— by Sam Gailey, updated March 10 at 2 p.m. —
The most recent San Juan County Council meeting was conducted on Tuesday, Mar. 7, on Orcas Island at the Eastsound Fire Station. The public turnout for the meeting was robust with approximately thirty members of the community in attendance to hear updates firsthand on the various island projects and proposals.
The first discussion point on the agenda was a public hearing to approve a resolution for the road location for Orcas Hill Road and the proposed Orcas Village Park and Ride. According to a report by County Engineer Colin Huntemer, the project includes constructing new access to Orcas Hill Road from Orcas Road to accommodate the construction of the Orcas Village Park and Ride facility, and to eliminate cross traffic through the State ferry terminal holding lanes.
The Orcas Village Park and Ride itself will provide between 60 and 80 additional parking spots, which, in turn, will reduce the amount of congestion and number of vehicles parked along Orcas Road, which has been deemed a safety concern. Phase 1 of the project is estimated to cost $1.1 million, which is $340,000 over the $760,000 WSDOT granted for this project. Construction is expected to begin Apr. 10 and needs to be completed by Jun. 30 or the project stands to lose State funding. Huntemer also made a point to stress that in creating the Orcas Village Park and Ride, most of the existing landscaping and trees will be preserved in order to maintain the current integrity of Orcas Village. County Council Chair Rick Hughes made a point of acknowledging and thanking State Representative Jeff Morris and State Senator Kevin Ranker for their support and assistance in securing State funding that was granted for the proposed Orcas Village Park and Ride project.
Many in attendance were particularly excited by updates on The Exchange project, which is currently in the home stretch of completion. Pete Moe, Orcas Recycling Services Director, stated that April will be the ground breaking for the new facility, with a two month build-out for the interior, which should be completed by the end of June. Currently, there is a fundraising effort to raise $35,000 in order to complete the project. Anyone interested in making a contribution to this critical public service, can find more information on their website, www.exchangeorcas.org/donate.
Jeff Otis, the Eastsound Planning and Review Committee (EPRC) co-chair, shared feedback from recent focus groups that shared their opinions in vision statement workshops on what the priorities should be in order to not only preserve the integrity of Eastsound, but also planning for the future to determine where the village will be in twenty years. Housing was the number one concern, followed by parking. Preserving the green space was third, the character of the village fourth, and lastly, the walking/biking/public transit needs.
The mood was lively when discussing the completion of the Deer Harbor bridge project, which officially opened Mar. 7, complete with a ribbon cutting ceremony. Wes Heinmiller, the Deer Harbor Plan Review Committee Chair, stated that the public had been closely included in the process of the $3 million project (completed on budget), ranging from helping pick the color of the concrete to the design of the guard rails. Next up for the project, a $50,000 grant has been awarded to help complete a five-mile trail leading from the bridge to the Four Winds Camp facility.
The meeting concluded with the advisory committee appointments of David Kane to the Agricultural Resources Committee, Kevin Loftus to the Lodging Tax Advisory Committee, and Brian Vincent to the Veterans Advisory Board.