County council approves new vision statement for San Juan County’s future

The future of the San Juan Islands has already been written and adjusted.

On June 12 the San Juan County Council unanimously adopted changes to the county vision statement, which was first approved in 1999.

The vision statement guides how the county’s growth management goals and policies will be formed and, in turn, how San Juan County codes are written. The adoption of the vision statement will be finalized when state-mandated revisions to the county’s comprehensive plan are turned in later this year.

The roughly 1,500-word vision statement is the introduction of the comprehensive plan and contains 15 total sections on items like education, land use and the economy. Three sections were added: agriculture, housing and climate change.

Before the vote, councilmen debated over whether the word “citizens” in the vision statement referred to county constituents or anyone visiting the municipality’s region, which is a vacation hot spot.

“We weren’t disagreeing with the fundamental principles [about which] we were communicating, but [instead were deciding] what words to best represent the concepts,” said San Juan County Council Chairman Bill Watson.

Councilman Jamie Stephens questioned why “50 percent of our property owners [would not be considered] citizens,” as almost half of county homeowners live on the islands part time and do not vote in local elections.

Councilman Rick Hughes agreed, explaining that “Our role as government is to provide services to the people in need.”

“This is all about the citizenship of our county, and that can be a part-time resident, full-time or visitor,” said Hughes.

In the end the councilmen voted unanimously on the changes, including replacing the word “citizens” with the more broader term of “people” in most instances.

On July 20, the county council and the planning commission will hold a joint hearing on the comprehensive plan’s land capacity analysis at the council hearing room at 55 Second St.

Tim Blanchard, chair of the county planning commission, said this discussion will show how the county would look “if everything that could be developed was developed” by analyzing the current zoning and capacity regulations.

Read the updated vision statement at