Eastsound’s Peter Fisher reports on EPRC progress and communications with the County Council

Peter Fisher, retiring Chair of the Eastsound Planning Review Committee, presents the second "Annual Report" to the County Council on June 24. Reprinted in its entirety.

EPRC Annual Report to the San Juan County Council

June 24, 2008 • 11:00 a.m. • Firehall, Eastsound


Thank you for this opportunity to meet with you in Eastsound. We greatly appreciate your willingness to come here for just what you need – more advice! Last summer the EPRC traveled to Friday Harbor and gave you a presentation. We talked about the purpose and authority of the Eastsound Planning Review Committee. In addition, we looked at the four primary goals of the Eastsound Subarea plan.

In particular, we spoke about our desire to focus on goals one and two. These ask for us to identify, conserve and enhance qualities of Eastsound that contribute to peoples enjoyment of the place and to anticipate and manage how change will occur by providing a tangible vision for future growth. As a step in that direction, we proposed the Eastsound Vision Partnership community planning project. The first event was held last September at Orcas Center: a musical comedy, an art exhibit, and a daylong workshop to provide a means for community action to shape the future of Eastsound.

We were very pleased with the level of attendance – about 500 total over the weekend. Islanders came to planning events that were enjoyable, inspiring and in the case of John Clancy’s play “I beg your pudding” extremely funny. In my favorite scene, milk cartons stand in for recent construction projects in Eastsound during a student led design charrette. The ensuing food fight was definitely a sweeter tasting solution to dealing with our family feuds than the bitter criticism usually encountered.

The second step in the Eastsound Vision planning process is to obtain funding to continue educating, informing,

and involving the public in updating the Eastsound Subarea Plan. The plan calls for updates every three years, though none have happened for 12 years. That fact led to this question: If we completed a really good Subarea plan update for Eastsound, what would happen then? How well has San Juan County met the objectives outlined for action in the 1996 Subarea plan? Lets take a look.

16.55.400 Implementation. Blue sections are from pp 72-73 of the Eastsound Subarea Plan.

A. Overview and Purpose. This section identifies various ways to implement those elements of this plan which direct physical public improvements within the Eastsound planning area. It describes priorities for funding planned improvements. It is intended for use in the preparation of County capital facilities plans, annual budgeting and other funding decisions affecting Eastsound.

The Eastsound planning review committee should prepare an annual written report or verbal presentation for presentation to the board of County commissioners by June 1st of each year which describes the status of any capital projects and planning activities occurring and which recommends priorities for these and other projects for timely consideration in the annual budgeting process.

How are we doing? Grade: C. Last year we submitted our first ever report on July 17. This year’s version is coming to you today, June 24th. This represents considerable progress towards the goal of finishing our report by June first and next year I am confident this target will be reached.

B. Capital Improvements. Table 400–1, Eastsound Capital Plan and Funding Sources, is a summary of the capital improvements plan for Eastsound. [N.B. Erratum. No copy of a “Table 400–1” was attached to Ordinance 4–1996.] A description of specific improvement projects follows. p1

How are we doing? Grade: F. Apparently table 400-1 got lost. If anyone finds it, please let us know.

1. Roads in Figure Plan 130–1 are priorities, particularly where proposed right-of-way must be acquired.

How are we doing? Grade: F. Figure 130-1 is so out of date as to be useless.

2. A public restroom is needed in Eastsound to serve the summer and weekend visitors.

How are we doing? Grade: A. Thank you for the bathroom it is much used and appreciated.

3. Streetscape improvements encompass a range of pedestrian amenities. These include curbs to separate pedestrian and vehicle traffic, walkways, street trees, benches, etc. These are to be provided in accordance with SJCC 16.55.130.

How are we doing? Grade: F. Last year the county’s consultant for this quit and has not been replaced.

4. Parking is a private responsibility but one which requires a cooperative solution if the goals of this plan are to be achieved.

