tribe
bought the land in 2000 and submitted a
development application, effectively
starting the project, in February 2002.
If the extension was for two years, then
the application was too late and the
special-use permit is void. If the
extension was for three years, the tribe
made the deadline with months to spare.
The decision is now in
the hands of Schofield's successor, Wick
Dufford. Dufford heard arguments from
lawyers and county staff on Tuesday.
The county argued that
Habitat Watch should have appealed the
extensions when they were granted.
could not have known to appeal those
extensions," Eustis said. "The
positions being advanced by the county
are a direct affront to due process of
Habitat Watch opposed
the course in 1993, and would have
appealed the extensions if it had known
they were issued, said Kidwell-Ross. But
the county didn't even place legal
notices about the hearings or decisions,
In any case, the tribe
is an innocent party whose only mistake
was assuming permits granted by the
county were valid, said LeAnne Bremer,
the lawyer for the tribe.
Neighbors of the golf
course speaking at the hearing said they
weren't opposed to the course, they just
wanted more study done.
impact statement for the course was
prepared under 1992 standards and 1992
laws, Kidwell-Ross said. Those are much
looser than the laws today, he said.
He also wondered why
the county staff didn't question the
two- or three-year extension when it was
For Maloney, it's a
matter of tribal survival. The tribe
paid $2.25 million for the land, and it
needs the revenue the course will
provide to support its governmental and
the tribe for its work on most projects,
and said it's unfortunate that the tribe
is the applicant in this case.