— by Margie Doyle —
At its February meeting members of the Eastsound Planning Review Committee (EPRC) considered options and opportunities as they deal with the “mess” that growth presents, even as a county/ferry survey suggests that rural and natural atmosphere is what visitors to the islands really want.
Parking opportunities just west of the Post Office, street safety on Haven Road to the Odd Fellows Hall and Madrona Point, the Orcas Airport’s Master Plans to accommodate larger aircraft, county stormwater utility projects and rate increases, as well as review of individual commercial property applications concerned the EPRC, which consists of Yonaton Aldort, Paul Kamin, Bob Maynard, Jeff Otis, Margaret Payne and Dan Vekved; who were in attendance, and of Jonnie Welch, who was absent.
County acquisition of property
The EPRC had asked the county to consider purchase of “the Zukin property” on “A” Street, north of Orcas Athletic Center, west of Post Office. Last month County Councilman Rick Hughes brought the matter before the county council, asking them to direct staff to investigate the potential of that property to address a number of traffic, parking and stormwater solutions. The Council asked County Engineer Colin Huntemer to look at the property, with an eye to the county’s purchase of the property. “The investigation is happening as we as a group requested,” EPRC Co-chair Paul Kamin said, with thanks to Hughes and Huntemer.
Hughes commented that a traffic proposal to extend “A” Street out through Orion to Lovers Lane, has created a “struggle ” for him, “because as Lavender Hollow [Orion Lane] is recreational and safe. plans If the community is completely opposed to that, I’d like to know it,” said Hughes. (See “North Turn Extension Option #3 in “A”street alternatives 2013 )
Port Master Plan
The EPRC discussed the potential for Orcas Airport to grow as part of its Master Plan, which would accommodate expansion in airfreight delivery to and from the island.
With Paine Field in Everett beginning commercial air flights with Alaska and United airlines this fall, the committee heard of opportunities to connect with Paine Field for flight connections.
EPRC member Jeff Otis brought up a consideration that EPRC might take the Master Plan formation opportunity “to engage with the Port on what happens at Mt. Baker-North Beach roads intersection.” (Property on the northeast corner of that intersection is split-zoned residential and service-light industrial. The Port has engaged with the county to eliminate the split zone and make the entire corner service-light industrial. The EPRC has opposed that re-designation. See “Exhibit 4, Port Corner” at orcasissues.com/Countyzoningchangesproposed)
Kamin said that currently “There may be some different perspectives on EPRC on negotiations on that.” He said that “discussion may open again on their forums, with meetings for information, outreach and engagement.”
In other news about the Port of Orcas, EPRC member Dan Vekved pointed out safety concerns at the site of the recent Port clearing south of Mt. Baker Road. With the trees and brush cleared on the west side of the Port trail from Mt. Baker Road to Enchanted Forest Road LINK “The clearing has created a pond with wildfowl, ducks, and geese out there since the Port cleared the land. If the goal of the project was safety, is standing water the new reality permanently there?”
The EPRC noted that they had not seen a permit application for the clearing; and that the project may not be complete. “Substantial mitigation requirements [are in place] with the removal of the trees,” they noted. Vekved spoke of low-tech ways of dealing with the safety concerns, such as precast coyote plastic stands.
EPRC member Bob Maynard said, “We have the responsibility to the community: if the Port doesn’t mitigate, we need to take notice.”
Streetscapes and Haven Road development
The EPRC reviewed the adoption several years ago of streetscape codes for Eastsound commercial properties, with a focus on curbs, sidewalks and gutters. (https://orcasissues.com/eprc-standars/ ) The standardization of these codes has raised questions with the planned OPAL multiple-housing plan on North Beach Road near Enchanted Forest Road, and for a planned housing development on Haven Road just northeast of the Odd Fellows Hall. The county is looking to the EPRC for more opinions on what it may propose as an acceptable solution.
The EPRC discussed a wider range of options for different density zones, starting with two alternatives:
- Follow Eastsound street development as established by the standards adopted;
- Develop street-by-street options that consider other factors besides land use rules. Such options would be more flexible and more complicated
Otis suggested that the EPRC work team for streetscapes “get together and take a closer look as a team; my personal preference would be street-by-street [considerations].”
Vekved said, “[Although] I think the basic elements of streetscape are a good thing, I don’t think uniformity is possible or realistic in terms of appearance, landscaping and parking alternatives. I hate to take the thunder out of professional designers and public works; I don’t want to limit creativity either. Main Street had to be drawn up as highly engineered because of its existing uses. It’s tough when you’re limited by space.
“I would like to have a streetscape ‘philosophy’ more flexible than the design requirements allow.”
EPRC member Bob Maynard observed, “We’re trying to get 10 pounds into a 5 pound bag, that’s the problem.”
Rick Hughes said that the need to have “this mass standardization [of street standards] makes sense in dense commercial [zones],” but “ options may be the right plan, as each road has a different feel, use and character.”
