Guemes Island Planning Advisory Committee:

AIA Comes to Guemes Island

“You designed the store?” “Yep” said Dick Hein proudly. “Wow, this is great”, said Erica Gees, an architect from Amherst, Massachusetts, who is the team leader for the Guemes Island sustainability study. And so began the brief, but jam-packed visit of the AIA (American Institute of Architects) on Wednesday, April 12.

Ann Livingston, who is an attorney and AIA’s Director of the Center for Communities by Design and Erica then toured the island to see everything from the Samish Indian Burial Grounds to Edith Walden’s quince farm. In between, Joost Businger, Jim O’Neil, and Ian Woofenden talked about various island issues: water availability as we drove past West Beach and North Beach; the potential for solar and wind energy while looking at the installations at the store and the Bugge, Pellet, and Buchman properties; and wildlife and open space as we viewed the valley and Cady’s forest.

Ann and Erica came to learn first hand about the sustainability challenges Guemes Island faces from seawater intrusion, increasing costs of energy and property taxes, while trying to maintain our social and economic diversity. It is their aim to help us grow in a responsible and sustainable way.

The next stop was at the County Health Department, where they met over lunch with County Staff and Greg Peterka of the Skagit PUD. Joost and Marianne Kooiman represented GIPAC. Discussions focused on seawater intrusion, reverse osmosis systems, rainwater harvesting, and public community water systems. The possibility of a pipeline from Anacortes to Guemes Island, or a public water system in the center of the island, were also discussed.

Later in the afternoon they met on ferry issues with representatives from Anacortes, Skagit Transit, Friends of Guemes Island, the Ferry Committee, and GIPAC on ferry issues. We talked about concerns Anacortes residents have when we park in the ferry dock neighborhood, parking lot safety, and ferry hours. Ian Munce, City Planning Director, stated that, “Anacortes wants Guemes Island to continue to be rural”. Both he and Dale O’Brien (SKAT) pledged their support to help us improve transit service on the island and with SKAT service on the Anacortes side.

The focus of the energy discussion that evening was how to improve incentives for conservation and for more widespread use of solar and wind technology. Ian, Ann Magnano, Rob Schroeder, and Shannon McCormick from PSE made a number of suggestions on how the island could encourage these goals.

Thursday morning, Ann and Erica met with Don Munks who stated that his vision for the island is to expand recreation opportunities here, mainly camping facilities at Young’s Park. He also said he believes that, at some point in time, there would be a water line extended to the island.

Back in Mt. Vernon, Thursday afternoon, Ann and Erica talked with representatives from the County Planning and Parks Departments, the Washington Department of Ecology, the Samish Tribe, the Island Community Center Association, and the local chapter of the AIA about how to protect the wildlife, open space, and rural character of the island. Much of this conversation centered on ways to purchase important lands for conservation and to restore degraded areas.

That evening Ann and Erica were treated to a terrific potluck dinner supplied by some 50 enthusiastic islanders attending. In their summary of the previous 2 days they expressed their excitement about working on the Guemes Island project and how much they looked forward to coming back with a team of experts during the week of June 19 to help us make action recommendation. Ann emphasized that we can be sure the team is objective since all members are volunteers from out of state and they cannot be paid for related work on the island for 3 years after our study. The roundtable discussions planned with this team will include local technical experts and islanders. So it offers us a unique opportunity to collectively develop recommendations based on current science to address our sustainability issues.

Mark you calendars for Sustainable Guemes Public Meetings on June 20 and 22! We’ll discuss issues and recommended actions with the AIA team.

If you are interested in helping GIPAC prepare for the June meeting, contact Joost Businger at or 360-293-5815.

See also: AIA Chooses Selects Guemes Island to Promote Long-term Sustainability

About The American Institute of Architects

For almost 150 years, members of The American Institute of Architects have worked with each other and their communities to create more valuable, healthy, secure, and sustainable buildings and cityscapes. AIA members have access to the right people, knowledge, and tools to create better design, and through such resources and access, they help clients and communities make their visions real.

For further information contact Roz Glasser at (360) 588-0160 or


(There are no comments yet.)
add a comment: