Three Lakes

A blog for members and friends of Three Lakes Neighbors for Responsible Growth, dedicated to monitoring and maintaining the rural environment of central Snohomish County, Washington

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Daily Kos: ACTION: Help Obama Win an Impossible Fight

I posted the following comment in response to the referenced blog post on Daily KOS blog. It’s very clear to me that we need to end our current agricultural support system that makes big payments to large agribusinesses and leaves the small farmers and ranchers out to dry (or to have a day job to support themselves. We also need to switch to a more sustainable system of agriculture.

When my grandmother was named Eminent Farm Homemaker of 1936 in South Dakota, one of paragraphs in the Citation starts [they] "are the greatly loved parents of 7 children, all of them true to agricultural interests and in some way connected with agricultural life." My father was an agronomist and worked for the USDA Agricultural Research Service.

Of my generation, I believe that my sister was the only one who returned to the middle part of the country after college and farmed for many years (but when my nephew was ready for school they moved to town and commuted back to the farm). Most of us went into engineering and other professions and stayed on the coasts. Now that I've retired from my engineering job I've gotten more involved in agriculture via our small aromatherapy and essential oil business and my participation in the aromaconnection blog.

I've recently become acquainted with some of my cousin's children on Facebook and I don't think any of them are engaged in farming or agricultural pursuits. Several years ago, I left the city and moved to 4 acres in a (sort of) rural area. But of the 200 or so residents of our rural community, there are only two agricultural related businesses--a blueberry farm and a (now-inactive) horse training arena. Most of us who are not retired as I am commute to the city to make a living. We spend much of our local activism fighting off the developments that are trying to move into the neighborhood. Although Washington state has fairly strong Agricultural land protection, there is still a lot of encroachment and many rural residents are very upset at attempts to protect the rural atmosphere and the farming activities because they want to eventually cash in on the "development" value of their property.

We've got to expand our efforts beyond that to reform our agricultural system and get back to a sustainable economy and ecology.

I'm sure my grandmother (who died over 60 years ago) would be appalled to see where we have gotten to.

Daily Kos: ACTION: Help Obama Win an Impossible Fight

Now that I’m looking this over, I realize that the tree farm at to north end of Panther Lake Road is also an agricultural business. But the owner doesn’t live here. . .

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Sunday, December 14, 2008

Is Three Lakes Water Tanking?

In response to a notice received in the mail and a flyer stuck in my recycling bin, I went to the informational meeting of the Three Lakes Water Association on Thursday night. It turned into about 45 minutes of information and another two hours plus of shouting, some anger, and some seeming incompetence on the part of the Board members. (In their defense, it's hard to find Board members for an organization like this, because--let's face it--most of us just want the thing to work and aren't willing to spend the volunteer time necessary to make it work. So many of the Board members are new to the Board and don't have a lot of experience.)

Somewhere between 70 and 100 members attending the meeting, together with twelve Board members and the Engineer who is working on the tank project (more about that below).  That's more than 10% of the 762 members/customers of this cooperative water association. The meeting, intended by the Board to simply present information about the project in response to a member's request, turned into a sometimes angry discussion and ended with a vote on whether to put the project on hold until a second opinion could be obtained from the PUD as to whether this $1.5 Million project needs to be done.

A little history.  Three Lakes Water Association was formed many years ago when about 50 residents of the Three Lakes area formed the association and pooled their resources to buy water from the Everett water system and distribute it via a piping system to local residents, who become members of the coop and thus are entitled to vote and run for the Board.  The Board is the governing body, and makes the decisions.

Over the years the Association has been operated by a small staff (mainly the Operations Manager and a bookkeeper) who keep it maintained and supervise the upgrades and expansion.  Money from the members that we pay each month for our water is used to buy water, pay the staff, and perform the maintenance needed to keep the system running. A certain percentage of the income is set aside into a "Capital Improvements Fund" and income from the new connection fees also goes into that Fund.

The majority of the system was installed in the 1980's and there has been a lot of growth. Existing water tanks hold enough water to supply the users, but are not in compliance with County, State and National regulations that require additional capacity for standby reserves and to allow fighting fires. There are a few houses located near the main water tanks that don't have enough head available to supply water at the 30 psig required by law.

The Board has hired an Engineering Firm to do the engineering work necessary to support the work done, and he has been on the job for ten years or so. At the meeting he made most of the presentation that I've briefly summarized above.

