Tuesday, July 22, 2014, 6:00 PM
At the end of a long and emotional bout, two Mason County Commissioners, Neatherlin and Jeffreys, flexed their political muscles and voted “Yes” to lift the recently imposed moratorium on cannabis growers. Out in the lobby, the decision brought a packed house to its feet, moving a couple of spectators to break into a ‘Rocky Balboa’ style victory dance.
Although the marijuana issue was the main event, there were also two warmup contests on the evening’s fight card. The first involved designating target areas for tax exempt low income housing in the three UGA’s (Urban Growth Areas) of Shelton, Allyn and Belfair. Selecting areas in Shelton and Allyn was a no-brainer; their UGA’s are served by central sewer systems, a mandatory criterion. But Belfair was another matter: Though residents served by the first phase of the sewer system – the only phase operational - were still dazed and reeling from the effects of $100/month bills, commissioners decided to deliver a haymaker concentration of low income housing to the same area.
The second contest was even more punishing: Matched against a Green Diamond request for higher densities and non-contiguous open space easements in seven proposed Green Diamond developments, the commissioners took a dive. And though the decision to tag-team the public was unanimous, the adopted changes to Title 16 of the Mason County Development Code will likely hit the canvass when challenged before the Growth Management Hearings Board.
But the upset of the evening goes to the attending public for sitting through nearly four hours of political footwork and verbal jabs without storming the ring; from the opening bell it was clear that the fix on all three hearings was in even before public comments were heard.
Why commissioners chose to schedule three important hearings on one card is anyone’s guess. But if they thought the public didn’t have the legs to go the distance, they were wrong.
And though there were no knockout punches or blood drawn by any of the combatants, it was clear to all who attended that, in the arena of Mason County politics, the Marquess of Queensbury rules no longer apply.
Tom Davis, Shelton
July 28, 2014