How are we doing? Grade: F. In 1981 the plan called for a parking committee and fund; nothing yet.

5. Acquisition, development and maintenance of parks will require funding from various sources: state grant programs and private donations should be pursued for acquisition and development; County general funds should provide for maintenance of park grounds and facilities.

How are we doing? Grade: B. Outside the UGA some important land has been conserved. Inside the UGA additional parks are needed in the neighborhoods.

6. The Village Square is a priority for implementation of the Village Plan, SJCC 16.55.140.

How are we doing? Grade: C. The square is public but SJC parks has inadequate funding for maintenance.

7. The Eastsound swale is both a distinctive feature of the community and a critical filter for surface water runoff into East Sound. The permanent viability of water quality in East Sound, particularly in and near Fishing Bay, depends on maintaining this wetland function. The County should pursue a State Centennial Clean Water Fund Grant for development of a nonpoint pollution control plan for East Sound which will include stormwater management recommendations to protect marine water quality and the functions of the swale. The County should acquire rights to manage the swale as part of an Eastsound stormwater system. The County should acquire easements unless fee simple acquisition is necessary.

How are we doing? Grade: F. The 2005 Stormwater Plan states that while its provisions serve to meet the letter of the law, it will not protect the environment until further research is accomplished. On page 64 the author recommends “a habitat and biological assessment of the hydraulic capacity of the Eastsound Swale should be started as soon as possible. Information regarding the seasonal water levels and flow rates in the County wetlands is non-existent. The data gathered will help the county estimate the hydraulic capacity of the system for storage treatment and habitat.” No studies have been done, no rights to manage the swale, nor easements, have been acquired by the county, as called for in the plan.

C. Planning Actions. To achieve the goals of this plan, several planning efforts must be pursued.

1. A goal of this plan is the establishment of an effective off-street public parking program for the village.

How are we doing? Grade: F. Establishing an effective off-street parking program is an excellent idea.


2. A capital facilities plan for the Eastsound area should be adopted in accordance with requirements of theState Growth Management Act. This should describe existing sewer, water and fire protection service capacities and plans for long-term service expansion. (See SJCC 16.55.110(D).)

How are we doing? Grade: D. No unified capital facilities plan exists for Eastsound. Separate entities have their own sewer, water and fire plans, but there is no regular communication, cooperation nor consensus between any of them and the county. On page 4 of the long-range drainage plan for Eastsound, Jerry Rasmussen states “the Eastsound UGA can improve efficiency and delivery of services by assuming responsibility for planning, organizing, and managing its future needs through a single organization.”

3. A stormwater management plan and regulations should be prepared for Eastsound in concert with a watershed management plan for East Sound.

How are we doing? Grade: D. The 2005 stormwater plan needs to be adopted with funding included in the budget for a carrying capacity study for Eastsound. Then we can revise the plan as soon as possible to include a watershed management element based on a scientific understanding of the ecosystem.

4. The waterfront access plan to establish legal public access to the village shoreline and to guide County investment in physical improvements is necessary to provide and maintain public access. (See SJCC 16.55.110(C)(3)(a)(vi).)

How are we doing? Grade: C. The waterfront access plan has established legal public access to our shoreline. However, it does not provide funding nor a timeline to create the physical improvements necessary to provide and maintain public access.

5. Actions to comply with the Growth Management Act which will affect Eastsound and this plan include:

a. A review of the consistency of the Eastsound Subarea Plan with the Comprehensive Plan and GMA should be completed, as required by the Comprehensive Plan;

How are we doing? Grade: F. This is a crucial planning component of the next Subarea plan update.

b. Adoption of a housing element based on analysis of projected population growth and demographic information to forecast the numbers, types and distribution of housing units in the Eastsound area;

How are we doing? Grade: F. There is no housing element and the near complete disappearance of affordable housing in recent years is a leading problem for both business owners and their employees.

c. The boundaries of the Eastsound planning area were expanded in 1996 to accommodate the

projected 20-year population growth among island villages and the share to be assigned to

Eastsound. Following analysis of county activity centers to meet the requirements of RCW

36.70A.070(5)(d), reviewing the needs and expectations for Eastsound in the Subarea Plan and the Comprehensive Plan, and considering the affordable housing needs of Orcas Island, an interim urban growth area was analyzed and delineated. The work necessary for the final UGA should be completed; and

d. Adoption of a capital facilities plan as described in subsection (C)(2) of this section, but also including service capacity and expansion projections for transportation systems, public libraries, and other public services, and a plan for financing all scheduled improvements.