After the presentation, there were questions from the audience, some of them presented very angrily. Most of the attendees were trying to understand what had been presented, but a few were very angry and had their own "solution" to the "problem" that they wanted to present. Eventually one member asked if the Board President would accept a motion from the floor, something that the Board had not expected but which is clearly allowed by the organization Bylaws (in my opinion as a Parliamentarian and Past President of five Boards, including one National organization). Eventually the President reluctantly accepted the motion, which was to declare a Moratorium on the Tank Project, and seek an outside opinion from the Snohomish County PUD about the need and plans for the project.

After some confusion about how to vote on the resolution, some suggestions for amendments and a mover accepted amendment, it was eventually concluded somehow by the Board that a vote, if taken, would only be advisory to the board. [Which, in my opinion, is not supported by the Bylaws]. So no formal vote was taken.  However, there was a show of hands as to which way people felt about the motion.  I voted against it, since even though I'd like to see an alternative solution to this, I don't really think that can happen given the circumstances. I think the motion failed, although I didn't write down the votes that were announced in my notes.

The Board meets once a month at the Three Lakes Fire Station on 171st. The next meeting will be this Monday at 7 pm.  If you care about this issue one way or the other, you should probably be there.

After the meeting I talked to one of the people on the Board, and several other members. It appears to me that the Board needs better communication with the members and  the members need better communication with the Board. One way to make that happen would be more use of the Association's web site at  Right now (unless they've added something in the last two days) the web site contains very little information, and nothing about the Tank Project. It should include full details about the Association, the Capital Improvements Plan, the systems in place for solving problems and getting maintenance done, and the activities of the Board.

I'm planning on going to the Monday meeting if I can get there through the snow. Hope to see you all there.

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Thursday, October 02, 2008

Rural Cluster Hearings

I attended the Snohomish County Council Rural Cluster Subdivision (RCS)Ordinance Revision hearings this afternoon at the county council hearing room on the eighth floor of the County Admin Building in Everett. Also attending from Three Lakes were Bev Setzer and Dan Crossman. (Background information)

I got there a bit late so didn't get signed up to testify, which meant I had to wait until the end.  I slipped into one of the few empty seats near the back and listened to testimony from a variety of citizens about the proposed changes to the current Rural Cluster Subdivision ordinance.

Most of the persons testifying were from the Seven Lakes area or the Three Lakes area, which have had a history of opposition to the RCS concept as developers have tried to apply it. The SNOPORCH people resubmitted their petition with over 600 signatures asking for abolition of the entire classification. Kristin Kelly from Futurewise submitted a new petition essentially supporting the proposed changes with over 300 signatures gathered in the last few days.

From the other side (opposing the changes to the ordinance) there were landowners who are concerned about their inability to get the "full value" from their property if the density bonus was decreased. Also testifying were several builders, representatives of the Real Estate community, and some technical experts who had problems with various nits of the changes.

Since I was at the end, and most of what I wanted to say had already been said, I described some of the problems we had had with the process while fighting our local RCS, and made a plea for them to do a better job of balancing the power between the various factions.  As I see it, the Developers have the upper hand since they will make the money off the development and can spend that money on lawyers to get things done their way.  The neighbors and other citizens of the the county have to pool their resources to force the developers to follow the law.  The PDS should be the balancing force, making everyone follow the law, but in fact they tend to support the developers, allowing them to get away with things that are clearly not legal.

The Council decided that more hearings will be necessary so they continued the hearing until January 7, 2009 at 6:30 pm. This will allow working people to come to the hearing and provide further comments.

After the hearing Bev and I talked with a gentleman from 7-Lakes and with a reporter from the Snohomish Tribune, who will be doing an article. I'll update this and link it when if it is posted online.


Sunday, June 22, 2008

TLNRG 2008 Rummage Sale


Three Lakes Neighbors for Responsible Growth will be having a rummage sale on Saturday, June 28 in the parking lot of Frontier Bank, 818 Ave. D in Snohomish from 9 am to 3:30 pm. This will include Furniture, plants and all sorts of stuff from more than ten families who live in the Three Lakes community about 5 miles NE of Snohomish.

For further information visit the TLNRG Website at or the Three Lakes Blog at


Monday, March 03, 2008

Fire damages houses in the Street of Dreams . . .

Our county has made it into the national news today because someone took extreme measures to attempt to deal with some of the issues that have frustrated the residents of our rural neighborhood. I'm not condoning their methods--but I certainly think these issues need to have a wider exposure in the media and on the internet. If you want more information on the actual news, you can check it out here or here in the mainstream media.

