League of Women Voter’s Observer Corps notes on County Council meeting

Submitted by the League of Women Voters Observer Corps

The League of Women Voters, a nonpartisan organization, encourages informed participation in government. The Observer Corps attends and takes notes at government meetings to expand public understanding of public policy and decisions. The notes do not necessarily reflect the views of the League or its members.

County Council regular meeting of Oct. 31

The Council approved a letter of support for a Hannah Heights HOA grant application to USDA.

During public comment, four people spoke in support of establishing an Arts Commission to support the Cultural Access Initiative in San Juan County. Fourteen citizens commented on aspects of the draft Destination Management Plan. Council Chair Cindy Wolf opened comments by noting that the draft plan was a collection of issues and possible solutions put forward during a process with public input, and now is out to the public for comment. Nothing in the document will be moved forward without the usual discussion and public hearings. Most speakers opposed any move to make the West Side Road one way during summer months, citing safety and inconvenience to island residents. Other concerns raised were about camping proposals and possible vehicle permit fees. Several speakers considered the proposal too tourist-friendly and/or too “green.” Several speakers spoke in favor of widening roads, supporting non-tourism business development, and more coordination and consultation.

The Council issued a proclamation noting that Oct. 31 is the 150th anniversary of the establishment of San Juan County. Events to mark the occasions and celebrate county history start today and will take place throughout the year, many planned by a communications intern. Citizens are invited to share their own memories at: https://engage.sanjuancountywa.gov.

County Manager Mike Thomas went over the Council’s options for setting the 2024 property tax levies for Land Conservation Futures, County Roads, and Current Expenses. The Council set a public hearing on the levies at the November 7 Council Meeting. The County collects all property taxes, the bulk of which go to the state to finance education with about 11% retained by the county and local taxing districts.

Parks and Fair Director Brandon Caldwell briefed the Council on work toward establishing an Arts Commission draft policies and procedures and consultation with the Prosecuting Attorney’s office on local code requirements—a first step to undertaking a Cultural Resources initiative (CRI) enabled by recent state law. Given the work required to launch and manage it, he recommended the Council not move forward without a funding plan. Asked what an unfunded Arts Commission would do absent a CRI program; he said its main job would be to recommend whether the county should accept donated art items, which often have unfunded costs. The Council asked staff to request time to discuss this further in the new year.

The Council approved an extension to a Lodging Tax grant for the San Juan Island Historical Museum for an exhibit delayed by construction issues.

The joint Town of Friday Harbor/San Juan County letter on Washington State Ferry issues was sent to the governor and transportation Secretary.