Smart planning is needed for Eastsound | Editorial

Eastsound is the hub of activity for retail, dining, foot traffic, community events, parades and more on the island.

How do you want to see Eastsound grow? Are you in favor of streetlights? Where would you like to see more parking spots? Would you like additional trails?

Orcas Island is increasing in popularity with visitors. Last May through September, ferry ridership from Anacortes to Orcas was 8.7 percent higher than the year before. This was the highest percentage increase of any of the islands.

In addition, sales and lodging tax has been climbing for the past two years, retail sales are up and construction is getting back on track, according to the San Juan County Economic Development Council. With the development of broadband on the horizon (see the story on page 3), the likelihood of more people moving here to work remotely is very real.

We need to plan wisely and with care. We applaud County Council Chairman Rick Hughes, who lives on Orcas, for looking at a long-term plan for Eastsound. It coincides with the Eastsound Planning Review Committee’s update of the subarea plan.

The Eastsound Subarea plan was originally adopted in 1981. It has been amended six times since then. While the scope of the plan has expanded over past 34 years, there has not been a thorough review of its provisions and standards since 1996. The EPRC’s website states, “While the plan’s primary goals remain intact,  changing demographic trends, new state legislation and shifting community priorities have altered the plan’s context. The poor fit of the existing plan is exacerbated by the multiple amendments that left the inconsistent usage, obsolete language and idiosyncratic regulations.”

The goal of the update is to streamline the regulatory components of the plan. It is not intended to be a comprehensive re-write of the plan itself. The process began in mid-2013 and was expected to be completed and adopted before the end of 2015.

The EPRC’s next meeting is Thursday, March 5 at 3 p.m. in the Eastsound Fire Station. The public is welcome.

For more information about the Eastsound Subarea Plan update, visit http://www.sanjuanco.com/cdp/ESAP/ESAP_Home.aspx.

To give Hughes feedback on Eastsound’s future, email rickh@sanjuanco.com.