The following are comments that I've posted in the comments section on Huffington Post, Daily Kos, and the Dateline Earth blogs:

As someone who has been involved in fighting off one of the RCD's (Rural Cluster Subdivision) a bit further north in Snohomish county, I'm very familiar with the frustrations that the people who already live in a rural area suffer when the developers move in and take over a neighborhood. The RCD law allows them to cram a bunch of houses on small lots (cluster) into a neighborhood that has been zoned for more dispersed populations. The theory is that this will allow preservation of the rural character by dedicating some of the land to be eternally undeveloped.  But it still introduces a whole bunch of traffic and additional people into a rural neighborhood, without really taking care of the environmental impacts. And if the neighbors disagree with the development, the law is supposed to set standards that will mediate the issues and assure that things meet standards.
There are two major problems with all this: the developers have money or resources to fight back against the neighbors who don't have the money, and the County government misinterprets the law (in favor of the developers); thus forcing the neighbors to move into the court system (at great expense) to have the law enforced. In our case the final decision that we could afford was made by the County Council, politically based, and in spite of fighting politically in previous elections, we were at the mercy of the developers. It's now more fairly balanced (after two elections) but we still lose.
An irony is that some of the people who now live in our neighborhood (on a ten acre lot) moved here to escape the development down by Woodinville, and when they got here found the developers ahead of them.
Another irony is that the developers in our neighborhood apparently can't find customers because of the housing downturn, so even though they have an approved development permit they haven't started yet. So we have a reprieve.  Maybe we'll have our lawyer bills paid off before they start.

In spite of our frustrations, I doubt that anyone in our neighborhood would go to the extreme or burning down a development, or even part of it.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Three Lakes History

I spend some time the other day talking with Wayne Burchfield, who is the Manager of the Three Lakes Water Company, from whom almost all of use get our water. Wayne has lived in Three Lakes since 1962, and knows a lot of the old history of the area. When he first moved here, he talked to many of the old timers in the area, and he had a lot of interesting stories to tell.

It's occurred to me that we ought to be capturing a lot of those stories, not only from him but from the remaining old times who are still living here. I've always had an interest in local history wherever I've lived, and an oral history project is the best way to get the information. I captured a lot of stories from one of my mothers friends who had grown up in pioneer Montana. My first wife was a History professor, and has written books on the history of Ballard and Tukwila. I'm not necessarily suggesting a book here, but knowing more about the local history could enhance the quality of the websites that some of us have about the area.

It may take awhile to get an organized oral history project going, but in the meantime if you have information on local Three Lakes history, or some good stories from your youth, or any other information that might be of interest to others, I would encourage you to put it into a comment on this blog. If you have something particularly good, I'll even run it as a full blog post (with your permission).

More Shooting

It's the Labor Day weekend, and our neighbors are trying out a new automatic or semi-automatic weapon. I certainly hope they are shooting into the hillside, and will get over their fixation with loud noises.
I've determined that they are apparently shooting just outside the Panther Lake no shooting zone, which extends to 500 yards from the lakeshore. They are still well within the population area of the old Three Lakes town as it has grown more densely populated in recent years. Most of the people living further from the lake are in the five acre lots that the area is zoned for. Those who live between Panther Lake Road and the Lake are in lots that were part of the old town of Three Lakes and tend to be less than one acre, although many of them are combined to make larger estates.
It may be time to extend the no-shooting area to the west. Particularly after the Panther Lake Ridge development goes in--there will be an additional 30 families living in the area, but outside the no shooting zone. It would make sense to extend it to at least 1000 yards from the Lake (from the 500 yards it is currently).
There are two issues involved here. One is the noise, but we can probably live with that if it is intermittant. The other, and more important, is the safety issue. Presumably people who own guns have had safety training and know how to shoot without hitting someone or damaging property, but that is not guaranteed.
When I was a kid growing up in Montana we went to a shooting range to sight in our guns and do target practice. When I was in the Boy Scouts we used the facilities at the ROTC department at MSU. And when we went hunting we were generally well away from people--Montana had a population of about 2 people per square mile back in those days, and most people lived in towns, so if you were in a rural area where there were deer, there weren't likely to be any other people around except other hunters. I found that out the hard way one time when I got my car stuck while solo hunting in the Bridgers, and had to walk several miles back to a main road to snag a ride back to town. Or another time when I shot a deer about 3 miles from the nearest road. . .

