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ANACORTES — The city has made a big step toward changing its long-term growth area and making way for a massive bottling plant after submitting all the materials needed to begin the review of the proposed land-use change.

But those materials include a major difference from the earlier application, which called for signing over 14.7 acres of industrial-zoned land to the Samish Indian Nation. Instead of signing over those acres, the new proposal includes turning into public land 16.6 acres of land bordering the south end of Fidalgo Bay that are now zoned for light manufacturing.

One City Council member said he’s unhappy with the change, which was made without the council.

Councilman Ryan Walters said the council was not notified of the change in plans, nor given the chance to discuss an amendment to an application previously voted on and approved.

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Anacortes filed a petition July 31 to incorporate 11.2 acres in the county zoned rural reserve into its urban growth area. After much discussion, the City Council voted to move the petition forward on behalf of the owners for consideration by Skagit County Planning and Development Services.

The petition includes early plans for Tethys Enterprises to build a beverage bottling plant on the 11.2 acres and surrounding urban growth area. County planning will only consider the merits of the proposed land-designation change, not the Tethys project.

The plant was initially planned on land south of March Point, southwest of the intersection of Reservation and Stevenson roads.

Tethys later acquired 30.3 acres within city limits on the east side of Reservation Road and notified the city Nov. 29, though Tethys CEO Steve Winter said the 11.12 acres included in the first application would be needed for a rail yard for the plant.

In October, county planning sent a letter to the city asking for more information and documentation on the proposed growth area change before it could consider the application. Anacortes supplied this material Jan. 23.

The application included a major change from the original document, which called for 14.7 acres of current industrial land to be signed over to trust with the Samish Indian Nation. The new supplemental materials call for 16.6 acres of industrial land on the southern shores of Fidalgo Bay to be designated for public use.

A representative of the Samish Indian Nation could not be immediately reached for comment.

The supplemental materials note that the city found the 16.6 acres near Fidalgo Bay are “not developable” because the property is designated an aquatic reserve.

“That effectively precluded (the land) to be used for any industrial purpose,” said Councilwoman Cynthia Richards.

She said the alternative plan of using the land near Fidalgo Bay instead of signing the 14.7 acres over to the Samish Tribe was discussed in council meetings.

She said the council did not officially vote to change the plan from the original application, but the council generally agreed on the use of the Fidalgo land as an alternative. No complaints against the action surfaced through public comment, Richardson said.

Mayor Dean Maxwell said that over the last 10 to 12 years, the Department of Natural Resources has turned 30 to 40 acres of the city’s light-manufacturing land into conservation trust.

When asked if the City Council approved the change in plans between submissions to county planning, Maxwell said the council gave its approval to move the application forward to county planning.

Gary Christensen, Skagit County Planning and Development Services, said his department is satisfied with the additional materials provided.

The petition to change the urban growth area will likely be brought before the Growth Management Act Steering Committee in March.

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