Development: Like ducks in a pen

Subsidized affordable housing projects on Vashon will lead to overcrowding.

Performed by the famous Osborne Brothers, the bluegrass song “Rocky Top” offers us insight to the perils of overcrowded living conditions: “I’ve had years of cramped up city life, trapped like a duck in a pen. All I know is it’s a pity life can’t be simple again.”

That’s what motivated us to move to Vashon Island in 1977. Island life was open and simple, and Vashon duck pens held ducks, not people.

Now that we’re contemplating (and some of us celebrating) the subsidized construction of dozens of 330 to 350-square foot residential “micro-units” at the corner of SW 188th Street and Vashon Highway, I doubt island life will remain very simple going forward. If our grand “plan” for sustainable community development ever truly envisioned the concentration of so many unrelated family “units” on such a tiny corner of ground, it was a sick piece of social engineering … and this looks like a ghetto in the making.

According to poultry experts at, even a chicken requires 545 square feet of yard space to be classified “free range” and sustainable. I don’t know much about ducks, but a free and humane society should treat its people at least as well as its chickens.

— John van Amerongen

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