(Note: you can find extensive information on the issues regarding San Juan County's Comprehensive Plan here).
To: SJC Planning Department (laura, pat, rick)
Re:Amendment Proposal to the Comprehensive Plan
Pursuant to: "Procedures for Amendment to the Comprehensive Plan or UDC"
1. From: Joe Symons
3222 Pt. Lawrence Rd
Olga WA 98279
2. Suggested or Proposed Amendment Description:
I write to ask that the planning department consider modifying the presentation of the comprehensive plan documentation to explicitly and in layman's terms describe an overview portrait of the "meaning" or "implications" of the plan in terms of the likely look and feel of the county as the plan reaches maturity, i.e., as and when the plan moves from being a "plan" (the current conditions) to completed implementation.
I envision text, map and chart descriptions of the rural and activity center populations, per island, currently, and at both the end of the planning period as well as at rural and activity center buildout (ie, at such time as the current plan would require upzoning to permit further population growth), recognizing that 'buildout' at least in uga/activity center terms currently can not be considered a fixed number. The descriptions would include percentages of population between major islands, between the rural and activity centers, and would include graphs showing the actual historical population growth as well as the projected actual and planning population growth. A discussion would be offered that spoke to the difference between actual and planned growth, and would include explicit financial implications/projections of growth on infrastructure costs and county services as well as a discussion of the tax revenues likely to be required to meet these and other growth-related costs. The cost to current taxpayers of the fiscal impacts of new residential development would be calculated and presented, and a chart offered that would show how these costs are expected to change as the plan matures. Demographic informationreferencing various socio/economic parameterswould be included to discuss the community diversity issues, along with, or compared to, the price of housing and the economic environment (the dominant types of income producing activities, the wage rates, the affordable housing realities). Impact on various enviornmental characteristics, such as the availability of water (municipal, wells, private water supply excess capacity, salt water intrusion, etc.) or the expected changes in the marine environment, if any, would be included. Charts showing the changes in these various categories over the last several decades as well as projected forward for at least the planning period of the plan would be included to assist the reader in determining and evaluating trends.
The current and projected impact of visitor and seasonal populations would be discussed in terms of infrastructure costs, service costs, enviornmental costs and the need for housing options to meet this demand.
Clarification of county policies that restrict, or do not restrict, the issuance of building permits for various reasons, including consistency with the objectives of the CP (such as directing growth to Activity Centers) would be made explicit. The proposed description would reveal, rather than stay silent, on all building permits issued as a function (or not) of: location of permit (rural, resource land, activity center), growth rate (number of permits issued per year per area), affordable housing permits, and trends in permits, including size factors (square feet, number of structures, etc. associated with the permit) as well as percentage of permits that employ out of county contractors.
The intent of the presentation would be to describe in very realistic terms the most likely scenario for san juan county as it moves not only through its planning period but, as extrapolated, moves toward its ultimate built environment. Land use policies that would increase population (such as the guest house policy, rural residential clusters, tenants in common, etc.) would be made explicit in the numbers offered so that there was full disclosure about the legal vested rights of property owners vis a vis the impact of their decisions on the location and degree of development. The official map would explicitly refer to this proposed section of the comp plan so that a reader could quickly and easily cross reference the 'map' to the 'meaning of the map'. More than one map would be produced so that a reader would not be overwhelmed by the concentration of information on one map as is the case with the current policy. Density and size information would be summarized by rural and resource lands and activity centers, in a manner similar to the 7 pages of tables produced on 1/9/2001 by the Planning Department and made the subject of a stipulation agreement on 1/12/2001. This information would also be presented in chart and graph form similar to, as well as in additional formats to, the examples attached. Data such as the number of parcels and acreage that are non-conforming in each land use and density designation category, the number of parcels and acres that currently have structures and those figures as percentages of total parcels and acreages, would be also included. A discussion would be offered as to the meaning of this data in a manner analogous to the 5/25/2000 staff report prepared by the Planning Department in introducing the consultant's study on resort communities.
Direct and meaningful connections would be made between the Vision Statement and the statements in this proposed section, recommended to be in the Introduction to the CP, so that a reader could see for him/her self the degree to which the plan met the provisions of the Vision Statement. To the extent that current conditions as well as the plan do not meet the vision statement, the descriptions would be honest about these discrepancies. As well, the proposed section would explicitly describe how the CP meets the 14 goals of the Growth Management Act.
To the extent possible, alternatives, options, or solutions to the issues raised by this presentation would be offered, along with an assessment of the challenges that each of these alternatives would pose.
Interactive information processing likely via the County's website would be created so that a curious reader could obtain all this information via the web, in addition to being able to ask for and obtain, in real time, a wide variety of maps and statistical data from the various electronic resources such as the GIS and Assessor's databases.
3. How does the current description affect me?
I believe the CP owes far more detail to the reader than it currently offers. It owes a kind of "full disclosure" perspective, a "what the plan means" explanation, and a reconciliation/ explanation of how the CP implements the Vision Statement, which the plan describes as "the foundation of the CP." Many readers cannot or will not read the CP due to its length and inscrutibility. Comprehensive Plans should not be incomprehensible. Simply stating the plan, the current format, is not at all the same as describing what it really means.
4. Why is the change in the public interest?
The concept here would be to assist residents, property owners, visitors and prospective residents of the changes likely to be experienced in the county as the plan as written evolves. There is a 'truth in planning' concept here analogous to a 'truth in lending' or a standard full-disclosure policy. The reader of such a proposed addition to the Plan would be guided to understand the implications of doing nothing as well as the implications of doing something in response to the issues raised, under the explicit theory that "not making a choice is making a choice." The current CP format omits critical information. The changes proposed here improve consistency between parts of the plan by explicitly describing how (or how well) the plan achieves the goals of the Vision Statement. The documents are currently silent on how the plan will achieve the Vision Statement and, as well, achieve the goals of the GMA under which it was written.
plus 2 pages of sample graphs as attachments