LWV Observer Corps County Council notes

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 April 15

During public access, two members of the Marines Resources Committee, a salmon expert, a whale expert, and the Friends of the San Juans supported applying for a Salmon Recovery grant to complete the Jackson Beach Restoration Project. Three citizens spoke asking the county to enforce county codes regarding two permits submitted for building projects on a Lampard Road parcel. They said the applicant was planning to develop a resort-type business on the property and not as claimed two residences for family members. They were building without approval and had a history elsewhere of building illegal commercial structures without proper permits.

The San Juan Conservation District updated the council on plans to establish a conservation campus at the 915 Spring Street address with Western Washington University participation. The council approved four members for the Voluntary Stewardship Program committee. The Conservation District asked the county to reconstitute the Open Space Committee and revise its rules to allow forested land to be designated as open space to improve forest stewardship. The council agreed but noted it would need to wait until the Department of Community Planning had a new director. The district is launching a Firewise Neighborhood program in May.

Land Bank Director Lincoln Bormann reviewed the land acquisition process with the council and previewed an analysis of acquisitions and partnerships,

The council discussed issues related to county buildings and on how to move forward with plans for a new Justice and Public Safety Building to house staff that are currently in the seismically unsafe courthouse addition. In the interim, some staff will move to the newly acquired Park Street building. A team will review financing options, most likely a bond that would require a levy lid lift vote. The council will continue deliberation on several key decisions at the April 25-26 meetings.

The acting county managers recommended that the council ask the Environmental Stewardship Department not to submit its request due April 17 for a grant of salmon recovery funds for the Jackson Beach Restoration project until a joint masterplan with public works for Jackson Beach that includes building a barge landing be completed in 2025. Public Works was concerned that the beach restoration project could potentially undermine the viability of the barge landing. Environmental Stewardship argued that the funds might not be available later, and the restoration project does not include the barge landing area. The council decided to deliberate further at the April 16 regular meeting.

County Council regular meeting of April 16

During public access time, three citizens spoke asking the county not to approve the 23 permits requested for two parcels on Lampard Road which currently have a stop work order posted. Friends of the San Juans urged the council to ask DCD to review a loophole in the B&B rules that is being exploited in the case of these permits.

The council passed the set of three 2024 budget amendments that had been reviewed at previous council meetings. The council declared May 15 as Law Day and the courts have planned activities with county high schools that day to highlight the importance of laws in a democracy. The county adopted Start by Believing proclamation to support those who experience sexual assault. The proclamation notes that in the last year, 179 cases were reported to county law enforcement. Citizens report only a fraction of occurrences as they fear they will not be believed. The council appointed Regional Medical Officer Dr. Herbie Duber as the interim County Health Officer.

The council approved the renewal of the contract with Lautenbach to handle the removal and recycling of solid waste on San Juan Island. The Environmental Stewardship Department is negotiating the renewal of the transfer station lease with the Town of Friday Harbor. The council approved the Climate Resiliency Planning Framework that will inform the work on the new required comprehensive plan element. The council approved the Environmental Stewardship Department to submit its grant request for salmon recovery funds for the Jackson Beach restoration project. Environmental Stewardship has done the conservation credit calculations and gave assurances that they could provide the needed mitigation for the barge landing construction and would work closely with Public Works to ensure they are available for the permitting process.

The Public Works Department reviewed its proposal for updating the County Code Chapter 10 on Vehicles and Traffic, which includes adopting the state model traffic code and giving County Engineer the authority to set regulations for parking, marine facilities, and miscellaneous traffic matters. Both the sheriff’s office and many members of the public support the proposed updates. The council will review a draft and hold a public hearing with the goal of updating the code for the summer season. The county will review a required update of the Public Works Contracting and Procurement Code to include a few voluntary amendments by July 1.

The council authorized the Public Works Director Colin Huntemer to use public works funds as earnest money for property acquisition. The council authorized Interim County Manager Mark Thomkins to negotiate the sale of its share of the Orcas Senior Center, which is exercising its purchase option.