Issues of commercial growth and affordable housing dominated public testimony at the April 4 hearing of the Eastsound land supply analysis, presented by Colin Maycock, Senior Planner for the County’s Development and Planning Department (CDPD) to the county Planning Commission.
By the time the meeting concluded and Planning Commissioners and county staff rushed to catch the next ferry, the Planning Commission voted to accept the analysis, which Maycock described as a “report” and not a “not a regulatory document or a comprehensive analysis.”
The land use analysis was prepared in order to comply with the June 2006 ruling of the Western Washington Growth Management Hearings Board (GMHB) that the county “show its work” with regard to projected land needs for commercial and institutional development within the UGA, and to show that specific circumstances justify the less-than-urban densities of some parcels within the Eastsound Urban Growth Area (UGA).
While the County is pressured to comply with the GMHB order regarding the Eastsound UGA by this June, CDPD Director Ron Henrickson repeated throughout the hearing that land use analysis for commercial and residential adequacy, including affordable housing, will be revised before Dec. 31 to consider land use needs to 2028. The end of the year is the deadline imposed by a legal settlement to a lawsuit contesting that enough available land exists in the county’s three UGAs (Friday Harbor, Eastsound and Lopez village). The suit was brought by John Campbell, a Homes for Islanders board director, who said at the April 4 hearing, “I’m quite skeptical of the residential development capacity analysis as it provides for the development of affordable housing.”
Henrickson said that the CDPD’s concern was that the commercial analysis would “stand muster with the Growth Board” and advised that the report would be “tweaked” after the June deadline is met.
The current Eastsound land use analysis concludes that the UGA as defined “provides space and zoning sufficient for up to 687 units,” which is 50 percent of the projected population growth on Orcas Island through 2020.
As the population growth will raise demand for commercial goods and services, the study finds that 8.6 acres will be needed for commercial activities, and the Village commercial district contains approximately 12 acres of developable land.
While Ed Sutton, Sewer District commissioner, commented that the District’s projected “need for commercial sewer facilities is even more conservative” than the CDPD analysis, John Evans stated that the commercial district should be expanded.
Patty Miller, as representative of the Eastsound Planning Review Committee (EPRC) stated that the EPRC supports the land use report, but said that parcels that are assumed to have no development potential do have the potential for development, and suggested that affordable housing can be achieved by incentives, such as bonus densities (whereby four homes can be built on one acre, as long as two of the homes are designated as within income limits) to build affordable housing within the UGA.
Fred Klein said that multiple uses of non-residential zones should be considered, that “commercial and institutional development have a big bearing on residential development.”
Jim Nelson said that “the question really is the capacity for commercial development… the changes needed for redevelopment aren’t really there.”
Commissioner Stephen Adams questioned residential zoning adjacent to the airport, saying that Anacortes came close to closing their airport over similar zoning. “I think it’s a huge mistake.”
Three areas with less-than-urban densities were justified in the plan, due to shoreline, wetlands, archeological considerations and hillside grade conditions.
Planning Commissioner Brian Ehrmantrout cast the sole vote rejecting the analysis, saying, “I share John Evan’s concern that … commercial properties will be owned by a small parcel of owners … I realize we’re under a timeline, but I don’t want to destroy the village.” Later Ehrmantrout suggested that a “middle ground” may be to “draw a larger area” for commercial use within the UGA.
Henrickson said, “I can assure you a lot of things will change when we revisit [the land supply analysis]. We need to accept the analysis, knowing we need to fix the boundaries.”
Copies of the Land Supply Analysis can be obtained by calling 370-7573, or at the CDPD’s website at www.sanjuanco.com/cdp/default.aspx.