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Shooting vs No Shooting

For several days we have been intermittently hearing gunshots fired; probably as target practice but possibly for shooting "varmints". Since we live well inside the Panther Lake No-shooting zone, we began to wonder what was going on. A call to 911 eventually, (after several returned calls, denials that there is a no shooting zone, and seeming dereliction of duty by the sheriff's department), evoked the news that if we want to file a complaint, we have to be able to identify the culprits. Not a simple task given the limitations on the size of the no-shooting zone, the distance sound carries, the thick forest in some regions, and not least the fact that people who are shooting have guns, and by the rules of the city where I've lived most of my adult life, are "potentially dangerous" and are presumed to be dealt with by the proper authorities.

Personally I don't have a problem with people shooting, as long as they aren't shooting at me or other human beings or human associated livestock. I grew up in Montana shooting gophers, hunting birds and big game; fishing, and learned to shoot at squirrels with a handgun (not sure I ever hit one, though). My rifle team won the Regional Boy Scout Target Shooting Championship one year. When I moved to the big city over 40 years ago I gave my rifles and shotgun to my sister and never got back into hunting--there were too many other things to do.

The principle here is we live in a relatively high population density area where shooting could be dangerous to the inhabitants. But we aren't an incorporated city, where shooting is apparently not allowed by local ordinance. So Snohomish County has enacted an Ordinance declaring certain areas as No Shooting Areas. These can be adjusted by Petition of the residents.

The Panther Lake No Shooting zone extends to within 500 yards of the lake shore, a strip along the road towards the lake that extends south from Dubuque Road, and the area between 163rd Ave. and 171st Ave. extending to the south of the Lake to about 1/2 mile south of Three Lakes Road.

I've spent some time with my GPS device figuring out where the boundary is on the ground, I have now decided that the gunshots may have come from outside the no shooting zone. Based on the angle the shots sound from, they would have to be up the hill to the southwest. There are several houses in that area, outside the Zone, and 51st Street allows ready access outside the zone.

However, the point I am making is that the Sheriff's department should have responded a little more sympathetically to our complaint. We pay our taxes so they can get their salary to do their job, and part of that job is to enforce the ordinance. If the ordinance wasn't broken, then no one would be charged. Should we have to search after the potential lawbreakers? Form a posse?

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Back Again?

After a long delay due to problems with the conversion of blogger from blogger1 to blogger2, I think I am back and able to post again. Now the only problem will be finding the time to post, since we have started a new aromatherapy blog. If this all works well I will be back with a real post.


Saturday, February 03, 2007

Reconsideration Hearing for Panther Lake Ridge

We had the hearing on reconsideration of the Previous Hearing Examiners findings on a remand from the County Council of our battle to make sure that the Panther Lake Ridge developers follow the law and put their development in right.

I've generally refrained from blogging about these hearings in the past, on the theory that as a participant in the hearings I would be a biased observer, but I would like to present an overview of the hearing and the situation. And the fact is that this blog is a biased observer of everything.

We have been fighting this battle for almost three years.  The original application for a 32 lot Rural Cluster subdivision was filed in 2004. We (Three Lakes Neighbors for Responsible Growth - TLNRG) organized ourselves, hired a lawyer, and contested the application.  Over the years we have forced the developers to make a lot of changes in their plans to more closely meet the legal requirements, gotten to know our neighbors pretty well, raised a lot of money from ourselves and others to help pay our legal bills, and poured a lot of coffee at Interstate Rest Areas.

I feel like I have spent more time at the County administrative building than any other place except home and work over the last three years.

Today's hearing was over reconsideration of a narrow issue. The county code requires that the lots in a Rural Cluster subdivision be mostly invisible to the outside world. If there is other buildable land available, lots must be built on that land first and not on a highly visible feature such as a ridge.  In this case, the developer wants to build the lots on a ridge, at says that their is no other buildable land available.  We say that there is buildable land available, and many of their lots should be built on that land and not on the ridge.

The issue really boils down to the definition of a ridge and whether some of the buildable land off the main ridge is also located on "ridges".  The question is:  what is a ridge? and if these areas are "ridges" can you build on them. This gets down to the question of what topographical elevation is required to make a ridge and a ridgeline. The main ridge has a fairly steep topographical elevation difference of almost 100 feet, while the lower "ridges" are flatter and have a topographical elevation difference of only 20 feet spread out over a wide area (for all practical purposes almost flat).

We have made our arguments; the developers have made theirs, and the matter is in the hands of the Deputy Hearing Examiner.  We should know his decision within two weeks. I'll let you know.