Educate yourself on county comprehensive plan update | Guest Column

By Joe Symons

You may have heard that San Juan County has embarked on an update to the county’s Comprehensive Plan. What you may not know is what a Comprehensive Plan is and how it impacts your life and the life of the community. Short answer — the CP is the single legal document that guides growth: how much, when, where and what the financial, visual, ecological, functional and “sense of place” will be over the coming years. You may not know much about the previous plan’s process or conclusion (the update to the current plan began in 1992, was completed in 1999, and was challenged by a handful of county citizens. The litigation ended in 2008). By Washington state Growth Management Act requirements, the plan must be periodically updated.

The first thing to do is to learn about how we got to where we are and where we are going. Spoiler alert: you need to spend more than five minutes on this to grok the importance and complexity of this seemingly irrelevant issue. With what is going on around the country and the world, you might easily say you don’t have the time. I, however, would argue that you can’t afford to not take the time.

You can educate yourself at Let’s call that the talk.

The next thing is the walk. Your walk.

You can let the decision-makers know that to begin with, you want and need a clear picture of what the current CP is and will take us. That picture does not exist now (it has never existed). The current update process will not deliver that picture.

It is very unlikely that the plan as it exists today will ensure a continuation of the quality of life that brought most people here.

Absent a significant conversation about the process by which the update will proceed, and an enthusiastic support for a truly thoughtful redirection, we will lose what we love. If you don’t ask the right question, you are certainly not going to get an answer. Even if you do ask the right question, you may not get a clear direct understandable answer. As you know, many who hold political positions prefer to give obscure answers to tough questions, perhaps hoping you won’t notice that your question remains unanswered.

To begin, ask the right question. The basic question is: What does the CP really say? You can do that here:

Your engagement is time critical. Please don’t assume that others will carry the ball, or that you can carry the ball tomorrow or next week or you know, when you’ve got time. If you want to take a plane, you better get to the gate before they close it. The update gate is being closed as I write. The next plane leaves in 20 years.

Your walk is an expression of your love for this archipelago and your hopes and dreams for how you and those you care about will experience living and/or visiting here.

Symons is the former chair, Orcas committee to rewrite the Comprehensive Plan, 1992-99 and the former plaintiff, challenging the plan as in egregious violation of GMA, 1999-2008.