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Coupeville seeks parks and commerce
"Business and pleasure are the focus of two proposals headed for Coupeville's Town Council.The two amendments - one dealing with parks, recreation and open space, the other with economic stability - focus on enhancing the town's outdoor and indoor assets now and in the future.Both plans have been taking shape for months via resident surveys, meetings and committee deliberation. And both were recommended for approval last week by the Coupeville Planning Commission.Though not required, Mayor Nancy Conard said including the two amendments in the town's Comprehensive Plan would give them more weight. The town council will consider doing that at a June 27 meeting.Parks, trails and eco-tourismThe Parks, Recreation and Open Space element was prepared by Coupeville's Parks and Recreation Commission after sending out about 700 surveys and getting back about 50 responses.It contains goals and policies for recreation, an inventory of existing parks and trails, parks improvement programs and a review of existing and potential funding sources for the town's parks as well as for the future acquisition of open space.What the plan does, said town planner Larry Cort, is come up with a level of service that would be adequate for the town's population now and in the next 20 years.According to the survey, the level of services town residents want would include improved opportunities for walking, hiking, biking and fishing.Not surprisingly, a town-wide system of linked trails for walkers, runners and bikers was listed as a high-priority. More than 80 percent of those polled said improving the town's existing parks and open spaces should be a priority as well, as was promoting eco-tourism by preserving natural spaces and through partnerships with groups like the Beach Watchers.In addition, the parks plan calls for the development of a public and private tree planting and retention program.Another priority for respondents was that the town coordinate any thing it does with school, county, state and federal recreation plans to avoid duplication.To pay for the improvements, residents overwhelmingly favored imposing recreational impact fees on new construction development.Economic StabilityThe Economic Stability element, which focuses on enhancing existing business and commercial opportunities in town, grew out of meetings between Coupeville's various business owners and chamber members starting in 1998.In addition, two surveys were sent out both to residents and business owners before it was prepared.The 621 copies sent to Coupeville's residents garnered a 27 percent response rate, while the 120 surveys to Coupeville's business owners elicited a response rate of almost 50 percent.One of the reasons we polled both businesses and citizens was to get the prevailing opinion and balance, Cort said. And there were a few surprises.For instance, he said, when asked if they would support limited, light manufacturing, citizens said yes, 106-29. Likewise, the town's existing businesses also drew strong support in the survey.As with the parks element, Conard said the economic stability element would give Coupeville's businesses official recognition.When you have something in your comprehensive plan it increases its credibility and then the town is required to consider it whenever it makes decisions about planning, Conard said.One thing the survey made clear, Conard said, was that residents supported existing businesses and that any new business would have to fit the scale of the town.The surveys from community members clearly indicated there were specific businesses they'd like to see in Coupeville and other services that they're willing to go to Oak Harbor for, Conard said. They're not looking to buy kitchen appliances or cars here.The survey did indicate Coupeville residents would appreciate both a bakery and a laundry, however. Now it's up to the town's five council members to take another look at the amendments - first in an open-to-the-public study session June 27, then at public hearing July 11, before they can be added to the town's Comp Plan.So how did Coupeville's residents respond to surveys about parks, recreation and open space and economic stability?Listed as high priorities in the Parks, Recreation and Open Space survey, sent out to about 700 residents and returned by about 8 percent:52 percent: Develop a town-wide trail system for bicyclists and walkers.57 percent: Promote eco-tourism by preserving natural spaces and though partnerships with groups such as Beachwatchers.79 percent: Coordinate town, school, county, state and federal recreation plans to avoid duplication.Listed as great idea to pay for park improvements and/or additional park land and open space:54 percent: Recreation impact fees from new development.24 percent: Establish new user fees.The economic stability surveys were sent to 169 residents, and 27 percent were returned. Here's some of what was found:The top four purchases made within Coupeville:45 percent: gasoline39 percent: drugs25 percent: beauty and barber shop24 percent: groceriesBusinesses indicated as very likely citizens would regularly patronize:46 percent: hardware store40 percent: full-service bakery26 percent: cleaners/laundryListed as high priority for goals residents want for the future of Coupeville:76 percent: Protect the natural environment.56 percent: Hold property taxes down.51 percent: Enhance the town's appearance."