Ebey’s Reserve guidelines adopted

Island County Planner Bob Pederson and Coupeville Planner Larry Kwarsick explain the new Ebey’s Landing National Historical Review design guidelines before a public hearing Monday morning.  - Nathan Whalen/Whidbey News-Times
Island County Planner Bob Pederson and Coupeville Planner Larry Kwarsick explain the new Ebey’s Landing National Historical Review design guidelines before a public hearing Monday morning.
— image credit: Nathan Whalen/Whidbey News-Times

Despite some complaints that new regulations threaten Central Whidbey residents’ rights, unified design guidelines were approved during a Monday morning meeting.

The Coupeville Town Council and the Board of Island County Commissioners approved unified design guidelines and code for residents living within the 17,000-acre Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve, which includes the town of Coupeville.

Central Whidbey resident Wilbur Bishop said new language banning murals inside of town limits violated his rights.

“It’s my right if I want to have a mural,” Bishop said in front of a crowd of nearly 20 people during a Monday morning public hearing in the commissioners’ hearing room. He presented examples of murals painted on buildings throughout the reserve.

Town Planner Larry Kwarsick said the mural ban in Coupeville came up in recent weeks. He said there isn’t any discussion of murals in the town’s ordinance and the town council didn’t want to entertain such language in the new rules.

The guidelines address many issues, among them types of allowable paint and siding, roofing materials, fencing, commercial towers, billboards and invasive plants.

Officials from Coupeville, Island County and Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve have been working for nearly three years to develop a new set of design guidelines for properties located within the reserve. The document provides a unified set of rules that proponents say will streamline the process to get projects approved while preserving the reserve’s historic character and allowing farming to remain viable.

The new regulations set up a three-tiered design review process for a Certificate of Appropriateness needed to approve projects, depending on their complexity.

Some attending the public meeting worried that a certificate of appropriateness will quash new projects.

“It seems like that is the hammer the historic commission will use to stop a project,” said Coupeville resident Robert Warder.

Kwarsick said the Historic Review Commission doesn’t have the authority to prevent a permit from being issued. The commission’s decisions will be reviewed by town and county planners. If any decision is found to violate the law, the planners will overturn the commission’s decision.

Coupeville resident Bill Ethridge said he saw quite a few red flags that could open the county and the town to civil suits.

Kwarsick complimented Ethridge on being a good custodian of his historic property and said he won’t see any change in the penalties involved in violations.

“Penalties proposed in the code are penalties in the existing code,” Kwarsick said.

Town council members and county commissioners were pleased about the new regulations. Several pointed out the annual review process that will take place.

County Commissioner Helen Price Johnson described the process of compromise that occurred for the regulations to get approved, but expressed confidence in them.

“I think we are in a good place,” Price Johnson said.

A nine-member Historic Preservation Commission will be created to make recommendations on property within the district.

Interested individuals should provide a letter of interest and a resume to the Island County Board of Commissioners, Attn: Pam Dill, Re: Ebey’s Landing HPC, Post Office Box 5000, Coupeville, WA 98239. The fax number is 679-7381. Deadline is Nov. 5. For further criteria and other details email Pam Dill at


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