Contributed image/Town of Friday Harbor

Contributed image/Town of Friday Harbor

Around Town | Updates on Friday Harbor roundabout, land bank purchases, San Juan Island’s sixth-grade move, and more

The following are updates on news around San Juan Island.


The creation of the roundabout at the corner of Argyle Avenue and Spring Street is tentatively scheduled for April 23 through 27, if the weather is good.

The Town of Friday Harbor proposed the roundabout to decrease distractions for drivers, create a safer environment for pedestrians and give an alternative to circling the block to regain access to lower Spring Street.

“From a safety standpoint and traffic movement, especially when the ferry comes in, we think this will keep traffic and pedestrians moving at a much safer and faster rate,” said Town of Friday Harbor Administrator Duncan Wilson.

The town also wanted the project to be low-cost, reversible and installed in a short amount of time.

To accomplish that goal, there will be no hardscape construction, according to Wilson. Instead, the roundabout will be created using a raised, rubbery material that looks like paint and is called “pre-formed thermoplastic marking material.”

There are several benefits of this kind of miniature roundabout instead of building one, said Wilson. For instance, no property from Wells Fargo or the Little Store will have to be used in the creation.

Also, combination truck operators can drive over the yellow circle in the center of the roundabout,if they can’t make the full roundabout turn.

Land bank purchases

On Tuesday, April 10, the San Juan County Council approved the land bank’s purchase of about a half acre in the Town of Friday Harbor and 160 acres across from the Cady Mount Preserve on San Juan Island.

The San Juan County Land Bank staff will buy three parcels in Friday Harbor, which house the historic Driggs House and Driggs Historic Park on Argyle Avenue for $910,000. The land bank’s office is also on this property, and staff have managed the land since 2011 through a license agreement. However, according to a report created by Lincoln Bormann, land bank director, “acquisition of the three lots would ensure people could use Driggs Historic Park in perpetuity, and the Driggs house would be conserved.” He also told the Journal that the time to buy was now since the owners had an offer on the property.

Land bank staff will also buy 160 acres on the northern end of San Juan for $1.8 million. This will provide public access to Cady Mountain Preserve for the first time since the land bank staff bought the preserve 15 years ago, said Bormann. The combination of the preserve, as well as the newly approved purchase, would open roughly 300 acres for future trails, he added.

The purchase of the property will also create about 3,000 acres of contiguous undeveloped land, which includes English Camp and the Roche Harbor watershed.

According to, the San Juan County Land Bank’s mission is to perpetually preserve areas in the county. Property is purchased with funds collected from a 1 percent real estate excise tax paid by purchasers of property in San Juan County.

Hotel permit

The Town of Friday Harbor Council has continued a March public hearing on whether to approve a permit to protect shorelines during the construction of a possible hotel.

The town council has yet to make a decision on whether to approve the permit for a developer looking to buy land on First Street and build a three-story hotel.

In March, the council requested more detailed drawings of the project to be given to the town’s historic preservation review board, said Mike Bertrand, with the town’s planning department. The developer has yet to turn in more designs, he added.

The process may involve presenting to the town and historic preservation council several times, said Bertrand, and could take up to two months before a decision on the permit is made.

The two undeveloped parcels, where the developer is looking to buy, are located at 196 and 240 Front St., across from the San Juan County Courthouse. The roughly half-acre of land is designated as commercial, with views overlooking the marina.

Current plans call for a 29-unit hotel called Moby’s, which will include a 30-stall garage under the building and three stories of rooms, with a bistro on the first floor.

Wally Trace, a developer from Seattle, said he and his business partner will finalize the purchase of the property if the many permits needed before construction are approved. His partner is the architect for the hotel, Carl Pirscher, also of Seattle.

Sixth-grade move

Moving the sixth grade from the elementary school to the middle school has proved to be a success, according to San Juan Island School District staff.

“What we said we thought would happen is actually happening, so it’s been positive,” said Fred Woods, principal of Friday Harbor Middle School and High School.

Last year, district staff requested sixth graders be housed in the middle school, instead of the elementary school, due to overcrowding, and the school board approved. Sixth grade had been located at the elementary school since about 2009.

The move has allowed sixth graders to receive 15 minutes of additional instruction time a day, which was previously lost when they were bused to the middle school at the end of the day for music and art classes. That totals to about 45 minutes of additional classroom time a year. Transporting students between buildings also prevented them from talking to teachers after school, as well as using other middle school resources, like an after-school study club and the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) building, which they can now access.