Election 2007: Medley, Hughes square off

Like all who hold Coupeville Town Council seats that are up for election this fall, incumbent Molly Hughes is facing a challenger.

Educator and former professional violinist Roxallanne Medley is hoping to unseat Hughes in the Nov. 6 election. She isn’t a stranger to running for public office. She ran six years ago and lost a nail biter to Phil Williamson by 19 votes.

If elected, she said she will focus on working to see the town adopts low-impact development standards. She wants a manual developed that is similar to the one recently adopted in Langley, only catering to the needs of Coupeville.

“The town has to have it in its code. Then it has teeth,” Medley said. She added that the manual also has to be understandable to local homeowners and builders.

She started learning about low impact development techniques about two years ago. She has been attending conferences and touring LID projects to learn about the techniques involved.

Hughes, who is finishing her first term on the Town Council, said she wants a second term to continue work on several projects the town has started. She wants to see parking improved in downtown, and wants to find a use for the Johnson Building site. The town acquired the building several years ago. Plans call for tearing the dilapidated building down and putting in either a park or a parking lot. She would also like to see the sale of the town’s old fire hall completed.

As for low-impact development, she said the town already works with developers to incorporate techniques, such as rain gardens and open space, into construction projects. She said people just don’t know about that work.

“I think this is a case of the town not doing enough self promotion,” Hughes said.

Hughes and Medley have differing views on issues that have stirred up controversy in town.

The town is currently working to develop a new shoreline plan. A group of residents were critical of regulations that would have allowed new buildings to be built over the water in downtown Coupeville for a “water enjoyment” use, which is more relaxed than “water dependent.” Critics argued the regulations violated the state shoreline plan. Eventually the Department of Ecology said the town would have to come up with a compelling argument for such a regulation to fly. The town decided not come up with such an argument and changed the local plan.

Medley said she was thrilled about Ecology’s decision. She said she still could see construction taking place on the three lots on the water side of Front Street. But they have to comply with “water dependent” regulations.

She added any future construction should include some kind of public access incorporated into those projects. The Coupeville Wharf and the Front Street deck are difficult for the elderly and disabled to use.

Hughes said she believes the first draft of the shoreline plan was based on community input and information from Ecology.

She thought buildings should go up that are similar to ones currently standing in Coupeville.

“It makes sense to me to maintain that type of usage,” Hughes said. She added that the town has already been threatened with a lawsuit by people on both sides of the issue.

She said the plan should be used to define shoreline use for the community. It shouldn’t be turned into a pro-development or a no-development tool.

Another issue that has been talked about during the election is that Coupeville Mayor Nancy Conard also serves as town administrator, a full-time position.

Medley said she would like to see separate positions for mayor and town administrator.

“I think there is too much power consolidated into one position,” Medley said.

Hughes disagreed with Medley. She said Conard’s experience and her ability to work well with others makes her the best for the administrator position.

“We get more bang for the buck with Nancy Conard than someone hired from the outside,” Hughes said.

The town recently expanded its water system outside of town limits. Someday the water system could encompass most of Central Whidbey Island.

Medley is concerned the water system expansion could encourage growth outside town limits. She added the town should have devoted resources to improving the infrastructure for people who already use the town’s water system.

“I don’t think it’s met the needs of the people who are already living there,” Medley said.

Hughes disagreed with Medley about her growth concerns. She said that the expanded water system will keep private homeowners from punching wells into the aquifer. She added it would fall on developers to pay for the infrastructure needed to expand the town’s water system.

Mail ballots will be sent out to voters this week and the final day to return them is Tuesday, Nov. 6.

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