Guemes Island Planning Advisory Committee:

Guemes Island Submits Draft Sub-Area Plan July 31, 2007

Download the Guemes Island Draft Sub-Area Plan [1.1 mb PDF 7.31.7]

Modifications of May 2007 Draft Guemes Island Sub-Area Plan Based On Public Comments [80kb PDF 8.13.7]

The Guemes Island Planning Advisory Committee, GIPAC, will present the draft sub-area plan for the island at a public meeting on June 8 at 7:00 PM at the Community Hall.

The plan represents a six-year effort to develop policy and code changes needed to address Guemes Island issues. Many of the recommendations were taken from the Skagit County Comprehensive Plan and County Code and adapted to better address unique Guemes Island issues. The plan seeks to reflect the results of GIPAC’s visual preference study and opinion survey to understand how islanders want their community to look and feel in the future. Both surveys showed a strong preference for open spaces and woods, modest “non-suburban style” homes set naturally into the environment with farms and vistas, and an absence of suburban amenities or urban services.

Many of the plan recommendations focus on protecting the island’s only water supply, its sole source aquifer, from further over pumping which results in saltwater intrusion. The plan calls for stronger public education efforts to encourage the use of roof water collection systems, native plant landscaping, and other water conservation measures. It also recommends regulations barring bonus densities for new development and prohibiting the expansion of programs to reduce lot size near the Rural Intermediate Zone. Other proposed precautions include tighter controls on new wells and well systems for accessory dwellings.

To maintain fields and woodlands as open space, individuals are encouraged to enroll in the Skagit County open space program. For permanently protecting these lands, islanders are asked to work with local land trust organizations and take advantage of the tax benefits gained by conservation easements. Islanders are also encouraged to keep, and where needed, restore native plant communities on their property as another way to maintain the quality of open space and wildlife habitat.

Shorelines are a significant part of the island landscape. In addition to offering visual beauty to residents they provide valuable habitat for marine life, Guemes Island shorelines are an important part of the North Sound marine ecosystem. However, the native vegetation that supports this life is degraded on many of the island’s shorelines. For existing development, the plan encourages residents to conserve native vegetation on shorelines and to revegetate degraded sections. For new structures, protecting existing native vegetation in the water setback area is the recommended requirement. This area would also increase from 50 feet to 100 feet in most areas.

New homes replacing older small cabins may be disproportionately large, especially on smaller shoreline lots. The trend is troublesome since it appears that the shoreline is over developed in these areas. The plan recommends addressing this issue with modest increases in side yard setbacks and reductions in the bulk of upper stories.

Also, to protect shoreline banks, greater use of vegetation and other “soft” technologies are encouraged, rather than conventional rock or cement. In addition, the plan looks to prohibiting private docks and piers, mining, and large-scale commercial aquaculture.

Most of the island’s transportation concerns revolve around the ferry and associated parking issues both on the island and in Anacortes. Among the first recommendations is a request for a level of service study to determine the most cost effective and appropriate amount of ferry service for Guemes Island as a Rural Area. To reduce the demand for parking and space on the ferry, the plan seeks better transit service and the use of “flex” cars in Anacortes. On the Guemes side, it calls for increasing the number of foot passengers through education programs, improvements to the parking lot, economic incentives, and other means to encourage alternatives to cars.

The plan asks for a study of extended hour ferry service by analyzing its costs, environmental impacts, and affects on rural character. Recommendations also include a request thatthe County officially recognize the Ferry Committee as the island conduit for communication with the County on these issues. The major road recommendation is to realign the portion of South Shore Road that is seriously eroded.

A new organization elected by islanders, the Guemes Island Advisory Committee (GIAC), is proposed to work with the County to implement the plan recommendations. The plan requests that the County better inform the island community of either County initiated public works projects or private development proposals.

GIAC would hold community meetings on these issues to gain public input for project recommendations to the County. GIAC would also help carry out the plan’s various education programs and volunteer efforts to increase native vegetation, protect open space, and preserve the quality and quantity of the aquifer.

Copies of the draft sub-area plan will be available at the June 8 meeting. Presentation of the plan coincides with the American Institute of Architects’ (AIA) review of the island’s progress toward sustainability. Erica Gees, project manager for the AIA will attend to observe the process and take comments on the island’s sustainability issues. A second public meeting on will be held on June 29, 2007 at 7 pm in the Community Hall for further discussion before the end of the 30 day comment period on July 8, 2007. The revised plan from this process will be submitted to the County Commissioners who will also hold a public hearing on the plan as part of their approval process.

If you have questions, please call either Marianne Kooiman or Joost Businger at 293- 5815, or Roz Glasser at 293-0373.

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