John Campbell, who with John Miller is developing the property on Haven Road said, “When new roads are built, street standards are very helpful. The problem in Eastsound is streets are already here and we have to deal with what we’ve got. One thing I’ve heard is we don’t want to be like Friday Harbor. Haven Road was not built to any standard and it’s been a great trial.”
He spoke to the challenges of significant topography and the existing 25-ft right of way on Haven Road. The development on Haven Road has progressed with permits for clearing and grading and slight preparation but there is no building permit yet, Campbell said. The permit was submitted in December but not approved, and the builders are waiting for direction.
EPRC Co-chair Margaret Payne said she “would advocate for parking on one side of the street, walking on one side of the street.” The existing right-of-way and provisions for parking on one side and a sidewalk on the other would limit traffic to one way.
After discussing parking on one side of Haven Road and a sidewalk or path on the “water” side of the road, or parking on both sides of the road with people continuing to walk in the middle of the road (“It’s a low-volume road most of the time”), Tina Whitman spoke up for the imperative of pedestrian safety.
It was also suggested that two-way parking and traffic may be accommodated with “increased opportunity for turnaround at the county dock.”
Fred Klein said, “The public events held at Odd Fellows have been going on there for 100 years. It’s essentially a dead end street with very very low traffic volume, a slow, low-key operation. I believe that because of the nature of the traffic pattern that it’s essential to have two-way traffic.
“I would urge we be really creative — appropriate signage and outside-of-the-box thinking could lead us to some creative solutions here. It calls for a non-standard solution.”
Kamin said, “Most of the streetscape solutions will result in fewer parking spaces. The demand will not go down.”
Huntermer said, “The county wants to be responsive to economic generators like housing, [and there’s] a sense of urgency to provide an answer. Let’s pull back and rethink this, as opposed to holding up developments. It’s hard to maintain road characteristics when land use characteristics change.”
Local, state, and federal agencies that manage lands or recreation facilities in the San Juan Islands sponsored a study in 2017 to collect better information about use, impacts, visitors, and preferences for management. The study https://orcasissues.com/county-will-discuss-visitor-study-results/ addresses several questions related to San Juan Islands tourism, public lands, and recreation areas.
EPRC members commented that those who responded most enjoyed the county’s rural scenery, beaches and hiking. A “lively village scene” was the least popular of aspect of visiting the islands, with village traffic congestion; and that increasing RV camping and county build-up to accommodate more people was also seen as undesirable.
“People come to visit for the same reason we came here to live” said Payne. “I’m pleased our work about preserving the beauty of the island is important.”
Hughes announced an upcoming meeting to present the final results of survey, on Monday, Feb 26 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Senior Center in Eastsound.
EPRC workplan progress
Off-site parking in Eastsound was considered, as the EPRC works with the Orcas Island School District and the Community Church which has expressed and interest in exchanging roadside parking along in exchange for the cost of road improvements.
Funds were approved for a “night lighting” grant two years ago and Huntemer is investigating the allocation of those funds.
A Crescent Beach Community Discussion was advanced with Payne spearheading notifiation of stakeholders. She noted, “The shoulder on the water side of the road has eroded quite a bit. The county has to roto-rooter [the storm drain] every week; this winter a lot more frequent than previously.”
The EPRC noted that the county stormwater utility was scheduled to meet in February, with a rate restructure and increase in the works. Hughes said, there are “huge immediate stormwater needs,” with related projects needing completion at Prune Alley and “A” Street and Fern St. as well as Madrona Street.
The EPRC reviewed the permit for the dual fuel tank at the Public Works site. In county land use codes, bulk fuel storage requires a Conditional Use Permit (CUP). County Community Development Head Erika Shook reportedly determined that the tank located at the Public Works site on Mt. Baker road qualifies as a fuel service station in the Service/Light Industrial zone. As that designation is distinct from bulk fuel storage, it doesn’t require a CUP.
Hughes explained that such fuel service would be limited to “standard use by government agencies. In an emergency, it could be open to anyone serving the community.”
The post-facto review for the tank’s installation came after review and approval by the county Fire Marshal RJ Meyers and Orcas Fire and Rescue Chief Scott Williams. Otis noted that public safety and environmental protections were incorporated, and that the double-walled tank meets setback standards. The county submitted a protection and evacuation plan if there is a safety incident.,
The future of the Fern Street Park between Prune Alley and North Beach Road will be the subject on a community discussion this spring.
Upcoming meetings of note:
- Friday, Feb. 16 at 8:30 a.m. at the County Council Hearing Room, Friday Harbor. Planning Commission meeting will take public comment and discuss proposed amendments to the SJC Comprehensive Plan Vision. To find out how to comment in-person or writing, go to https://orcasissues.com/comprehensive-plan-vision-planning-commission-briefing/
- Saturday, February 17 at 2 p.m. at the Odd Fellows Hall. Presentation about Madrona Point with Peter Fisher
- Monday Feb. 26 at 5:30 p.m. at the Senior Center. Results of the multi-agency survey of County Visitors
- Thursday, March 1 regular EPRC meeting at 3 p.m. at Eastsound Fire Hall