How are we doing? Grade: D. This is much needed, basic planning work – how and when do we do it?

The San Juan County Comprehensive Plan adopted pursuant to the Growth Management Act includes a housing element and a capital facilities plan for the County, which includes provisions for Eastsound.

The subarea plan contains goals, policies, and regulatory provisions to enhance the diversity of housing. p3

How are we doing? Grade: D. The subarea plan has not helped enhance the diversity of housing opportunities, except for density bonuses, and it does not provide for all necessary capital facilities.

6. A parks and trails element should be established for this plan. The Eastsound planning review commitee should explore the desired scope and effect of this elements and establish a work program for development. (Ord. 13–2000; Ord. 4–1996; Ord. 62–1992 § 2)

How are we doing? Grade: F. No parks or trails element has been included in the plan nor has a work program been established for development of one.


Last year we felt that as a committee we were mostly unable to do our jobs as called for in the Eastsound Subarea Plan; this year we see that many of the important issues of the 1990’s remain unaddressed. In searching for solutions to our worsening problems, there seems to be two areas of greatest need: financing and governance. What follows are my personal observations – these comments are not from the EPRC – and I present these ideas as topics worthy of fuller examination and discussion. My question for the San Juan County Council to ponder is this: How and when are you going to fund and implement the Eastsound Subarea Plan?


I have witnessed San Juan County change through three eras. In the 1960’s Orcas began to grow slowly. The county council dealt mostly with roads. My grandma dealt with the bad roads by inviting council members over for dinner to experience the local washboard first hand. After rapid growth in the 1970’s, the county found itself a million dollars in the red by the early 1980’s. The second era was when former 3 term commissioner Tom Cowan of Lopez confronted this crisis by creating a functional budget process and convincing the others to take the full 6% property tax increase then permissible by law.

By the mid 1990’s the county was a million dollars in the black and in better shape due to the council’s willingness to increase revenue to pay for the actual cost of growth. After about 1995, the SJCC stopped the tax increases as we entered era three – the longest boom to date in our islands population growth and property value gains. Some dozen years later, I estimate our government is millions of dollars behind as a result of inadequate income. As a consequence, our Subarea plans admirable goals exist only on paper and are unfunded in reality. We can thank the Land Bank and community donations for the improvements that have occured, such as the handsome bandshell.


Our dilemma is that the Growth Management Act has in its specifics failed to give San Juan County the ability to pay or provide for urban level services in unincorporated UGAs as required by state law. An editorial in the P-I on 6.11 asserted that “ The state offers counties too few revenue options, expects too much from them in financing public safety and health, and fails to force developed areas into the cities so they can finance urban levels of services. This is a structural crisis. The real need is for additional alternatives to raise revenue.”

I suggest that it is time to investigate incorporation of San Juan County as a city, with a mayor elected by all, and the Council proportionate to population density. In 1990 Bainbridge Island became one city instead of a separate town and county. Only a city form offers our elected leaders the authority to raise the money necessary to protect our island’s assets from degradation, such as the still attractive environment and healthy property values.

If we today, by working together, start moving towards funding and implementing the Eastsound Subarea Plan, then I believe we can bestow our community with a future in harmony with, not destructive to, nature.

Thank you, Peter Fisher • Chair, Eastsound Planning Review Committee

PS. A special thanks to the current members of EPRC and new Chair, Mindy Kayl. Keep up the good work!