Plans for YMCA camp at Mineral Lake halted by Lewis County commissioners

Despite previous opposition to growth management, commissioners vote against private property development

By Isabel Vander Stoep / [email protected]

Three voluntary community meetings, endorsements from several local education groups and the Lewis Economic Alliance, and more than a year spent studying infrastructure, environmental, and water impacts have seemingly been in vain for the YMCA. of Greater Seattle.

On Tuesday morning, the nonprofit’s dream of building a new overnight youth camp on the north shore of Mineral Lake came to a screeching halt when Lewis County commissioners voted unanimously against a rezoning of the organization’s property, which would have been the next step needed to establish the camp.

“We were disappointed, of course. But we also respect the county commissioners and these are tough decisions,” said Gwen Ichinose Bagley, youth development manager for the YMCA of Greater Seattle. “We are going to have to regroup… But we are committed to providing outdoor opportunities for young people. It has always been our North Star and we will continue this work.

Commissioners adopted annual amendments to the county’s comprehensive plan on Tuesday. For all but the rezoning of YMCA properties, they voted based on recommendations from the Lewis County Planning Commission, a citizens’ advisory committee that reviews changes to the plan. Of all the changes, the YMCA’s application received the most public comment. Numerous testimonies from residents strongly opposed the development of the site, while Lewis County Commissioner Sean Swope said a handful were more opposed to the YMCA as an organization.

Before he and his seatmates voted against the rezone, he asked Ichinose Bagley for a list of questions he said came from his review of written testimony; pointing out that in the organization’s testimonies, “education” was mentioned more than 80 times.

He then asked Ichinose Bagley what the nonprofit’s position was on critical race theory, gender reassignment surgery and police defunding.

Commissioner Lindsey Pollock stepped in at one point to say, “Commissioner Swope, you have to remember these are land use decisions.”

Pollock did not respond to a request for comment on the decision where his vote aligned with his seat neighbor.

Asked later by The Chronicle why he was targeting organizational values ​​over a private ownership decision, Swope said it was the YMCA’s choice to bring up their education goals in their testimonials.

In response to her questions, Ichinose Bagley simply replied that the Y focuses on outdoor education for all young people.

When making the decision, county staff said commissioners should consider whether: the change complies with the Growth Management Act and the county code, whether there is a demonstrated need for the project, if the public interest is served and if the change is not “one-time zoning”. which means a single area change in contrast to the area around it.

Swope said it was the issue of public interest that prompted him to vote against the rezoning, and that the project lacked “community buy-in”.

Although commissioners have in the past been strongly opposed to the Growth Management Act, which was even brought up by Commissioner Lee Grose at this meeting, Swope likened the decision to the county to halt development of the Crystal Geyser water bottling plant at Randle or the study of windmills on Weyerhaeuser land in the Willapa Hills.

This isn’t the first time Lewis County has rejected development decisions on parcels north of Mineral Lake, but previous proposals have aimed to turn the area into a lakeside vacation home community, according to Ron Nillson, 78-year-old resident.

“We continue to believe that a youth and family camp and outdoor education center is the best use of this property as its low impact use will allow most of the property to remain in its original condition. natural state,” said Ichinose Bagley. “The Y is considering its options following the decision.

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