No room for wildlife?

Johnson Creek property owner Brad Watts’s litany of assumptions, complaints and accusations in the 11/29/2008 NKH deserves informed comment.

Mr. Watts complains that he has been “unfairly labeled as a developer” of his 20 acres along Johnson Creek saying, “I have never sold a piece of property in my life.” Mr. Watts’s strenuous effort to have his property annexed suggests his intent to develop it. Alternatively, shall we assume that Mr. Watts merely desires annexation to increase his annual property taxes approximately $10,300 (see City of Poulsbo Annexation Task Force Report, July 9, 2008)? Fact: On April 5, 2007, Brad Watts signed a development contract for this property with local developer and attorney, John Johnson, operating as Nathan’s Glen Inc. Would Mr. Watts find “raw land speculator who signs a development contract with a developer” a less pejorative term?

Mr. Watts complains that he “lost 150 feet from either side of the creek to Poulsbo’s Critical Areas Ordinance … ” He fails to mention that Kitsap County’s Critical Areas Ordinance already required a 150-foot buffer on his property before Poulsbo adopted an identical CAO buffer width.

His next target is the Poulsbo Parks and Recreation Commission, which recommended Johnson Creek as the first and only wildlife habitat conservation area within Poulsbo. Mr. Watts asks, evidently seriously, “Do people want to take my entire property from me in the name of wildlife? … Do these people think I should donate this property to wildlife?”

Mr. Watts’s silly histrionics aside, designation of a habitat conservation area would require a developer to provide a habitat assessment before receiving project approval. The concept of private land use regulation in the public interest appears foreign to Mr. Watts. Perhaps he could prevail on his developer-in-waiting, a lawyer, to explain to him the differences between such regulation and constitutionally prohibited takings of property.

Next, Mr. Watts insults the efforts of local environmentalists to preserve Poulsbo’s rapidly dwindling open space, wildlife and fisheries resources: “Most of the people making recommendations and decisions have never set foot on my property and don’t have any idea of what they are talking about.”

Please, Mr. Watts, we can read the assessments of Washington State and Suquamish Tribe professional biologists. Moreover, many of us, including Poulsbo City Council members, visited your property with you as part of the Critical Areas Ordinance Task Force process.

The every-man-for-himself philosophy of private land development around Puget Sound for the last 100+ years is exactly what has led to our currently poor environmental state. Fewer than 8 percent of the original salmon numbers remain in Puget Sound. Kitsap County reports that Liberty Bay is in the worst condition of any bay in the county. According to a recent Poulsbo survey, the majority of citizens resides here because of the natural beauty and wants Liberty Bay protected.

When Liberty Bay continues to be silted in and degraded further; when the fish, birds and other wildlife are mostly gone; when there is little left of what used to make Poulsbo special, it will not be. That is a fact that property owners concerned about their quality of life and property values ought to ponder.

Molly Lee


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