Plans for the Mineral Lake YMCA camp have been halted by Lewis County Commissioners

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Despite previous rejection of growth management, commissioners vote against private property development

By Isabel Vander Stoep / [email protected]

Three voluntary community meetings, support from several local education groups and the Lewis Economic Alliance, and over a year spent studying infrastructure, environmental, and water impacts have all seemingly been in vain for the Seattle-area YMCA.

On Tuesday morning, the nonprofit’s dream of building a new youth camp on the north shore of Mineral Lake came to an abrupt end when Lewis County commissioners voted unanimously against rezoning the organization’s property, which would have been the next necessary step build the camp.

“Of course we were disappointed. But we also respect the county commissioners, and those are tough decisions,” said Gwen Ichinose Bagley, Greater Seattle YMCA youth development officer. “We need to regroup… But we are committed to outdoor opportunities for youth. This has always been our North Star and we will continue that work.”

Commissioners on Tuesday passed annual changes to the county’s comprehensive plan. For all but the rezoning of the YMCA property, they voted according to recommendations from the Lewis County Planning Commission, a citizens’ advisory committee that reviews changes to the plan. Of all the changes, the YMCA application received the most public comments. Many local resident testimonies strongly opposed the development of the site, while Lewis County Commissioner Sean Swope said a handful more opposed the YMCA as an organization.

Before he and his seat neighbors cast their votes against the zone change, he asked Ichinose Bagley a list of questions he believed to be derived from his review of the written testimonies; It should be emphasized that in the testimonies of the organization “education” was mentioned more than 80 times.

He then asked Ichinose Bagley where the non-profit organization stood on critical race theory, gender reassignment surgeries and police defunding.

Commissioner Lindsey Pollock intervened at one point, saying: “Commissioner Swope, you have to remember these are land use decisions.”

Pollock did not respond to a request for comment on the decision, in which her voice matched that of her seat neighbor.

Later asked by The Chronicle why he targeted the organization’s values ​​in relation to a private property decision, Swope said it was the YMCA’s decision to bring up its educational goals in its credentials.

In response to his questions, Ichinose Bagley simply replied that the Y is focused on providing outdoor education for all youth.

In making their decision, county officials said the commissioners should consider that: the change conforms to the Growth Management Act and county code, there is a demonstrated need for the project, the public interest is served, and the change is not “spot zoning.” This means a unique zone change as opposed to the area around her.

Swope said it was the public interest issue that led him to reject the Rezone and that the project has no “community buy-in”.

Although commissioners have been vocal in the past against the Growth Management Act, which was even brought up by Commissioner Lee Grose during that meeting, Swope likened the decision to the county halting development of or exploration of the Crystal Geyser water bottling plant in Randle Windmills on Weyerhaeuser Land in the Willapa Hills.

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

“We continue to believe that a youth and family camp and outdoor education center would be the best use for this property as its sparing use will allow most of the property to remain in its natural state,” said Ichinose Bagley. “The Y examines its options in the course of the decision.”

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