Coupeville candidates field queries


Staff reporter

Everything from where commercial development should occur to the quality of public restrooms was tossed at candidates for the Coupeville Town Council Tuesday evening.

The candidates, incumbent Bob Clay, restaurant owner Sue Cunningham and physical therapist Gary Piazzon, are squaring off in a primary election Aug. 21. The two top vote-getters will advance to the general election in November. Primary ballots for the mail-in election were sent to voters this week.

The candidates answered questions from the public Tuesday evening during a forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters.

In front of a crowd of about 50 people, visitors heard candidates' opinions about commercial development, recent decisions made by the town, and about how the town interacts with its residents.

A hot-button topic among residents in recent months centers on regulations for construction over the water on historic Front Street. Now that the town is moving forward with more restrictive regulations in its Shoreline Management Plan as strongly suggested by the state Department of Ecology, some questioned why the town spent so much time and money on a less restrictive regulation that wouldn't pass muster with the state.

Clay said that the process to develop the plan is long and the town really didn't spend any extra money in developing the plan.

"We didn't spend any more money than was required," Clay said.

Cunningham was glad the town is going with Ecology's requirements and that it is the property owners' responsibility for zoning changes.

Piazzon equated the town's effort as trying to find a loophole in the state shoreline plan and that the situation has been a divisive issue among residents.

Another resident questioned the candidates about low impact development in Coupeville.

Clay said there are aspects of low impact development going on with new construction in town. He cited "rain gardens" as an example.

Piazzon said Coupeville could have a more prominent role in promoting low impact development.

"I think this is an area where Coupeville could lead, not lag," Piazzon said.

Cunningham said low impact development standards should be put in place in Coupeville.

One resident asked Piazzon if he was a member of Oh Oh, a community group that unsuccessfully sued the town over the zoning that allowed construction of Miriam's Espresso. That resident asked if the lawsuit was worth the money the town spent on the litigation.

Piazzon said he wasn't a member of Oh Oh, but he opposed development in front of the town's famous Big Rock. He said that property would have been better used as a park than as a coffee shop.

Bob Clay said the lawsuit was frivolous and, for the money spent on litigation, somebody could have bought a pretty good park.

"One hundred thousand dollars to fight a relatively frivolous lawsuit is ridiculous," Clay said.

Cunningham, who is making her first run at public office, said she wants to bring a fresh perspective to the town council and, as a relative newcomer to Coupeville, she doesn't have the historical prejudices that have polarized the town.

She said she would work to improve communication between town administration and its residents. She also wants to see the town's historic preservation plan completed.

Clay, who is finishing his sixth year on the council, highlighted recent accomplishments. The town is financially stable and recently acquired a large tract of open space in the former Krueger Farm. The town also improved its water system and is planning to divert stormwater to surrounding farms who would use it for irrigation.

Piazzon said he is running for council because he loves the town. He cited his community experience that makes him ready for the position.

He participates in Waste Warriors and is a member of the local Audubon society. He is president of the Whidbey Environmental Action Network. He said he would resign his presidency if elected to the council.

The deadline to cast votes in the all-mail election is Aug. 21.

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