The Chronicle: "Door to vacation homes on Mineral Lake blocked, for now
While three sides of Mineral Lake's shores remain undeveloped, Ron Nilsson of Mineral accuses the Lewis County Commission of colluding with a landowner by egregiously rezoning land there to make way for a "development bonanza" of million-dollar vacation homes.
Last year, Lewis County rezoned shore-line property on Mineral Lake, making way for up to 41 vacation homes. But Nilsson and a small group of petitioners who call themselves Friends of Mineral Lake - including Roberta Church and Eugene Butler - appealed the decision to the state Growth Management Hearings Board, which found that the rezoning did not comply with the state's Growth Management Act.
The county planning department and planning commission both recommended to the Board of Commissioners to not approve of the rezoning. But the commissioners approved it anyway.
Lewis County Commissioner Lee Grose, whose jurisdiction includes Mineral, stands behind the decision, saying property owners should not be hindered from doing what they want with their land.
So the County Commission approved rezoning 80-acre parcels into 20-acre parcels throughout 830 acres owned by Forecastle Timber Co.
In exchange, the company would keep about 1,200 nearby acres as a forest reserve.
Grose said the forest reserve made the rezoning issue easy to digest, and 20 acres are easier for developers to work with than 80 acres.
"It just seemed like a more logical fit to me," said Grose, a Packwood Republican.
The Friends of the Mineral Lake balked.
"Mineral will become a bedroom community of second homes and the lake won't attract the same level of tourism," Nilsson said.
While the 80-acre parcels have always been open to development, their primary use has to remain under timber-harvest guidelines, according to the county's Forest Land of Long-Term Commercial Significance zoning.
The 20-acre zoning, or Forestry Land of Local Importance, would also require the parcels stay as timber-harvest lands. But the scale down in size would make the parcels easier to sell, according to the Washington Forest Law Center.
"And it's not viable or realistic" to expect vacation-home owners to manage half of their property as harvest lands, said Wyatt Golding, a staff attorney for the Seattle-based Forest Law Center.
The Growth Management Hearings Board found there are many tracts of land within Lewis County that fall under the designation of Forestry Land of Long-Term Significance that are similar to Forecastle's property. But they are not being considered for re-designation as Forestry Land of Local Importance.
And that's inconsistent.
Lewis County Deputy Prosecutor Glenn Carter said the county has until June 18 to issue a compliance report resolving the issues to the Growth Management Hearings Board. On July 31 there will be a hearing on the compliance report.
Both Lewis County and Forecastle have filed appeals of the Growth Management Board's decision in Thurston County Superior Court - Lewis County Superior Court judges have recused themselves from the case - in case the attempt at compliance fails.
The appeals process, moved to another county for transparency, could take years to resolve.
"We might still want a court to rule on these decisions," Carter said.