County council OKs Orcas Village Plan

Questions on public access provisions for development to be clarified

After some 10 years in the making, the ordinance adopting the Orcas Village Plan, as presented by County Senior Planner Colin Maycock, was basically approved by the County Council on Sept. 29. The Council voted unanimously to adopt the ordinance amending the County’s Comprehensive Plan with the changes specified at the Sept. 29 meeting.

A public hearing preceded the council’s deliberations. Traffic concerns, especially as they relate to the 4.3-acre Transportation District, were aired by members of the public.

Mary Forbes urged the council to look at revenue from the business such a building in the Orcas Activity Center could create. “We’re not a hamlet: we’re a ferry landing and an activity center,” Forbes said.

However, later in deliberations, Council member Alan Lichter said he disagreed. “It’s a transportation gateway to the island – that doesn’t mean we have to keep building.”

Council member Kevin Ranker pointed out that the Growth Management Act mandates that Orcas Village is an activity center, and Council member Rich Peterson said, “We can’t be cavalier about reducing [building] in the Transportation District by two-thirds.”

Eastsound Sewer District Commissioner and Ferry Advisory Committee Chair Ed Sutton said, “Orcas Village is the front door to our community,” and stated his objection to unloading trucks from the ferries up the hill towards the Transportation District, where the Sewer District’s sewer facility sits.

Council member Gene Knapp pointed out that with the State Ferries Division’s financial situation, “they may not be the owners” of the Transportation District in the future. “We’re safest by allowing the smallest footprint possible at the time – the DOT [Department of Transportation] can come in later and ask for change,” Knapp said.

The Council voted to keep that district’s buildings limited to 12,000 square feet, with Lichter and Council member Bob Myhr voting against the motion.

A concern regarding the ordinance’s dictate that expansion of commercial moorage must be contingent on public access prompted the council to state that the term “public access” must be defined, so that there was less ambiguity before the plan goes before the Hearings Examiner.

Council member Kevin Ranker said that concerns about outer-island and transient moorage would be addressed in discussions about the recent purchase of “Jacobsen’s Landing” at the west side of the ferry dock.

Barbara Brown described the bluff east of the ferry landing as a feeder bluff and said that nothing should be built on it.

The council determined that they needed more information regarding the 75-foot buffer variance and that language should be clarified to make sure that buffer areas were not subject to appeals for variance.

The Council also decided to change the designation of the shoreline property east of the village store and west of the recently-purchased county property to commercial. It was noted that any shoreline construction would require a substantial shoreline development permit.

The council also allowed rural residential clusters within the residential district, such as the proposed twelve OPAL homes on six acres.

A motion to limit the size of residential buildings in the hamlet to 3,000 square feet failed, and the council agreed with the 4,000 square foot figure in the staff report.