Sidewalks, water and the village vision were the big topics at the Eastsound Planning Review Committee’s monthly meeting on Thursday, April 6.
Starting with public comment, San Juan County Engineer Colin Huntemer spoke on the behalf of Eastsound resident Grace Grantham regarding the EPRC’s approved pedestrian ramp design.
“I have regrouped with my professional peers and also others in the community … about the direction we are taking, just to take a pulse and make sure we’re doing the right thing,” said Huntemer. “The last thing I want to do is have consensus on a design that fails in its objective: having something that’s accessible and aesthetic.”
Huntemer said that a year ago he approached the EPRC with four options for new pedestrian ramps on street corners. His suggestion was Option A, which was the most handicap-accessible design, but it lacked green space and the rural character that the EPRC desired. The committee settled on option D, which was a middle ground between being accessible and still inspiring the rural feeling. A pedestrian crossing utilizing the committee’s preference was constructed at the intersection of Rose and Madrona.
“I felt like no one is going to do a better job telling you why we need to go with fully accessible kind than someone who needs those accessibilities,” said Huntemer. “The concern with what we’ve built is that it leads to a congested focal point – Option D does – where there’s not enough opportunity to have refuge or passing maneuvers especially when you have somebody that is using a mobility device that takes up the majority of the walkway.”
The committee debated among themselves about the validity of all four designs. They all agreed that option B and C would be removed from the discussion because they both lacked accessibility features.
“I think Option A satisfies the need,” said EPRC board member Margaret Payne. “I agree that it would be the best option.”
The committee chose to consider the options again during the May meeting and made no final decision on the matter.
Community Development Director Erika Shook gave a brief presentation on the proposed vacation rental ordinance changes. She would be that there was no limitation on the number of vacation permits allowed within the urban growth area. Shook said the changes include a new provision of removing solid waste and having one on-site parking spot per bedroom. She added that there would be an expiration date to permits every five years, which includes requiring that rentals meet conditions of approval. The county is seeking public comment on the proposal. To read more about the possible permit changes read the Sounder article at https://goo.gl/emHHfv. To read comments and submit your own visit https://goo.gl/FyJhnN.
Eastsound Water Users Association General Manager Paul Kamin gave a presentation on water availability in the village.
“As the Eastsound Planning area is embarking on changes to the comprehensive plan and our visioning process, the topic of ‘do we have enough water for all this planned growth?’ continues to surface,” said Kamin. “We’ve seen a growth in demand of 1 percent … The water system has significant capacity available.”
Kamin displayed graphs showing the water availability versus a number of connections made to the system. He noted that between 2010 and 2040, Washington State Department of Financial Management predicts San Juan County will potentially have a decline in population.
One of the projections that Kamin demonstrated was a growth of 3 percent versus the current capacity of the water system.
“Even with growth between now and 2035 at 3 percent, we’re still not exceeding the water rights and production capacity that the system has developed,” said Kamin.
Kamin then referenced research EWUA has done that show the potential impacts of climate change on the San Juan Islands. He said projections indicate that there will not be any significant drop in precipitation in the county.
“The history has been that we have been capable of recharging our aquifer every year,” said Kamin. “We are not overtaxing the recharge capacity.”
The only problems facing water availability on Orcas, explained Kamin, is contamination caused by outdated private septic systems and surface contaminants like the fuel spill in April 2015 (https://goo.gl/UZckKL).
Community member Fred Klein has been spearheading a campaign to gather the community’s input on what it believes the vision of Eastsound should be. For 12 hours over the course of four meetings, 34 people met to develop a vision statement. The EPRC has not officially endorsed this vision statement.
“It’s all very well to plan for the future, but we’ve got to show them how to do that today,” said EPRC member Bob Maynard. “I’ve only got a few years left so I’d like to see something happen.”
The vision statement was born from the 200-page compilation of ideas about the future of Eastsound titled “Seeking a Vision for Eastsound: An invitation to engage.” In November 2016, a copy of the book (https://goo.gl/5LCCnu) was presented to the EPRC as a way to start a discussion on what the community wants itself to look like in the future.
“I don’t want it to be wasted,” said Payne. “I would like to send it on to the county to say we praise it.”
Dustin Fox, a member of the audience during the EPRC meeting, said he feels that potential solutions to Eastsound’s homelessness and drug use are missing from the document.
“It doesn’t seem like we have anything set up in Eastsound to accommodate that,” said Fox.
“That is an element of our community that needs to be in the vision to be taken care of,” said fellow audience participant Leith Templin. “We are taking care of our own as well as we are taking care of our visitors.”
The next step in the process is to break into smaller workgroups to address specific details of the vision statement. The first of those workshops was held at the Orcas Senior Center on April 8 and facilitated by local author Jill McCabe Johnson.
“It’s our opportunity to really put some legs behind our beautiful vision. We’ll really get into the nitty-gritty,” said Johnson. “We are the visionaries who are trying to create something beautiful and livable for Eastsound.”
The next group meetings will be April 22 and May 6, with a May 20 date added if needed. The groups will narrow the scope of the vision and focus on goals and policies. Comments are being accepted now, email firstname.lastname@example.org.