County Council adopts revisions to Comprehensive Plan

Posted November 30, 2022 at 4:08 pm by

The Coun­ty shares news about the cul­mi­na­tion of plan­ning and com­mu­ni­ty input six years in the making.

The San Juan Coun­ty Coun­cil adopt­ed the 2036 Com­pre­hen­sive Plan Update today after six years of meet­ings, pub­lic hear­ings, and input. The doc­u­ment will serve as the road map for future devel­op­ment, growth man­age­ment, and Coun­ty pro­grams over the next two decades.

“This is such an impor­tant achieve­ment for the Coun­ty,” said Coun­cilmem­ber Jamie Stephens, who has spent half of his 12-year coun­cil career work­ing on the Plan. “I’ve been part of dif­fi­cult deci­sion-mak­ing over the years in hopes that bring­ing it up to date will help the Coun­ty plan more eas­i­ly and mind­ful­ly for future growth.”

The 2036 Com­pre­hen­sive Plan Update process began in 2016 and has been a major focus for the Coun­cil and the County’s Depart­ment of Com­mu­ni­ty Devel­op­ment. The Plan­ning Com­mis­sion ded­i­cat­ed 71 meet­ings to the Com­pre­hen­sive Plan Update over the last six years, and since mid-Sep­tem­ber the Coun­cil has held spe­cial meet­ings to review dif­fer­ent ele­ments of the Plan includ­ing land use, hous­ing, trans­porta­tion, his­toric and arche­o­log­i­cal preser­va­tion, and offi­cial maps.

This accom­plish­ment is pos­si­ble thanks to the work of count­less mem­bers of the pub­lic, Plan­ning Com­mis­sion vol­un­teers, past and present coun­cilmem­bers and Coun­ty employ­ees, con­sul­tants, and more, who con­tributed their time, tal­ents, and expertise.

What is the Comprehensive Plan?

The Plan is San Juan County’s prin­ci­pal plan­ning doc­u­ment. The Coun­ty has the respon­si­bil­i­ty of plan­ning for growth man­age­ment and must plan to meet the every­day needs of the antic­i­pat­ed future pop­u­la­tion. The goals and poli­cies in the Plan direct­ly influ­ence devel­op­ment reg­u­la­tions, pro­grams, and oth­er plans that shape every­day life.

“This plan is a byprod­uct of tremen­dous com­mu­ni­ty input,” said David Williams, the County’s Direc­tor of Com­mu­ni­ty Devel­op­ment. “It reflects the views and atti­tudes of the islands and incor­po­rates goals and poli­cies relat­ed to the pro­tec­tion of the environment.”

The Plan aims to accom­plish the 14 plan­ning goals set by the Wash­ing­ton State Growth Man­age­ment Act. In addi­tion to goals and poli­cies, the Plan con­tains oth­er doc­u­ments such as tech­ni­cal appen­dices, offi­cial maps, sub­area plans, and the plans of juris­dic­tions and orga­ni­za­tions whose work coin­cides with the County’s. New reg­u­la­tions, pro­grams, and oth­er plans should align with the Plan.

Reflecting San Juan County’s Vision

The County’s Vision, devel­oped by the com­mu­ni­ty, is what guides Plan ele­ments and leads the Coun­ty toward the future. It shapes the goals and poli­cies of each Plan ele­ment, includ­ing hous­ing, gov­ern­ment, cli­mate change, and agri­cul­ture. In design­ing the Vision col­lec­tive­ly through exten­sive work­shop­ping and delib­er­a­tion, the com­mu­ni­ty iden­ti­fied the nature of essen­tial aspects of life in the San Juan Islands.

“When I reflect on my time with the Plan, it’s been about under­stand­ing and embrac­ing the community’s vision for the future of the San Juan Islands,” said Coun­cil Chair Chris­tine Min­ney. “So many folks have lent their time and skills to updat­ing this Plan and offi­cial­ly adopt­ing it is a suc­cess for every­body in the County.”

Public Involvement

The pub­lic played a key role in devel­op­ing and updat­ing the Plan. It was shaped by ear­ly and con­tin­u­ous pub­lic involve­ment from those par­tic­i­pat­ing in work­shops, sur­veys, pub­lic hear­ings and gath­er­ings, and more.

“This is the people’s doc­u­ment on how they want their Coun­ty planned,” said Coun­cilmem­ber Cindy Wolf. “We now have an agreed upon direc­tion, in many areas of life, for where we want to guide the Coun­ty in terms of development.”

While revis­ing the San Juan Coun­ty Com­pre­hen­sive Ele­ments and appen­dices, the Depart­ment of Com­mu­ni­ty Devel­op­ment released mul­ti­ple drafts of each for pub­lic com­ment. Through­out the Plan update process, sev­er­al top­ics were par­tic­u­lar­ly impor­tant to the pub­lic. Sense of com­mu­ni­ty and preser­va­tion of rur­al char­ac­ter were con­cerns the pub­lic often brought for­ward. Con­cerns about tourism man­age­ment, nat­ur­al resources, wildlife pro­tec­tion, and cli­mate change mit­i­ga­tion and resilience emerged. Hous­ing avail­abil­i­ty and afford­abil­i­ty were impor­tant pub­lic con­cerns. The com­mu­ni­ty ral­lied to sup­port farm­ing by adding a new agri­cul­ture sec­tion to the Vision.

“One of the big philo­soph­i­cal shifts we’ve seen in this Plan is look­ing at life through a lens of cli­mate resilience,” said Coun­cilmem­ber Wolf. “This fun­da­men­tal under­stand­ing is reflect­ed through­out the Plan and will help us think more crit­i­cal­ly about envi­ron­men­tal concerns.”

Plan Implementation

The Plan is imple­ment­ed by var­i­ous par­ties through­out the Coun­ty. It is used by the Depart­ment of Com­mu­ni­ty Devel­op­ment to guide land use deci­sions and amend the devel­op­ment code.

“The adop­tion of this Plan is excit­ing because it will allow the Coun­ty to begin to imple­ment updat­ed poli­cies that will help us solve some of the most press­ing island issues with regards to hous­ing, land use, trans­porta­tion, and cli­mate resilience,” said Sophia Cas­sam, one of the lead plan­ners work­ing on the Plan.

The Cap­i­tal Facil­i­ties Plan includes many bud­gets used coun­ty­wide for allo­cat­ing fund­ing for Coun­ty facil­i­ties and ser­vices. Pub­lic Works uses the trans­porta­tion ele­ment to plan for the devel­op­ment and main­te­nance of trans­porta­tion infra­struc­ture. The hous­ing ele­ment informs and guides hous­ing pro­grams run by the Coun­ty and in part­ner­ship with local organizations.

The Plan is expect­ed to be imple­ment­ed on April 1, 2023.

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