What’s your vision for the county?

Islanders with a vision for the county can express their ideas soon.

“That’s really the heart of the plan,” said Linda Kuller, planning manager of San Juan County’s Community Development at the March 6 San Juan County Council meeting. “Do the plan’s goals and policies fit what we need in this community now or do they need to be updated?”

Kuller presented to the council a request for proposal for “professional assistance” to create a survey and other outreach measures to evaluate the comprehensive plan’s vision statement.

The survey would include closed-ended questions such as asking whether islanders are satisfied or dissatisfied with sections of the statement, said Kuller. It would also include areas to denote where the vision statement does not match the body of the plan and vice versa.

“I do think it is a very well put together document,” said Councilman Rick Hughes about the plan’s vision statement. “A lot of time and effort was made in the past and I think it is a document that still holds true, in its foundation at least, to what my core values are for this community.”

The vision statement is roughly 800 words and includes sections on education, economy and land use. It begins with: “We the people of San Juan County recognize that these rural islands are an extraordinary treasure of natural beauty and abundance, and that independence, privacy and personal freedom are values prized by islanders. Being a diverse people bound together by these shared values, we declare our commitment to work towards this vision of the San Juan Islands in 2020.”

The comprehensive plan is updated about every 20 years, based on the Growth Management Act. The GMA was adopted by the state in 1990 to create zoning and development regulations to curb urban sprawl and protect natural resources after a state population influx. San Juan County officials started to adopt GMA guidelines in 1992.

Three other proposal requests concerning the comprehensive plan update were presented at the March 6 meeting. The proposals were for separate reviews on the classification of agricultural, forest and mineral resource lands based on Washington Administrative Code.

Erika Shook, director of San Juan County Community Development, told The Sounder that those land-use designations require a special expertise to evaluate factors, like the economic viability of forestry in the county.

Consultants would analyze the current county designations and determine whether they are correct, or whether designations should be added or omitted. Other land-use designations are reviewed by county staff often, said Shook, and will be reviewed in-house for the update.

Contractors could bid on the four proposals separately, or combine them and subcontract tasks not under their expertise, said Kuller to council.

Hughes said he didn’t completely understand why some islanders say the plan is confusing.

“The comprehensive plan is difficult to understand,” said Hughes. “Okay, what the heck does that mean?”

Shook explained that information in the plan’s appendix, like charts on population and landuse, are “not very user-friendly.”

“We’re going to make those easy to understand and figure out what the trends are,” said Shook. “Before, we put in a lot of tables with information, but didn’t actually tell people what that information meant.”

Councilman Bill Watson suggested the county also create and release a tentative timeline on the update’s public comment periods.

“That will start maybe reassuring folks that we haven’t moved beyond a point they’ve been looking for,” said Watson.

A town hall meeting will discuss the update, and other issues, at 5:15 p.m., March 28 at the San Juan Island Fire District No. 3 station in Friday Harbor.

To stay up-to-date about the county comprehensive plan, visit www.sanjuanco.com/1079/Comprehensive-Plan-Update and sign up for notices at www.sanjuanco.com/list.aspx. Email comments about the project to compplancomments@sanjuanco.com.