The Long Road to Permitting the Stage

The Long Road to Permitting the Stage

Anyone who has built on Guemes Island or in Skagit County knows that the permitting process is long, tedious, and expensive. That was certainly the case for GICCA's Schoolhouse Park Stage.


The permitting process for this long-running project began in 2012. Mark Linnemann was the first of four project managers. A Pre-Development application is required prior to receiving a building permit. The Stage Project site was determined to be adjacent to a wetland and therefore in a Protected Critical Area (PCA) requiring a Critical Area Review. Mark and then GICCA President, Julie Pingree hired the necessary consultants to complete the review.


In the Pre-Development Meeting Notes, GICCA was told that in order to comply with the Rural Reserve zoning requirements of the project property and to allow for public events, a Special Use Permit must be obtained along with a designation as a Community Park. Special Use Permits also require review under the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA).


The first three-year building permit was issued on Oct 5, 2012 with conditions to complete mitigation within the adjacent wetland buffer zone and with the requirement that GICCA must obtain a Special Use Permit.


The building permit was renewed in 2015 by then President, Kathleen Phillips and extended for another three years. After a final six-month grace period, the permit expired. A new building permit was obtained on April 22, 2019 by then-president, Barb Ohms.


Work began in earnest to complete the project and work through the very tedious tasks of completing the Special Use Permit Application and the painstaking SEPA Checklist, obtaining a Reciprocal Agreement with Skagit County Parks & Recreation (SCPR), another Pre-Development meeting with the County Planning Dept., and in March of 2021, filing the required documents, site plans, parking plans, and landscaping plans. Special thanks to the GICCA Board for their many hours of work on this process. GICCA also paid the required application fee to the County of $4925.


Public notices were published and posted that opened the public comment periods for the SEPA determination, the proposed land-use change, and the announcement of the required Hearing Examiner's Hearing for the Special Use Permit. GICCA President, Barb Ohms addressed the Hearing Examiner and was available to answer any questions or concerns from the community. No concerns were presented.


On November 3, 2021, the Skagit County Hearing Examiner approved GICCA's Special Use Permit, with conditions. The complete document of determination can be viewed here.


The building permit final inspection required fulfilling several mitigation conditions in the wetland buffer zone. Stockpiled soil has been removed. All disturbed soils have been either hydroseeded or graveled. Native conifers have been planted. The County has accepted our mitigation measures and on November 9, 2021 GICCA passed the final building inspection. The occupancy permit is forthcoming.


Before celebrations can begin, all conditions of the Special Use Permit must be met. The ADA walkway and ADA parking places are still to be completed. The GICCA Board is working diligently to find the quickest option. Contractor schedules and unfavorable weather are the biggest obstacles at this time.


Please be patient. This project has taken over 10 years since the dream began taking shape. Plans are in the works for an opening celebration when the weather improves for an outdoor event. ALL volunteers, donors, and community partners will be recognized at that time. Thank you.